Taking the Doctor’s Advice

You’ve probably seen the TV ad where the doctor rushes across the ball field trying to make a catch. 
“You wouldn’t want your doctor doing your job, so why try to do his?”  It’s about folks trying to diagnose themselves and treat with over-the-counter remedies.

Some do this because they want to save money (and who doesn’t?).  Some do this because they don't want to think about how serious the problem might be.

I have  a family history of heart attacks, so when my cholesterol began creeping up, I probably should have taken my doctor’s advice to start statin-type drugs to get it down. I wasn’t enthusiastic about the side-effects, or about taking medicine in general.  Since I eat a pretty Spartan diet and exercise vigorously on a daily basis, I felt like I’d be in better shape than my father and his siblings. 

Besides, some folks couldn’t get their cholesterol as low as mine when they ARE taking medicine.  I mean, mine just wasn’t that high, right?

 I didn’t exactly ignore my doctor’s recommendation.  I more disregarded it (okay, that’s not much different, is it?).

And then I began having chest pain.  I couldn’t ignore THAT.  A dye study showed that I had an 80% blockage in a major coronary artery.  Fortunately, it was readily treated with a stent.  I narrowly avoided a massive, probably fatal, heart attack.   I sent my doctor this text: “You were right, I was wrong, and I almost died.  What can I say?”  I can say I’m very happy to have dodged the bullet.

So, I don’t have the moral high ground when I get frustrated by clients who either ignore the pet’s problem or my advice.  I’m no better as a patient, myself.

Still, I DO get frustrated by this.  This is really common with dental problems.  I’m really happy that I was able to extract two teeth yesterday.  Six months ago, we found that the dog had two broken  teeth, with the pulp chamber (the NERVE) exposed.  I don’t know how long they had been that way.  I’m just glad that the situation has been handled. 

It was a major oral surgery, and a major bill.  I can see why people would put it off.

Imagine that you’ve had two teeth broken open to expose the nerves.  Now imagine that it’s been six months and you couldn’t do anything about it.  Now for the hard one:  imagine that it doesn’t hurt.

Dogs and cats are pretty stoic, and often don’t exhibit pain in the way you might think.  Sometimes you’ve just got to put yourself in the animal’s place.  If you know you’d be hurting, then so is the pet.

You and your veterinarian have the same goal: for you and your pet to enjoy life together as much as possible for as long as possible. When he/she recommends something, it’s about helping your pet and helping you.

 I know that we all have limitations on our resources, and we cannot always go with “Plan A”.  The important thing is confront the situation and deal with it in the best way that you can. 

Don’t wait until you have chest pain.  And if you do, don’t ignore it.

4 thoughts on “Taking the Doctor’s Advice

  1. Sarah says:

    Great article and very important!

    For most pet parents, myself included, our pets are a part of our own family and are often thought of as our children. We ultimately want the best for them, including medical care. Granted that medical care can sometimes (ok, a good share of the time) get expensive. A very big deterrent to getting problems solved.

    Now, say your human child had a medical issue that needed relatively immediate attention. You would not put that off. So why would you do so for your pet?

    Like you said, the best advice is to confront it head on. Often there are multiple options to choose from and maybe even your vet would work with you on payments. You do not know until the situation is accessed and you ask the questions.

  2. Kel says:

    Hello I’m reaching out about my 7 year old Yorkie. He seems to have some pretty bad teeth. It’s been recommended that he have a cleaning, but it’s just too much money. Two weeks ago my dog became ill (he had been boarded 3 weeks prior) with what appeared to be some sort of doggie cold. He was warm, wasn’t eating or drinking much, quite lethargic, not pooping and had his tongue peaking through his mouth(which isn’t normal for him). After a day and a half of this, I called his get over night to make sure he got in the next morning. My dog gets extremely anxious at the vet and whimpers the entire time. They typically muzzle him as he doesn’t like their fingers near his mouth. A quick temp reading showed a fever and they gave him some fluids and an anti nausea medicine. Fast forward 3 days and he’s back to normal! A week post all of this, he’s back to kind of acting strange – hiding in places he doesn’t typically go to, peaking his tongue through his mouth and lying on his side which he never does. I am growing increasingly concerned that something is wrong with his mouth. He’s eating and drinking somewhat normally, but he isn’t as active as usual. He won’t play with his toys and he keeps licking his lips to the point his beard is wet and matted. I was feeling around and noticed a small tiny pea-sized lump right along his lower jAw bone. He didn’t seem to like me touching it. Is this an emergency situation where I should take him to the 24-hour vet ($$$) or can this wait 36 hours until monday? I’m concerned his infection will spread. I’ve read a lot about abscesses but he doesn’t have swelling under his eye and the tiny lump j found was under his jaw bone. I should note one of his teeth (rather large) fell out abiut 2 years ago. Any help is greatly appreciated! Did the vet get it wrong? Would his eating and habits get better and worse again if it was a bad tooth originally?

  3. Doc says:

    Hello, Kel,
    Sorry I’m a little behind on these questions.
    Swelling under the eye can certainly indicate an abscess of an UPPER jaw tooth. Lumps UNDER the jaw could indicate a tooth problem with a lower tooth. You can also have tumors, foreign body penetration, abscesses for other reasons than a tooth.

    If he is having recurring problems with apparent discomfort with eating, and with drooling, I would say that tooth problems are pretty high on the list. A dental cleaning with dental X-rays would be the way to rule that in or out (and treat it).

    This is not something anybody can diagnose “over the phone”.

    The getting better and worse could occur if there were other treatment that would help with pain, inflammation, or infection.

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