04 October 2011

Pondering the subject of... What do people learn from their pets.

Recently I was asked to possibly contribute to an article being composed on the subject of What do people learn from their pets?.... Great topic, hmm? It's a pertinent topic as well.

As the article may be geared more toward shelter rescues I'm not sure that a response from an owner of  pedigreed cats would be something they'd want to include, but here my thoughts on that question.

I can't begin to relate all that my husband and I have "learned" from our pets. We have, as you know if you have read any of this blog, four pedigreed Sphynx cats, Bilbo, Rose, Lily and Sigmund. We treat them as our children. They have board certified vet cardiologist, vet ophthalmologist and very caring general vets that have adopted the use of Isoflourane or Sevoflourine over Ketamine at their clinics. None of the vets we use for our cats use the anesthetic Ketamine or the common knock-em-out cocktail of Ket/Val (Ketamine + Valium).
I, of course, would mention this drug because it has been a huge focal point in the relationship with our cats and in the vetting of our cats. I've learned to not blindly trust my beloved pets to a vet's care. I've learned to ask more questions, demand more answers and do more research. I've learned this from being heartbroken over an unnecessary death of our Sphynx boy, Gimli, the impetus behind this blog. Gimli died from the drug, Ketamine, during a routine dental cleaning in April of 2008, only one day after his 3rd birthday. Ketamine, which can act as a trigger in some breeds for an underlying disease, HCM, is the cheapest anesthetic and the most commonly used. However, it is not always the safest choice and should not be the only choice offered to a pet owner.

I've learned that we, as pet owners, have a duty to our pets. It is our responsibility to make sure that anyone dealing with them has the knowledge and care that we want. I've learned that life is meaningless to some vets and ultra-important to others. These may not be the lessons most people want to hear. But, if we love our pets -pedigreed or not- then we, as pet parents/adoptees, must do our part. We must advocate for them. We must be their voice.

The experience with Gimli made an impact on many people the world over and for that I am glad. Perhaps his tragedy has averted the tragedy of another. I have had countless emails, personal encounters and shared grief over similar losses from others have meant so very much and have aided in my own personal healing, grief and guilt. I spent two years researching Ketamine and have been blogging about it and offering the information I have gathered in the hope that other people may have information that I could not find when I was looking up anesthesia's in 2008.
When Gimli was killed we had him necropsied (an autopsy for animals) at the University of MS Vet School, in Starkville. They found that he was in advanced stages of HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), which was very likely brought on due to the use of Ketamine during neutering, a medical procedure (he burned his paw and the vet tech told us he was only using Valium... he did not, he used Ketamine), and of course the final whammy... the dental cleaning. Ketamine affected our lives. I believe it caused Gimli's case of HCM to be switched on and then, on the fateful day, he was given too large a dose and his death was swept under the covers and out the door of conscientiousness by the vet to which we entrusted our cats.
I learned about HCM through Gimli's death and became an advocate for scanning and am the co-chair of a non-profit organization called Hairless Hearts, Inc.,(http://www.hairlesshearts.org). Hairless Hearts helps owners afford to scan the hearts of the Sphynx that they care for and love. We also submit the scan results to the three major HCM directories and to PawPeds. We try to advance the knowledge of the disease and to negotiate lower board certified vet echo cardiogram pricing for pet owners wishing to scan or recheck their pet's heart.

My husband and I have travelled over five hours (one way) to Georgia Vet Services in Atlanta, GA for board certified heart screens with Dr. Darlene Blischok.We have done had three series of heart scans since last October. In 2010 all of our cats were scanned in Birmingham, AL. We had the two that received bad scan results rechecked with Dr. Blischok on 11 April 2011. She found that Siggy nor Rose had signs of HCM but requested to see Siggy again w/in a six-month window. So our most recent scan, with Dr. Blischok, was on 20 October 2011 and yielded good results and no more medications for our youngest.
Yes, I have learned the hard way that our responsibilities are much greater than merely taking them to a vet. We must be interactive with our vets, question them, do research, learn and... share with others.
Our veterinarians should be more involved in their patients care as, for many pet owners, they are a vital first-response agent in helping people make the best decision for their pets. Today I only use veterinarians who feel as I do about the health care of our pets.
What our pets give us, daily, is worth any effort made on their behalf. I can't even begin to speak of the joys of pet ownership - be it cat, dog or iguana. They give to us every moment of every day. They give unselfishly and they give with joy. They love us regardless of what we do for a living, how we look, our educational background or how much money we make. They should be rewarded for this unbiased love and it is our duty to learn to give back to them in a way that benefits their lives and their longevity.

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