Veterinarians enjoy close relationships not only with their patients but also with pet parents. Open and honest communication greatly facilitates these relationships. By far the majority of our clients honestly communicate their desires and we reciprocate by openly outlining prognosis and cost to the best of our ability. Breakdowns in this mutually beneficial collaboration do unfortunately occur however and when they do no one is benefited.
I recently treated an older intact female Chihuahua who had been in labor for 40 or more hours. When the patient presented as you can well imagine, she was extremely ill and therefore I gave her owner a grave prognosis. I informed her owner that without surgery she would die and even with emergency surgical intervention that she may not live.
In addition to prognosis, part of the process that we must go through with owners is informing them of the projected costs of treatment. Even with the grave prognosis and charges clearly explained, the owner asked that I proceed to surgery and do all that I could to save her dog. Upon her request and with faith that she would honorably keep the financial commitment she made I immediately took this very sick patient to surgery.
During the exploratory I found that she had labored so long that her uterus was ruptured. Bacteria had evidently migrated up from the birth canal and into the abdomen because there also a severe peritonitis. The infection was serious enough that her abdomen smelled like sewer. This challenging surgery became even more difficult when her heart and respiration suddenly stopped. Fortunately because of quick action of our surgical technicians and the administration of emergency medications we were able to revive her and complete the surgery.
The next few days post-op were no less challenging than the surgery, but I am happy to report that this little dog has made a full recovery and is doing well. Unfortunately her owner despite assuring us in the days post-op, that she would pay her bill has neglected to do so. Finally after almost two weeks at our hospital she has admitted that she has no intention of paying.
I assure you that I will carefully select a good home for this dog that deserves so much more love than she has experienced in the past. She will be able to look forward to a life of love and companionship with a pet parent who appreciates her and gives her the love and care that she needs and deserves.
In retrospect I suppose that all along the owner knew she was being untruthful with us, and that this may be a way of life for her. I struggle to comprehend a mind that can live so easily with a lie. I was raised that no matter what circumstance I may be in that trustworthiness and integrity are of utmost importance. For society to survive every situation must be entered into with both parties openly and honestly communicating.
When making decisions concerning your pet’s care even if difficult decisions must be made, please honestly communicate with the care giver. If you do your family veterinarian can outline a treatment plan to most effectively treat your pet, with your financial situation in mind.