Losing My Veterinary Privileges
Because I am a vet, I sometimes get a little removed from the realities of pet ownership. Sure, I’ve got my own beasties, but dealing with them is a little easier after four years of veterinary school. When the inevitable health issue crops up, I can often deal with the problem without even bringing the offender into the clinic.
I won’t say I’m proud of this incident, but I once unblocked Keelor, my male kitty, on my kitchen counter. I had just spent a long day in the clinic and arrived home to find him obviously uncomfortable and trying, but unable, to pee. I knew this was an emergency, but honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was drive back to the clinic, break out the urinary catheters, and get back to work.
Terrible, I know.
Instead, I reached for some sedatives that I had on hand for when I floated my horses’ teeth and knocked the poor guy out. After a few minutes of massage (I won’t say what I was massaging) and some gentle bladder palpation, bingo, out popped the urethral plug and Keelor peed like the proverbial racehorse.
Effective: yes. Cheap: yes. Something the average pet owner should try at home: NO!
But my recent experiences with Victoria and her hyperthyroidism have reminded me what it is like to be on the other side of the exam table. I’ve been able to deal with the early stages of her diagnosis and treatment at home, but once we decided to go for the cure with her, the situation was out of my hands.
Radioactive iodine (I-131) is the treatment of choice for most cases of feline (and human) hyperthyroidism. After injection, the stuff destroys the tissue responsible for secreting excess amounts of thyroid hormone. In most cases, cats are essentially back to normal after the procedure.
Sounds great, right? Well, it is, but I-131 is not something that I can just pick up from the clinic and give to Vicky while we're sitting on the couch at home.
Did you catch the word "radioactive"? I-131 treatment requires the involvement of a specialist, which puts me firmly back into the "client" category. So, last week I spent my morning at the veterinary referral hospital, hoping to drop Vicky off to begin her treatment. Turns out there was a scheduling mix up (that never happens in my practice … wink, wink) so we could only do the prep work.
During Vicky’s physical exam, the specialist heard a heart murmur. I had heard it too but was willing to assume that it was caused by the hyperthyroidism. This doctor was a little more cautious. His recommendation? Chest X-rays, cardiac ultrasound, EKG, and a blood pressure check.
As you all know, it’s hard to say "no" to vets when they recommend additional testing. After an unbudgeted-for additional $500, we found out that the murmur was probably caused by the hyperthyroidism. Sigh.
At the beginning of this week, I finally was able to drop Vicky off. The veterinarian told me that on Monday, she would have her technetium scan. I think I muttered something along the lines of "riiiight" while all the while thinking "what the *%&# is a technetium scan?" Was I asleep in vet school when this was discussed?
I actually had to Google it. Turns out it is a way of determining if the cancerous growth in Vicky’s thyroid gland has spread elsewhere in her body, which could affect her prognosis. Who knew?
After Vicky’s scan and her first day in the hospital, I heard … nothing. No phone call to tell me how it went, no update, nothing. I wasn’t too worried. I know from personal experience that no news is usually good news, but still I was a little miffed that no one had even bothered to call with an update.
Since then, I have had regular updates and all is going well. Vicky has received her I-131 injection, and she should be able to come home on Friday.
Overall, my experience returning to the client’s side of the exam has been a positive one. Most importantly, Vicky has received excellent care, but I’m sure you can all relate with the frustration of having to deal with unexpected veterinary expenses and imperfect communication with doctors. Care to share?
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Pic of the day: Radioactive kitteh has to be contained by ICANHASCHEEZBURGER.COM