Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Department of Veterinary Corrections

I faced a veterinary crossroads yesterday. Cosmo required immediate attention. He had a couple of breakthrough seizures yesterday morning even though I recently increased the dose of his current medication to its highest possible safe level. I'd been hoping to keep him stable until we return to Newton next week and I'd already set up an appointment with my vet there. But clearly, something had to be done immediately.

I called my Newton vet, thinking that perhaps he would prescribe a new medication before seeing Cosmo. I should have known better. He said I really needed to take Cosmo to my Miami vet to have his blood tested before starting him on anything new. As he explained, that's the only way he would be able to accurately gauge the effect of the new medicine.

I agreed with his assessment, but where to take Cosmo? I've tried the high-priced interventionist clinic (see "Vetting the Vet") and, more recently, a low-priced walk-in clinic (see "More from the Vet Trenches"). My last experience at the walk-in clinic left me doubting. I felt the vet lacked a good bedside manner and gave Cosmo an overly-painful ear exam.

But how much could go wrong with a simple blood test? Surely it would be cheaper at the walk-in clinic. I called first to check whether they would be willing to do such a blood test. The receptionist said the vet would call me back shortly and she did, a few minutes later. A good sign. She seemed on the same wavelength as my Newton vet, agreeing about which new medicine Cosmo should get and on the value of a pre-medication-switch blood test, which she would be happy to administer. Cosmo and I headed over to her office.

The clinic is staffed by a father/daughter team. Last time, I got the father. Since I'd spoken to the daughter on the phone, when I signed in I asked whether I could see her. The receptionist said that would be fine. Unlike my prior visit, the waiting room was nearly empty. Cosmo didn't seem to have any bad memories. He happily sniffed the floor, which I'm sure was redolent with all kinds of tempting doggy odors.

I only had to wait a couple of minutes. The vet, whom everyone calls Dr. Kate, efficiently drew Cosmo's blood and discussed the new medication, which will initially be added to the drug he's already taking. If all goes well, I'll wean Cosmo off the old medication as I increase the dose of the new one. Hopefully, this will spare his liver and keep him healthy for a few more years.

Dr. Kate seemed knowledgeable and helpful. In the midst of the consultation, her father stopped in just to say hello and see how Cosmo was doing. Much better bedside manner this time — perhaps on my previous visit, he'd been having a stressful day.

Dr. Kate called me with the blood-test results by the end of the day. I was impressed by such a quick turnaround. Based on the results, she wanted me to bring Cosmo back for a follow-up blood test to check for infection, which she said she could analyze right in the clinic.

We returned this morning to find a waiting room full of patients — two Boxers, a Doberman, a Rottweiler, a couple of cats, and more. To my surprise, Dr. Kate took me right away to draw Cosmo's blood, so I wouldn't have to wait twice, first for the test, then for the results. Apparently, there's some flexibility in the first-come-first-served policy.

The wait for the results turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable. I sat next to two long-time residents of the neighborhood, one of whom works in the local thrift store. We discussed our pets and the local news. One of the women had been coming to the clinic for so long that she knew the father's father, who first opened the practice many years ago.

Cosmo's test results were excellent. No infection. I'm glad I gave these vets a second chance. This time, the clinic vibe was good. And the price was unbelievably reasonable. I may even miss them when I'm back up north. I definitely stand corrected regarding my original negative impression.

Cosmo starts on his new medicine tonight. Tomorrow, I'll describe my trip to compounding pharmacy where I bought it.

1 comment:

  1. My new health care proposal: send people to vets and other animals to MDs. The costs would be reduced, the service would be improved, and since non-humans don't complain, everyone would be happy.