Trying to Stay Relevant
The field of veterinary medicine never stands still. We are a profession that is continuously growing and changing to meet the needs of our patients. In the last twenty years or so, this growth seems to have exploded with new services and treatment options available for pet owners to choose from. Our practice is a prime example of a general small animal practice trying to stay relevant in a climate where owners are wanting the best of the best for their animals (yet at a reasonable price!).
From Products to Services
The current trend for a successful veterinary practice is to focus on services rather than products. When I first started in this field (many, many years ago), the veterinary hospital was a place of one stop shopping. It was a place to get vaccines, parasite control, medications and food. Now, owners have low cost vaccine clinics and online retail available at the tips of their fingertips. We all have had that conversation with an owner price shopping around for the flea product or heart worm preventative that their doctor recommended but at the lowest price. You can even get veterinary only medication filled at Walmart now. With this expanded change in availability of veterinary products for owners comes a shift in our focus as a hospital. What can we provide that our clients want and can’t get somewhere else? Continue…
Adding a new pet to your family can be a wonderful and confusing experience for many people. Here you have this squirming bundle of furry joy already stealing your heart one kiss or snuggle at a time but then comes the not-so-fun decisions of health care and vaccines. What food should they eat? How should I potty train them? What about doggie school? What the heck is that vaccine that they need? Distemper something or another. Does this have to do with their temperament? Someone explained it to me once but all I heard was blah, blah, blah..your dog needs them every so often…make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Well, here is a basic rundown of our hospital’s core canine vaccine, the distemper combination ( DHPP or DHPPL depending on your pet’s needs). This basic but important vaccine is started at 8 weeks of age and boosted every 3-4 weeks until 16-20 weeks old. The vaccines are given in a series because a puppy’s immune system is ever changing and some early vaccines are not completely protective thanks to their mother’s antibodies. This is why a young dog who has had one vaccine can still become infected with diseases such as parvovirus. As an adult, the distemper combination is boosted at 12 months old and then every 3 years. There are other vaccines available such as the rabies vaccine (required by law), kennel cough, canine flu, and lyme , but we are not going to focus on those today. Continue…
There are some dog breeds that seem to be more predisposed to back issues that others. You have the Daschund (poster child for IVDD, right?), Basset Hounds, Corgi and any mix making a long backed/short legged dog. There are also Pugs and French Bulldogs to round out the smaller dog list with Dobermans and German Shepherds having a solid representation for the large breed dogs. Some of their spine issues stem from congenital or developmental defects, but primarily in the veterinary hospital we see dogs with type I or type II disk compression.
When a disk (the shock absorber between vertabre) changes to put pressure on the spinal chord, we usually see pain and loss of function in our pets. It can happen gradually over a few days to months or all of a sudden. The pain can be excruciating and dogs can become completely paralyzed and lose control of body functions. When this issue presents itself, it is important to seek out medical intervention as soon as possible for the best outcome.
My Dog May Have IVDD. Now What?
What are my options if I have a dog that suddenly looses the use of their legs or seems to be really stiff and can’t turn their neck? At the very least, an exam by a veterinarian would be a great place to start to localize where they think a disk lesion may be and to rule out other possibilities such as tick diseases.
The next step could be a visit to a neurology specialist to evaluate the symptoms and recommend a treatment plan that may include an MRI +/- surgery. Sometimes this option is not the best one due to the cost of the procedures or a patient’s age. If this is the case, does that mean that an owner should consider euthanasia as a treatment option? That really depends on the pain factor. If we can not effectively manage a dog’s pain and surgery is not an option, euthanasia may be the only way to humanely treat the issue. In particular, cervical lesions can be one of the most painful and difficult IVDD places to manage without surgery in some pets.
I strongly feel that if a pet’s pain can be controlled and the owners are committed to the intense home care needs of their dog, trying the conservative management strategy is definitely worth it. Time and good care can lead to partial or full recovery in some dogs. You just have to be willing to try with an unknown outcome possible. Recovery is not guaranteed but it is possible. Continue…