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 VOL. 9, ISSUE 5 - MAY 2016

In This Issue

You, Your Pet and Your Vet

Diamond Certified Preferred Consumer Card

Lessons from a Poorly Handled Pet Emergency

Consumer Feedback:
J & J’s Final Coat Painting, Inc.

Diamond Certified Companies

Savvy Tips of the Month

Frequently Asked Questions About Real Estate Agents

How to Splash the Cost of Running Your Pool

Caring for Your Child’s Dental Health

Diamond Certified Quick Links






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You, Your Pet and Your Vet: Making Tough Medical Decisions Together

When it comes to treating a sick pet, it’s important to understand the extent of your options. Photo: Companion Animal Hospital, 2016

Many people have to make difficult decisions when their pets are in failing health. Should the doctor run more tests? Will the animal be able to survive a medical procedure that may or may not prolong its life? Is a specialist needed? Is the treatment affordable? When is it time to let go? I spoke to Dr. David Horne, owner of Companion Animal Hospital, a Diamond Certified practice in Santa Cruz, about how to go about making the best decisions for your pets…and yourself.

Savvy Consumer: What is your approach to treating animals that are in failing health?
Dr. Horne:
Over the years, I’ve learned to feel people out and talk about their pets’ prognoses, as well as what I perceive as pain and suffering. But I don’t try to tell people what they should do—I let them tell me what they want to do and what their goals are. I think younger veterinarians would benefit by developing the skills to talk about these issues.

Savvy Consumer: Do you think we sometimes go too far in treating our pets’ medical conditions?
Dr. Horne:
Sometimes, I get the feeling that people are led down the path of one test and treatment after another without stopping and saying, “Wait a minute…what’s the big picture here? What are we dealing with? How far do we want to go?” People often get lost in all of the testing and treatments that are proposed to them.

Savvy Consumer: Maybe they’re afraid to ask, “What happens if I don’t do this?” or “How much is it going to cost?” It’s an awkward conversation, isn’t it?
Dr. Horne:
It can be. But I always say, “Well, let’s just talk about the prognosis and what could be done if money wasn’t an issue.” After you talk about the science of the situation, you can talk about what makes sense ethically. Because often, I find conditions where I say, “You know, it wouldn’t matter if you had a million dollars; it just doesn’t make sense to put the animal through that.” I don’t really spend a lot of time talking about money. I try to talk about what’s going to be involved with testing and treatments, what the animal is going through, and what can be done to help. And if we can decide on something that makes sense, we can write up a treatment plan. That way, they can get an idea of whether it’s something they can do monetarily.

Savvy Consumer: I would think a lot of people have trouble thinking clearly about what to do when dealing with a very sick animal.
Dr. Horne:
My feeling is that people want suggestions or options. They want the vet to help them decide the next steps. Many ask, “If it was your dog, what would you do?” It’s incumbent upon me as the veterinarian to stay calm and use my experience and training to put myself in the position of the pet owners—it gives them perspective about what’s going on, which is important. But everybody is different, and there are gray areas when you sneak up on end of life issues.

Savvy Consumer: How do you deal with pet owners who worry a lot about the pain and suffering of their animals?
Dr. Horne:
I just try to approach it with common sense. People ask me if it makes sense to “put them through that,” and my answer is, “If there’s a chance for a cure, I think a little bit of suffering is OK.” A perfect example of that is a tumor that can be removed or a broken bone that can be mended. The surgery and trauma can be pretty involved, but there’s a chance for a cure. However, if you diagnose a cancer that has metastasized all over the body, does it really make sense to put the animal through that? And that’s a very complicated question. You have to ask, “What kinds of drugs do we have to treat this? What’s the potential outcome with treatment?” And with aggressive treatments, if you only have a small prognosis, that gets into an individual’s values. I’m not one to push people to put their pets through a lot with minimal reward. Here, we may be getting into potential end of life issues—when do you decide to euthanize or not?

Savvy Consumer: And there are many compassionate ways to end an animal’s life nowadays.
Dr. Horne:
Yes, and we’re very lucky to have those options. Sometimes I think the animals get better care than we do. However, human medicine is changing. There’s a more general acceptance of the right to die when someone is suffering from a terminal disease. As veterinarians, we support pet owners when a similar situation occurs with their beloved animals.

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Chris BjorklundChris Bjorklund
The Savvy Consumer

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Lessons from a Poorly Handled Pet Emergency

If you have to leave your pet at home while on vacation, you can avoid a devastating situation by coming up with contingency plans with your vet. Photo: American Ratings Corporation, 2016

Recently, my friend asked an acquaintance to watch her cat while she was vacationing in Mexico. Sixteen-year-old Izzy had a thyroid problem and had lost her appetite, so the vet prescribed a steroid pill to induce her to eat.

A few days later, however, while the cat sitter was administering the medication, Izzy went limp in her arms. She rushed the lifeless cat to the closest animal hospital. By the time she got there, Izzy wasn’t breathing and was starting to stiffen. Still, the front desk asked the cat sitter if the vet should perform CPR on the animal, and she agreed out of guilt and confusion. After the doctor confirmed Izzy was dead, she paid the $500 bill, which included 10 to 15 minutes of CPR.

When my friend returned and heard about what happened, she was furious and felt that the animal hospital had taken advantage of her cat sitter. After talking to the owner of the hospital, she learned that “DOA” was written in Izzy’s case file: dead on arrival. Why had they recommended CPR when rigor mortis had already set in? The owner responded quickly to my friend’s complaint and refunded all but a charge for the office visit. My friend also contacted the California Veterinary Medical Board in Sacramento, who asked her to file a complaint.

These were unusual circumstances with the owner being out of town and unreachable and the cat sitter having to use an unfamiliar emergency animal hospital. Most of us can avoid being in this situation by developing a close relationship with a veterinarian, getting recommendations from that vet for an emergency hospital before it’s needed and discussing end of life plans for our beloved pets before it’s a crisis situation. Some pet owners will keep a document on file with their vet (and leave a copy with the pet-sitter) noting how much intervention and/or a dollar amount not to be exceeded in their absence.


Kudos from Diamond Certified Consumers

Dear Diamond Certified,

Joe and Jill Sabel are the owners of J & J’s Final Coat Painting, Inc. They’re an incredible company and have my unequivocal endorsement. Joe provided me with a reasonable cost estimate, and his employees thoroughly inspected the entire exterior of my house and replaced numerous 2x4s (which had lots of visible dry rot) with new wood of much better quality. Joe’s crew chief, Walter, did a phenomenal job. His crew spent almost as much time replacing dry rot with new wood and priming rusty nails as they did painting the house. Other painters will caulk dry rotted areas, which is only a temporary fix. J & J’s Final Coat Painting replaced rotted boards, which is the proper way to correct the problem. Otherwise, you run the risk of the dry rot coming back. They only charged me $280 over their original estimate for additional materials, which they hadn’t foreseen.

Considering all the rain we’re now having, I’m delighted we selected J & J’s Final Coat Painting as our painting contractor last summer. They did a fantastic job!

—J.B., East Bay

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