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People who know me even a little bit know I’m a detail-oriented person. I really do sweat the small stuff, and I think that’s a trait you want in a health care provider. When I’m examining a dog, I look at the small details as well as the big picture.
But even though I like to see people paying attention to every aspect of their dog’s care, I’m often taken aback by dog owners who fixate on one aspect of their animal's care while ignoring many others. Some of the things dog owners ignore truly do make a difference to an animal's quality of life. So you can understand my wondering why it is that some people are anxious to discuss the “horrors” of vaccines and the harm they may do while I’m looking at a pet who’s in misery from a problem I can address not in theory but right now.
Yes, it’s great that you’re educating yourself on the debates over vaccine protocols or preservatives in food or whatever you want to discuss. I love working with pet owners, and I’m here to listen and to offer my educated guidance. But I'm also here to make sure your dog is healthy, right at this moment — and that means addressing any health issues that are actually an issue, right at this moment.
As I said, discussions over “holistic” care or anything else are just fine, but let’s get your pet healthy first, OK? As a veterinarian, I regularly see a small group of health problems that dog owners often overlook, ignore or treat as “normal.” If your dog has any of the issues on this list, please see your veterinarian immediately. And be prepared to follow through and follow up because many of these problems take time and dedication to resolve, especially if they’ve been ignored for a long time.
Chronic ear problems: Recurring ear infections are not that common in adult humans, which may be part of the reason we tend to forget just how painful they are. But think back to the nonstop pain of childhood ear infections — or, if you’re a parent, recall how helpless you felt the last time your child had an ear infection. It’s true that people do bring their dogs in for treatment, but the follow-through can be very poor. Drops don’t get put in, follow-up appointments aren’t made and eventually pet owners just decide that ear infections are “normal,” especially for flop-eared dogs. Please don’t confuse “common” with “normal” — instead, imagine the agony you’d be in if every single waking minute of every day you were dogged by a condition that was painful and itchy. You’d go crazy, wouldn’t you? Your dog feels the same way.
Dental disease: What would you think if every day you looked in the mirror and saw gums that were bleeding and receding, and teeth that were discolored, loosening and falling out? “Doggy breath” isn’t normal, and pets need dental care just like people do. Sometimes I flip the lip on a dog I’m seeing — usually for some other reason — and discover gums that look as if a blowtorch had been passed over them. You know these animals are in constant pain. And what about those teeth? Imagine what it would be like to be in excruciating pain every time your tongue touched your tooth, or if you had to try to gingerly eat on only one side of your mouth, away from the affected area. Your veterinarian can get your dog’s mouth back in good shape at any age and can show you how to keep things in good shape. No more pain!
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