Take responsibility for what is yours Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Monday, 29 May 2017 16:16
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

I was reading the ‘You’ magazine last week and saw a letter from a veterinarian who was disillusioned at how pet owners don’t take responsibility for ensuring they can afford their pets.

This is a very emotive issue and one that really negatively affects veterinarians who have to constantly make decisions based on cost rather than what is best for the patient.

On the one hand, pets need homes and pets are very good for the wellbeing of people. People with pets, especially older people, show much reduced signs of stress. I also believe children benefit greatly from growing up with pets; they have a playmate, affection and learn some responsibility.

On the other hand, however, there is the wellbeing of the pet to consider. Pets deserve a caring home where they have shelter, food and care. These basics are generally within the reach of most pet owners; the ‘extras’ can cause problems. The minimum expenses that should be taken into account when acquiring a pet are vaccination, sterilisation and parasite control expenses.

Deworming is not expensive, but tick and flea control can become expensive. Cheaper options such as dips are available and effective, but require weekly application. Sterilisation is vital. We have charity organisations full of unwanted dogs and cats looking for homes, so there is no need to bring more puppies and kittens into the world. There are no proven medical or behavioural benefits for the dog or cat to remain intact. There is also no medical or behavioural benefit from letting female animals have their first heat.

Obesity, which is the main excuse for not sterilising, is just that, an excuse. With exercise and dietary portion control a sterilised dog can remain as slim as an intact dog. Additionally, the ‘aggression’ factor is debatable. Territorial behaviour will possibly decrease in a castrated male dog, but this will not result in decreased protective behaviour towards the owners.

So, with a small amount of financial planning these basic steps in pet ownership can be managed. It is the unexpected illnesses or accidents that cost money to fix. Your veterinarian runs a veterinary hospital. There are staff members to pay, building and rental costs as well as all the consumables and medication inventory required to treat patients in the facility. That is before even a cent of profit gets made. Let me assure you that the majority of veterinarians are not the most affluent of professionals. 

Pet owners cannot expect veterinarians to discount or treat patients for free if the owner cannot afford the expenses of that treatment. It is the vet’s responsibility to diagnose the patient and offer treatment options. It is not the veterinarian’s responsibility to ensure that the treatment options are affordable for the owner, as long as they have offered the options which are available and not just the ‘top of the range’ ideal option. 

It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure or find funding for the options available. You cannot expect the veterinarian to charge just what you can afford and then try to tailor the diagnostics and treatment to that. There is a limit to how much ‘reduction’ there can be in diagnostics and treatment to make a proper diagnosis and still have a reasonable expectation of a good outcome.

There really is also no excuse for this emotional blackmail which does occur. There are many pet medical aids out there with a variety of plans. I have recently done an internet search and several came up.  But, with financial planning one is normally preaching to the converted. The people on medical aids are those who plan properly and could probably afford the treatment to start off with.

So, to those clients who haven’t thought ahead, wake up, do your research and start planning for your pet’s medical expenses. Take responsibility for what is yours.

Besoek die Suid-Afrikaanse Departement van Gesondheid se webwerf vir alle amptelike inligting en opdaterings rakende COVID-19 by www.SAcoronavirus.co.za

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