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Rant du jour: Animal hospitals

This morning, I am working in a coffee shop.  Next to me is a couple women talking, one far more than the other.  Talker-woman has many opinions.  Actually her husband seems to have many opinions, and talker-woman’s goal in life is to share them all with her friend.

One of the opinions is about animal hospitals – T-W’s hubby feels it’s “wrong” to provide high-level medical therapies to animals, when some humans aren’t getting adequate medical care.  In particular he objected to a nearby facility with top-of-the-line cancer treatment equipment for animals.

It would be rude to approach talker-woman and explain why her husband is wrong.  So, I’ll write it here instead…

First, I seriously question whether the presence or absence of pet hospitals has any influence on a human’s ability to get care.  There’s no equipment shortage: we can manufacture as many machines as we want. And I postulate that the money for pet care is coming from a different budget than the money for human health services.  That is, the money people spend on pets is their discretionary or entertainment budget; in the absence of pets they would be spending that money on movies or music or restaurants, not on public health projects.

Second, medical care in the human sphere has benefited enormously from the veterinary field.  There’s far fewer restrictions about what a vet can do, so many therapies are tried first in animals, and then adopted by the human community if they prove successful.  For example, years ago I had a cat who had invasive cancer.  He was treated at a local vet school, where they tried an approach that was entirely new at the time* – they implanted a set of radioactive pellets into and around the cancer, which would expose the tumor to round-the-clock radiation while the cat went about his normal activities. This approach eventually proved so successful in the veterinary practice that it became standard of care for several human cancers. 

Finally, the entire argument rests on an assumption that human beings are somehow more important – or more deserving of care – than cats.  Frankly, I don’t buy that premise – I’ve very fond of my cats, who treat me better than many humans do**.  I also hold (adult) humans more responsible for taking care of themselves.  I feel very conflicted about The Ant and the Grasshopper; who is the villain in the story and what is the true moral?  In at least one variant of the story, the ant toils while the grasshopper sings, and then in the end the grasshopper eats the ant… Does a pack-a-day smoker (average cost in our area $90 – $120/month) have a right to complain that his blood pressure medicine costs $70/month? Far simpler to spend my limited resources on the care of children and pets, who’ve got no opportunity to provide for themselves. 

Anyway, I restrained myself from telling talker-woman that she could fix the health-care crisis if she’d go get a job and donate her entire salary to HHH, instead of spending her days in coffeeshops drinking $4 coffees and distracting those of us who work for a living… and she’s gone now so crisis is averted…

Hope y’all are having a lovely Friday.


*Why were we willing to try this untried approach in treating the cat’s cancer?  Well, being in hospital for weeks to treat his cancer would be torture for him, and he wouldn’t comprehend why it was necessary.  His cancer was not yet affecting his quality of life, so putting him to sleep immediately wasn’t needed.  Implanting the pellets meant he had a chance for a cure without putting him through hell.  For a human in those days, I’d have suggested in-hospital treatment, which a more assured chance of success – because the human would understand what was going on.  For the cat, I thought the experimental therapy was the kinder, best all-round option even though the odds of success were unknown.

** The old saw about catching flies with vinegar vs honey is true, at least for me.  If you’re nice to me, I’ll go way out of my way for you. If you’re nasty to me, I’ll still go out of my way… to make sure you don’t get what you want. I’ve had the new cats less than a month and already they’ve noticably modified their behavior to keep my happier, in return for which I’ve given them lots of snuggles and treats and love.  I’ve got patients, on the other hand, who haven’t figured it out after years of experience. 


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