This morning, my awesome tech told me her lab injured his eye while they were on a hike. She brought him over and I lifted his lid, expecting signs of a corneal scratch, maybe a bit of plant material.
“Something’s wrong,” I said, looking more closely with the ophthalmoscope. We both took a sharp inhalation at the same moment as we realized that there was a cactus thorn going straight into his eye, poor guy.
We sedated him for a better look, hopeful that the little tiny bit still protruding would allow me to get a grasp and pull it out. Miraculously, I got a hold of the end of the offending particle and oh so very gently, applied a bit of traction.
I tried again, one more time. No dice. It’s become clear at this point that despite my hopes, the thorn has actually penetrated more deeply that I suspected and is stuck in there pretty darn firmly. That’s no good.
People often lament the passing of the good old days, when a kindly bespectacled old vet with a beard would rumble over in his old pickup on the way back from a dystocia and take care of the ailments for $50 and a carton of eggs. I suppose I could have just yanked, hoping I didn’t rip too much of the iris on the way out and figuring I’d worry about the damage later. Maybe I’d break off the part that stuck out and hope the body would just take care of things. Those were the good old days. The other option might be to remove the eye entirely. Ah, good times.
Fortunately for us, and for this pup, we have the good new days, where it’s a 15 minute drive to the veterinary ophthalmologist, who has much better tools and expertise than I. She has toys I can only dream of, big headlamps and operating microscopes and teeny, tiny scissors. She can determine the extent of damage to the lens, gently dissecting the foreign body away with her miniscule instruments. She can inject substances to break up the clots and retain vision and do all sorts of things that don’t involve removing the eye or the old “learn as you go” method.
This expertise, or course, comes at a price.
That’s the rub, isn’t it? Veterinary medicine is so much more advanced than it used to be, with specialists and ultrasounds and MRIs and gonioscopy. The price of care has increased accordingly. The standard of care has increased accordingly as well, the expectation of what even your most rudimentary clinic is supposed to offer and do. Woe be the vet who fails to offer every option out there.
My tech, an experienced and smart woman, had long ago purchased an insurance policy for her dog, which is the reason she was able to go over to the specialist and accrue the large bill that accompanied this delicate surgery. If she hadn’t, it would have been a long morning for all of us.
There’s no going back to the old days, and thank goodness for that. The increasing cost of care is a direct reflection of the demand for advanced care we now possess. The gap between what we can afford and what we want to afford grows more every day, and without a bridge, pets pay the price. If you don’t have a plan to address unexpected expenses, there’s no time like the present to make one. (“Taking him home to shoot him”, as I’ve heard twice in the last year, does not count as a plan.)
Every day I grow more fond of pet insurance. It really is a handy thing to have. What’s your emergency plan?