Jon Geller, D.V.M.,, Dipl ABVP  
Ft. Collins, CO

Specialties: Canine and Feline Medicine

Interests: Urgent Care, Emergency care, critical care
Veterinary Emergency Hospital
970 484-8080
Ft. Collins, CO
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Deuce is Wild, and why you should get pet health insurance for your dog...

Aug 17, 2009 - 4 comments

Should you get pet health insurance for your dog? Ask the owners of Deuce, a 2 year old, 80 pound black Labrador Retriever, who lives up a mountain canyon in Colorado.

Deuce arrived at our emergency clinic on July 27th, with a very swollen leg, the result of a rattlesnake bite.  Fortunately, rattlesnakes in our part of Colorado do not have very potent venom, and most patients survive. However, in a few cases, the venom can wreak havoc in the bloodstream, leading to unstoppable bleeding, kidney failure, sloughing of skin or other systemic illness. The basic treatment for a rattlesnake bite is IV fluids, an injection of an antihistamine, anti-inflammatory medication, and pain meds. Sometimes antibiotics are added if the bite wound appears infected. Whenever possible, it is ideal to give antivenin, to counteract the negative affects of the snake venom on kidneys and platelets (clotting portion of the blood). Unfortunately, antivenin is very expensive, costing close to $600 per vial. Of course, when you consider that the average human snake bite victim may get 10 vials which cost upwards of $2,000 per vial, the veterinary version seems like a bargain.  The average dog gets one to two vials when the owner can afford it, but many can not and most dogs will survive regardless. Deuce got the standard treatment, without antivenin, and recovered over the next 3- 4 days.

On July 30, we got a call saying Deuce was coming back. The assumption was there was some complication related to the snake bite wound. No, said the owners, this time he appears to be coughing. It turns out Deuce had been shot by a neighbor with a shotgun when Deuce escaped from the yard and started chasing the neighbor’s chickens.  XRays showed multiple pellets throughout Deuce’s chest and abdomen. (See attached)

The treatment was déjà vu: IV fluids, some pain meds and more antibiotics. When it comes to shotgun pellets, they are usually left alone (ask VP Chaney and some of his hunting buddies), as long as they are not causing a problem with a vital organ. Although some of the pellets in Deuce’s chest were irritating his airway, he stopped coughing and went home the next morning.  

No doubt that  when Deuce’s owners were checking out for the second time, they may have inspected one of the brochures for Pet Health Insurance that was sitting on our counter. Of course, at that time, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak.

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It never ceases to amaze me how much "punishment" our pets can take!   Thanks so much for posting these very interesting cases!   Keep 'em coming!!

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by AnnieBrooke, Aug 17, 2009
If I had just one pet, maybe pet insurance would make sense.  But we have five cats and three dogs (they just keep straying in, thank you pet owners who don't spay and neuter and also those who dump unwanted animals in the country) and most of them have only ever needed yearly shots, and the pet insurance I have seen either doesn't cover routine stuff or else is so costly per year that it simply is not practical.  We had one cat get diabetes, and since he was a wonderful old kitty who had taken care of our other kitties for years, we did not put him to sleep (which frankly we might have done with some of the spooky former feral cats who are presently eating kibbles on us, every night).  We did need to go with insulin shots for him twice a day for a few months, and then over the last two months of his life I would guess we probably spent three thousand dollars for his care.  But if you add up all the years of coverage for our (long-lived) pet population, even the money we spent on Mr. Diabetes was cheaper than the insurance.  (I think even insurance for Mr. Diabetes alone would have exceeded three thousand dollars over his 18-year life span, but might be wrong.)  Tell me some brand names of good pet insurance and I'll be pleased to look into them, maybe the spreadsheet comparison has changed.  But between the high number of permanent residents in our menagerie, the long length of their usually very healthy lives (clean country living, apparently devoid of neighbors with shotguns -- our dog fences are also very good), the things that are not covered by at least some pet insurance, and the fact that we are not so wedded to some of the wild-butt strays that have come to live with us that we would drop huge piles of money on their last gasps, we have not been able to make it work yet.

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by ginger899, Aug 17, 2009
I didn't know that was the usual treatment for shotgun pellets! My grandfather (1st world war) had shrapnel in him which stayed exactly where it was....for sixty years! and only ached when it was raining.

So the pellets, left where they are , don't usually cause any problems? Isn't it amazing what a body can put up with!

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by peekawho, Aug 21, 2009
I had insurance through a well known Pet Insurance company for years.  The ONE TIME we really needed it, and they immediately trotted out the fine print regarding diseases that have a particular predilection for certain breeds.  My dog could not receive benefits.

(he had DCM, and was a doberman.  He had survived an amazing 3.5 years after osteosarcoma, amputation, and chemo.  The DCM promptly killed him.  The osteo was treated w/o cost as he was part of a study).

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