Do you sometimes take medical steps for your pet without consulting your veterinarian?
It’s OK. Many pet owners do, and that’s why it’s our topic of discussion today.
Here is an example: I had been seeing a little Cocker spaniel for routine well-patient visits for a couple of years. About seven months ago she came to see us with an episode of pain. We radiographed (X-rayed) her spine and rear legs, as she expressed discomfort in those areas during the physical examination. While the films showed that she had some suspicious areas in both the spine and the hips, we couldn’t be 100% sure where her pain was coming from.
We dispensed an oral antiinflammatory medication for symptomatic treatment, and she got better after a few days of medication and rest.
Everyone was happy, including the patient.
Last week, at the end of an annual well-patient examination, her owner said, “Dr. Randolph, she has had a couple of those episodes of pain you saw her for previously. I had some of her antibiotics left over and gave them to her for a day or two and she was better. It happened again about six weeks later and the antibiotics worked that time, too. I wanted to see if I could get some of those antibiotics to keep on hand when she has another episode.”
At first I was silent, confused. Antibiotics are for addressing infection, killing bacteria. While some antibiotics possess limited antiinflammatory capability, I knew I would never have dispensed antibiotics alone for a pain problem. Regaining my composure, I turned to the computer and looked in her file for medications I had dispensed for her previously. I found an antibiotic we had used for a urinary tract infection about two years ago. I resisted the urge to launch into a sermon about finishing all of the medication for each episode we dispense medicine for, then described the antibiotic tablet in an effort to determine whether that was, indeed, what he had given.
Yep,that was the medicine he had administered! It was merely coincidence that the little spaniel got better after her pain made her rest for a few days and the rest allowed the pain to subside.
The next step was to find the pain medication we used that actually treated the pain and resulted in recovery . Yes, I was happy to dispense the proper medication so that future episodes could resolve quickly instead of disabling her for several days each time she relapsed.
What should this pet owner have done?
Simply give us a call. We could have looked at the medical record and made a recommendation. It might have required a followup visit or a refill of antiinflammatory medication might have been all that was needed. Either way she would have been on the right medication and the painful episodes could have been cut short.
In another recent case I called the owner of a diabetic cat because the fructosamine results indicated the cat might be producing his own insulin again. In these cases it’s important to make insulin dosage changes according to a plan.
When the owner came in for her appointment I laid out the details and began discussing how we were going to taper down the insulin dosage in hopes of weaning him off altogether. As I started talking specific doses she politely interrupted.
“Dr. Randolph,” she began. “I quit giving the insulin three months ago.”
Stunned, I asked, “What led you to take that route?”
“He was taking such a little bit I couldn’t see how it could possibly help him.”
That fact is that the insulin he was on was very concentrated, so “a little bit” was all he needed.
Fortunately, timing and luck were on her side, as we had begun a low carbohydrate diet and he had insulin long enough for his pancreas to rest and begin producing insulin on its own again.
However, we don’t practice medicine with luck. Even with the best care not every case turns out as we’d like. Introducing luck simply lowers a patient’s chance of improvement.
Your pet’s doctor is committed to making your pet well. Keeping him in the loop can improve your pet’s happiness and well-being.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.