ProActive Cat Care: When to Say No

By Garry White


Challenging a vet’s advice isn’t something we should take lightly, but there are times when it’s the right thing to do. That’s quite a statement, isn’t it? I mean, I’m not a trained professional, so how do I qualify such a position? Well, I think most of would agree that some vets (certainly not all) tend to make snap decisions without regard to the whole situation. True, I’m not a vet; but the story that’s about to unfold should serve to emphasize what I’ve said all along.that we need to be in control of everything that happens to our kitties, including vet care and health issues. But you be the judge.


Background: I discovered recently that Clark’s eating habits had changed. A heavy eater normally, he had taken to “nibbling”, and a closer look told me why: He was chewing on one side only, and he seemed to have lost a little weight. A peek under the gums said “bad tooth”, but I’m not a pro. Enter our house-call vet, the good Dr. Dimmick, who confirmed it; Clark had an abscessed tooth. Being a house-call vet only, Doc has no choice but to recommend nearby clinics for clinical work. So we made an appointment with a reputable shop that specializes in feline dental, and I took Clark there on a Tuesday. Oh yes, oh yes.that tooth is abscessed and needs to come out immediately. Alarm #1 began to ring in my head as I listened to all the horrors that could happen from a bad tooth (these I recognized as scare tactics). But I listened quietly to New Doc’s agenda of things that had to be done right away. Blood work, first of all. This probably wasn’t really necessary, since the boy has NO indications of any other problems. But Clark’s not a youngster, so I go along with it; it can’t hurt to know that everything else is okay, and if something were amiss, it could alter the surgery procedures. Nonetheless, recommending costly, invasive tests that may not be needed became Alarm #2. Onward: We discuss which induction agent to use for the anesthesia, and sure enough, New Doc recommends the scariest one (proposol, propofol.don’t trust my spelling), which can cause them to stop breathing for a short time, if administered too quickly; not a real concern for a younger cat, but Clark isn’t a younger cat, and this was Alarm #3. But we work this one out: New Doc assures me (with a placating grin) that we can use something else if I want; I’m being mollified now, and this is Alarm #4. Anyway, New Doc decides the tooth will come out the following week. Kinda sudden, I thought, because pre-treatment antibiotics are a must before yanking an abscessed tooth, and that doesn’t leave much time for the drugs to take effect. This one was Alarm #5, but I stay in the race, based on New Doc’s assurances.


New Doc calls me on Wednesday to confirm what I had already suspected; Clark is a healthy cat: The blood work results were back, and all numbers were perfect, with one exception: his T4 is slightly elevated. How much elevated, I ask? Oh, just barely out of range. From experience, I know it isn’t life threatening at this level, and could easily be a small discrepancy with the test itself. But New Doc says we need to address this right away, with more testing and a treatment program. You mean right now, Doc? Oh yes; sooner the better, and he enlightens me on the horrors of Hyperthyroidism. We’re up to Alarm #6 now, and I tell him no; we’ll take care of the tooth first, and look at T4 again later thing at a time, Doc.


Anyway, I started Clark on the antibiotic (Clindomycin) on Tuesday afternoon, and by Thursday, things were going through him like you-know-what goes through the Christmas Goose: The boy had a SERIOUS case of the trots! I stop giving him the drug and call New Doc to address this, but it’s his day off, and the office manager is.well, an office manager. Call back on Friday when Doc is here. Alarm #7.


I call New Doc on Friday morning, but a young lady tells me Doc will be in later. Alarm #8. Please don’t ask me why, but I express my concerns to an 18-year old: Clark is now off the antibiotics, I tell her. He has severe diarrhea, and surgery is only a few days away, and her next words generate Alarm #9: But sir, we have to do the surgery on Tuesday, because Doctor leaves for a two-week vacation on Wednesday morning. Well now, this isn’t pleasant news at all! I ask about coverage while Doc is gone.suppose a problem develops from the surgery? Oh, that shouldn’t happen, but we’ll give you phone numbers for two emergency clinics that handle Doc’s business when he’s away. Mapquest tells me the closest is 51 miles away – Alarm #10.


New Doc finally calls me back on Saturday afternoon, telling me he has changed the antibiotic to Amoxycylin. But Doc.isn’t Amoxy a broad-spectrum antibiotic, a general workhorse that’s not really intended for specific bacteria, such as anaerobes from a tooth abscess? Yes, that’s true. Okay, I’ll change the med and you can pick up the new one on Monday. MONDAY? With surgery scheduled the following morning? That turned out to be Alarms #11 and #12, and it was all I needed to hear. Time to make some decisions about what’s best for my boy, and the decision I made was to pull the plug on this ridiculous least for the time being.


Let’s summarize: Granted, the abscessed tooth has to come out, but let’s be didn’t arrive in his mouth on Monday, and he wasn’t near-dead on Tuesday because of it. But it was giving him problems with eating, and he had lost a little weight, which means his resistance was surely down because of that. So I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture, and this is what I saw: An older cat whose resistance is low, he has no antibiotics in his system, and the doctor wants to schedule surgery right away, after which he will immediately disappear. The bad tooth has probably been there for a while, but New Doc is insisting on surgery now, evidently not cognizant (or concerned) with these peripheral situations that I consider quite negative. Any single one of them wouldn’t be cause for alarm, but when viewed collectively they paint a pretty risky picture.


Here’s where things stand: I went shopping and collected a variety of dry foods, a selection of hi-calorie canned foods, and a tube of Nutrical. I syringe-fed him a few times and laced the food with as many calories as I could stuff in there, and that got his appetite jump started. From the supply of new dry foods (some are even KITTEN food, which is loaded with calories!), I chose those that were physically smaller kibbles, and started “teasing” him into eating.rattle the box while talking all excitedly; you know the drill. And he’s eating now. Like a lumberjack! And he’s gaining weight, becoming more playful, all of that.


So now we’re back to square-one; the tooth still has to come out, but the advantages are in our favor now. Will I still use that vet? Probably, but now I view him as a technician with skills that I need, nothing more. I gave him rope enough to make the proper calls, to do what’s really best for Clark, and he hung himself with it by trying to frighten me into this supposed need for immediate surgery when Clark was clinically unprepared for it; by recommending a bunch of tests and programs that clearly aren’t needed and could only add to the distress of dealing with the oral surgery; by advocating surgery without adequate pre-treatment antibiotics.


Yes, we’ll get this nasty tooth yanked out soon, but we’ll take the beaten, proven path, and not subject Clark to a long list of unnecessary risks.

Now I ask a frightening question: How many of us would simply have gone along with this program because the Man In The Lab Coat said: “this is what we must do”?


Mind you, it’s a very nice clinic; upscale and pricey, and his specialty is feline dental work, so logic alone would tell me to button my lip and follow orders. But this isn’t about logic or intimidation; it’s about what’s best for Clark, and that plan was not best for Clark, plain and simple. Something else to consider: We want to believe that vets are vets solely for the wonderfulness of helping pets, and as fantasies go, that’s certainly a good one. So far, I’ve spent $195.17 for: (a) A 15-minute office visit to confirm an abscessed tooth that we already knew about, (b) A blood-panel that can be done most anywhere for around $50, and (c) A bottle of drugs that gave Clarkie the runs. The office manager tells me the whole bill, all said and done, will be in the $500-$700 region, which is quite a region to have a tooth pulled, don’t you think? I wonder what the charges would have been if I had said “Sure thing, ‘da man; whatever you say.”


Oh, it’s not about money, at least not to us; we’ll do whatever we have to do to make our babies healthy. But sometimes, as this case clearly demonstrates, it is about money.or certain vets, and the unnecessary treatment this fellow had lined up would probably have done more harm than good.

The upshot here is simple: Damning vets won’t stop this sort of thing from happening, and strong criticism will only assure us a seat in the parking lot. So we’re back to ProActive Cat Care, and that’s as it should be. It’s our cat, we live with him/her, and we have an obligation to know what’s going on, to know what should be done, and to manage it accordingly. Vets are not Gods, and we shouldn’t see them as such. Vets make mistakes, and whether it’s through incompetence or a too-busy schedule is irrelevant; a bad call is a bad call is a bad call, and it has the same bottom-line effect. I defer to Clarkie’s med’s as an example: One gave him the Hershey Squirts, and the other would have been about as useful as a teaspoon of sugar.


So we don’t gripe at the whole vet industry; we use them as we would use any other tool or service to help our kitties. We wouldn’t tell a contractor “Oh, just build me a nice house”, and neither should we blindly trust a vet (or anyone else, for that matter) to do what’s best, overall, for our cats.


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Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.