It’s been a really long frustrating three weeks or so. We were at our vet for a routine appointment when we were informed that they were implementing a new business practice that just floored me. My jaw literally dropped when they told me they’d decided that they were no longer going to see dogs or cats that were not current on their rabies shots according to the recommended vaccination schedule. No option for a titer-test, just “If they’re not current we won’t see them.” We really loved going to this clinic, not only were they very helpful and accommodating to my crazy work schedule they are also located only about six blocks from our house which was one of the minor reasons we switched vets to this one in the first place.
It was like someone smacked me in the face and I was devastated. We’d already left one vet for several reasons which included the fact that even though the law allowed it she refused to put my dog’s health ahead of the common immunization protocols and now this? It took me about 14 hours to flip that switch in me that I’ve mentioned here before where I go from crying like a baby and “What am I gonna doooooo?” to “Ok, what AM I gonna do?” and my fight mode kicks in and I find a way to turn it around. It seems pretty crazy to have to try to save your dogs from the very people who are supposed to care the most about their health (other than their families, of course) but that’s exactly how I feel.
Due to their autoimmune health issues I am not going to let any vet routinely poke my dogs with vaccines which do more harm than good without at least a titer test to see if my dogs even need any vaccines. When I look at Riley and what’s happened to his health since his last rabies shot I cry. This decision was really starting to make me angry. To me this was a way to force routine scheduled rabies shots on my dogs and I wasn’t about to let that happen. Although I totally understand the principals and issues behind the decision our vet made to change their business practices, this was a business practice decision which overlooks the best interest of the patients. That in itself doesn’t sit well with me no matter how much I understand the “why” in their decision. I’m not angry anymore (ok, maybe a little) and I won’t badmouth them, I’m just very disappointed.
There are probably four to five or so vets in town or reasonably close to where we live. I started with making calls to the ones in town that I would consider seeing. One was out without even a phone call, no way would I go there. The other ones proved in short order to not have a clue what I was talking about when it comes to routine scheduled rabies vaccines and I didn’t have time to educate them, I needed to find a new vet NOW.
After about a 20 minute consult over the phone I found Vet #6 who was going to take us on as new clients. I was so excited, she’s only about 6 miles away and she and I seemingly were on the same page so I had all the furkids records transferred to her. As of right now I still don’t know what happened in the interim but she decided a few days later that her practice was probably not a good fit for us and very nicely gave me some alternative vets that I might like to call. Reading her list I found that not one of these was less than about an hour and a half away! Really????? Are you kidding me? Soooo, it was back to the hunt.
Making individual phone calls and explaining, re-explaining and making shorthand notes that I probably wouldn’t be able to decipher later was just too time consuming. Not all these vets have websites and those that do don’t all have contact forms or email addresses on them. So, I wrote about a 4-page fax outlining our dogs health issues with some emphasis on preferring a vet who’s either a raw-fed fan or at least one who’s comfortable with raw fed patients and not going to try to talk us out of their raw diet. But my biggest issue and the one I stressed the most was the “automatic” rabies vaccination thing. Because all of our dogs have autoimmune conditions, we need a vet who would be agreeable to at the very least titer testing before vaccinating. I figured if need be, I could just re-address the fax to the next and the next and the next vet if I needed to. The fax thing also allowed the vet recipients time to read everything over when they had the time and kept me off the phone for hours on end. I don’t have the best hearing anymore anyway and I decided this was too important to trust my ears.
At this point I was looking at two different clinics, one quite a bit closer than the other that seemed to have what I was hoping to find in vets and services. The one farther away though was really pulling at me so that’s the one I went with first. They have four vets and three of these vets specialize in everything our dogs need and then some! Internal medicine for Riley’s IBD and Gracie’s diarrhea (yeah that’s another long story), dermatology for Riley’s SLO, geriatric veterinary care … ok, so I don’t think our furkids are old but Riley is going on 9 and Nissa almost 8 so I do have to be realistic and think about this (for the future of course). Add an orthopedic surgeon so he’s gonna know all about FHO surgery and hip issues and the biggest tickle is one of these docs mixes in holistic medicine in her practice *if* you want it. Holistic veterinary medicine is something I’ve wanted to learn more about for about the past year or so. I was pointed to two supposedly easy to understand books on it (which I bought) but was was forewarned I would need help with it from a holistic vet. Boy, if that isn’t the truth. I opened both books when I got them and it wasn’t long before I was saying “She was right, I do need help with this.” In addition to all these specialties one of the docs also does acupuncture which is another something I’d been wanting to learn more about and try for Riley’s pain. I held my breath and hit the SEND button on the fax machine pre-office hours on Thursday. I figured I’d give them a couple days to look things over and get back to me.
On Friday I found that Riley was spending an awful lot of time licking his one nail. I looked closely at it and a revisit of his first SLO flare up almost two years ago loomed big in my eyes but I couldn’t be positive at that point. On Saturday when I came home from work there was no doubt in my mind. The nasty SLO beast was back and my tears started to run like a faucet. To think of him having to go through that horrible pain again was just heartbreaking. (EDIT 06/08/2015: We later learned that Riley’s SLO had not returned, he had simply broken a nail, yayyy!)
I was on the phone to what I’d hoped would be our new vet as soon as their office opened that morning — yes, they have Saturday hours where the local vet we’d just left did not! The vet wasn’t in yet but the receptionist said she knew about the fax and would have the doc get back to me soon as she came in which was supposed to be about 40 minutes at that point.
Twenty minutes later this vet was on the phone telling me she saw no problem whatsoever in taking us on as patients. She knew about SLO, told me I was doing everything right for him (smile!) and already had three medications in mind, two of which she would consider prescribing but she had to see him first which I understood. Their schedule was already overbooked and crazy for that day (Saturday) but she told me to bring him in on Monday. I hung up crying not only tears of pain for my boy but tears of joy to (hopefully!) have found the absolute best solution for our furkids.
Why am I writing this seemingly insignificant adventure? Because I’d like to stress to all of you to be pro-active in your pet’s veterinary care! You may have to research, make calls, fax, email, leave a vet, find a new vet … whatever it takes … but don’t just let your vet make decisions that affect your pet’s health without knowing the consequences and know that YOU have a say-so in your pet’s health care. Gone should be the days when we just blindly go along with whatever our vets tell us to do or not do. Don’t just assume that because they’re the vet they know it all. They don’t, they can’t, they’re human. If you have so much as a twinge of doubt or discomfort of any kind about what your vet tells you – don’t ignore this gut-reaction red flag!
If I had not researched when Riley first started losing his nails, bleeding all over the house and whimpering in pain I’d have taken him to the vet and found she didn’t have a clue which meant neither one of us would have. But because I went in prepared with a possible diagnosis (some vets hate this but that’s on my “Too Bad So Sad” list) – we got answers much more quickly. If I didn’t know what I know now our vet wouldn’t have even had to even mention their change in business policy because we wouldn’t have been any of the patients affected by it. I’d have been going along with routine vaccinations all this time which would have just made our furkids sicker! Heck, we could have been looking at SLO or other autoimmune diseases for all of them by now! But because I do what I do to help protect them, we aren’t. That’s not me patting myself on the back, it’s me encouraging you for the sake of your furkids to do the same and don’t give up until you find what you need for YOUR furkids!
As I write this my special boy is laying next to me crying and licking his nail which just breaks my heart. But I have behind me that this time we are armed and educated. I fought to keep my boy and my girls more safe at the hands of veterinary business policies and red tape and I will continue to do whatever it takes for them.
In case you’re not aware, the law in the state of Wisconsin allows for medical waivers for dogs and cats who should not receive rabies vaccines due to health issues. You can find out if your state law allows for this by checking the exemption list on the Rabies Challenge Fund website. Due to the fact that all our furkids suffer from autoimmune conditions they should not have rabies vaccines at the very least not without a titer test and no less than three years apart. Vaccinations should not be combined either, that’s another cause for autoimmune and other conditions to attack our pets as is over-vaccinating our pets. IF the titer test results show that they’re not protected (unlikely) we will discuss alternative options with our new vet which may include vaccines without mercury. I’m not committing to that just yet because I don’t know enough about it right now. But we’re pretty much convinced our dog’s titers are going to prove they’re protected and probably for life. I figure there’s probably about a 99% chance that an annual titer will show them being protected and that they’re done being poked for rabies forever because a positive titer means they don’t need a rabies vaccine. Now, keep in mind that your dog’s lifestyle has something to do with whether or not they qualify.
A medical exemption law isn’t a free pass to never vaccinating your pets again. Hunting dogs for example probably would not qualify because their lifestyle keeps them at risk for contracting rabies. My solution to this would be to pull my hunting dog from his job because his health would be more important to me. I can always get another hunting dog and simply retire the one that shouldn’t be vaccinated but unfortunately for the dogs, that’s not everyone’s choice. Where you live is also a consideration. If you live in a wooded area populated with wild animals that are known to carry or contract rabies is another reason your dog may not qualify for the waiver. Where we live our city accepts the veterinary waivers, but that doesn’t mean every city in WI does.
If you’d like to learn more about the rabies issues and learn the basics quickly, I strongly urge you to get the article published by Whole Dog Magazine entitled Dr. Ron Schultz Shares His Vast Expertise in Vaccines with Dog Owners. The article is an interview with a leader in the field of veterinary immunology. It’s excellent and sums things up nicely especially for people who don’t have a lot of time for research and it’s the best $8.95 I’ve spent in a long time. Even though I was pretty much aware of most that’s written in it I still learned from it.It’s an easy read and for those of you fighting with your vet about the rabies thing, it makes great ammunition to take with you!
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