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If you love your Animal, use a vet on Ambergris Caye

Tonight I had taken a shower and settled in on the sofa to watch a movie I had been wanting to see for a long time. It was about 8:30pm. I was all comfy in my pajamas and it was just getting to the really good part in The Girl Who Played With Fire (the second of the Swedish Dragon Tattoo books/films. Then there was a phone call.

It was an emergency. Someone’s pet was becoming weak and trembly, and could no longer walk, even though he had just been treated by someone else earlier that day.

Reluctantly I dragged my lazy self off the couch and made my way to the clinic. A cute little white fluffy dog was carried in. Just as the owner said, he was tremoring uncontrollably and could not stand up. His gums were an alarming white. His temperature and heart rate were both abnormally low. He was going into shock. The receipt from the other veterinary clinic listed a number of treatments – flea and tick bath, dewormer, Vit B12 injection, antibiotic injection, doxycycline tablets, and “flea and tick treatment”. The cost of these treatments was $100. No veterinary consult. I asked if he had been sick before he went in to the clinic. They said no, he just had a terrible tick infestation which they were struggling to control.

Based on his symptoms and history I figured out what must have happened. He was suffering from a toxicity from an overdose of flea and tick product. I gave him the antidote, an injection in his right rear leg. I tested his blood for anemia – his red blood cell volume was 15%. Just high enough to mean he had a good chance to survive without a blood transfusion. Normal is about 35 to 50, so the ticks had consumed more than half of his blood.

Amazingly, in about 20 minutes his heart rate was back to normal. His temperature was almost normal as well. His gums showed some pink color. Sparky turned and trotted out the door with his relieved owners 10 minutes later, wagging his tail. His bill from me was $180.

So what does this tell us? First of all, it is clear this dog did not need all the treatments he was given at the first clinic. Not only did he not need them, they actually did him harm. What is the first rule of medicine? Do no harm. If he had come to me in the first place his bill would have been less and he would never have gotten sick. Thankfully he came to me the second time. What if he had gone back to the same unqualified person? Would they have known what was wrong with him? Would they have known the antidote? Would they have had it available? Would they know the proper dose? Or would they have looked at his deteriorating condition, in shock with white gums and said it is not fair to watch him suffer, we need to put him down.

His anemia is too severe for him to survive. I know from my experience in Belize that the latter is what would have happened. This is what happens when proper medical practices are not followed. Pets get misdiagnosed and are given the wrong treatments, or even euthanized.

Why is someone who is not a vet continuing to treat patients when there is a full-time vet on our island? How is this helping? It certainly is not saving people any money.



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