Sunday, March 25, 2018

Assuring cats’ health: call it ‘guardian maintenance’!

Harry (top) & Billy
Harry and Billy Summers are two very lucky cats, now flashing beautiful, healthy teeth.  It wasn’t cheap, or easy.  Nor was it the first or the last time their oral health was checked and assured.

This time around, their dental adventure cost more than $2,000 – a good deal less than the highest estimate the animal hospital had projected.  The total cost also included pre-anesthesia testing by their veterinarian and a 40-mile round trip to the specialist . . . then, hours later, a return trip for pick up, all after two postponements because of winter storms.

That expenditure of time and money (and emotion!) was just for their teeth, which I’ve been convinced must be kept healthy.

And there’s much more: “the Summers boys” also eat “vet food” – that is, prescription food to maintain a healthy weight (Billy) or care for kidneys (Harry).

And besides what amount to two annual check-ups for each boy, there are also periodic visits to eye and internal medicine specialists and the inevitable emergency vet trips – the tilted head signaling an ear problem; the upset stomach with projectile vomiting . . . and so on.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not boasting or complaining.  I’m elated we can afford comprehensive health care for the two cats we dearly love. And I wholly trust both boys’ veterinarian, the dental specialist and others.

But. . . !

But: how many people can afford such thorough, or even basic, care for their cats?  I’m betting that many cats go without – which can mean shorter, less healthy lives.  

It’s sad to think how many pet cats don’t get even an annual check-up, let alone dental care.  Or beneficial food.  And of course, community cats – with shorter life spans by definition -- have it even harder.

I have to wonder what happens for all the cats who are adopted out by rescue groups and shelters. Once those felines move into their “forever homes,” how do their well-meaning new families deal with the need for vet visits and, sometimes, heroic or major treatments?  Are prospective adopters told about the expenses involved with having a pet cat?

No doubt this situation is also true for pet dogs, for whom veterinarian care is pricey too – a fact probably equally true for other pets – ferrets, birds and so on.

What about medical insurance for pets, you may ask.  I’ve wondered about that.  The one time we had it, for a beloved cocker spaniel, a pre-existing health condition kept it from being useful.  After that, we gave up on insurance.  

There are ways to get help with medical costs for pets.  One example: the donation jar at the hospital where Harry and Billy had their teeth attended to – although I don’t know how common such jars are or how that money is allocated. 

Other options can be found on the website of the Animal Protection League of NJ (APLNJ), which lists organizations pet parents might try.  (Worth checking them out right now?)

And too, why not ask the pet’s vet about special rates and payment plans?  (Who better to ask for help treating a pet than a vet, whose mission is caring for animals?)   

For now, with gratitude and relief, I’m crossing my fingers, knocking on wood and thanking the
power(s) that Harry and Billy are two very lucky cats.


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