Friday, March 23, 2012

Who's Caring for Daisy???

We all get excited about going away on a vacation. Unfortunately we can't always take our pets with us.

The question arises.... who will look after Daisy??

There are several options:

  • leave your pet at home with remaining family members
  • leave your pet at home with a caregiver coming in to provide care
  • hire a live-in pet sitter
  • take your pet to a kennel or boarding facility

Regardless of the chosen option the question arises...what is to be done if Daisy becomes ill when her family is away???

As veterinarians we see what happens when the hard questions of veterinary care and accompanying finances have not been addressed in advance of situations arising. 

The following is an example of what can, and does, happen.

Daisy's family are heading off on vacation. They take her to a local boarding facility and check her in for two weeks of care and lodging. They give their personal information, a contact number and the name of Daisy's regular veterinarian. They sign a release of liability should Daisy be lost or injured during her stay. The people at the facility are warm and friendly. Daisy's family feel confident she will be well looked after and head off to the airport.

After a few days the staff at the kennel notice Daisy is urinating more frequently. They call the owners and let them know they have some concern. Daisy's condition rapidly worsens...she seems painful when she tries to urinate and her urine is now blood red. 

The kennel owner takes her to the local veterinarian in hopes of obtaining some antibiotics to "fix the problem". She is told an examination is required. As Daisy's family are not clients of the local veterinary hospital payment is required at the time of service. The kennel agrees to pay for a basic examination. Daisy is examined by the veterinarian. She seems well except for the red urine stains on her hind end. Her bladder is tiny as she piddles small amounts often. The veterinarian tells the kennel owner that further testing is advised as there is a concern that Daisy may have a bladder stone....a painful and irritating condition...rather than an uncomplicated  bacterial infection 

The kennel refuse to sign the admission paper for Daisy. They do not want to be responsible for procedure authorization or payment for additional services. They still want the veterinarian to give Daisy antibiotics. They take her back to the kennel. They are now unable to contact the owners. Daisy is increasingly uncomfortable. The kennel does not want to take responsibility for her medical care. 

The kennel has a dilemma! A sick dog under their care and concern they may not be able to collect payment from the owners.

Fortunately the veterinarian, after several attempts, was able to contact the owners. Daisy's situation was explained to them and they authorized diagnostics and treatment as required. They provided a deposit via credit card. Once payment had been arranged the kennel agreed to sign as Daisy's agent to have her admitted to the veterinary hospital for care. The question arises...what would the outcome have been if the veterinarian could not get in touch with the owner??

Several tests were done and Daisy was found to have bladder stones, no bacterial infection of the urine and no other issues. She was returned to the kennel with medication to keep her comfortable until her owners returned home. Daisy will likely require surgery to remove the stones.

Ultrasound of bladder stones
Radiograph of bladder stones

The take home points from this scenario are:

  • ask the caregiver/kennel what protocol for care is in place should your pet become ill in your absence
  • indicate if the caregiver/kennel is to use your regular veterinarian unless they are not available
  • provide the caregiver/kennel with a budget they can work with for your pet's veterinary care should they be unable to contact you
In the above situation:
  • there was no standard protocol in place for a sick pet
  • the caregiver/kennel made a lay person diagnosis
  • the regular veterinarian was not contacted by the caregiver/kennel
  • the caregiver/kennel would not take agent, or interim financial, responsibility for the pet in their care
  • there was no emergency budget in place for veterinary care
Expect the best but PLAN for the worst

and have a WORRY  FREE vacation!

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