Updated on August 30, 2013
There’s No Such Thing as a Free Puppy
According to the media, our economy is experiencing financial recovery, yet so many people are still struggling to make ends meet. How do I know this? For starters, the most hits I receive on my website consistently come to the page titled, “Financial Assistance for Veterinary Care”. Here visitors find a list of organizations that provide financial assistance to help pay for veterinary care. Additionally I receive at least two to three emails daily from people with sick animals and no money. Here’s an example of an email I received today from Lisa:
A lady online was giving away free puppies. When we picked ours up, I noticed that she had three spots on her tail where she was missing hair. And the spots are sort of scaly- about the size of nickels and one on her back about the size of a quarter. I’ve never seen this before. I’m nervous they won’t heal up. We’ve only had Daisy for three days now and I’ve been bathing her. I’ve also been putting triple antibiotic ointment on the spots. They seem to itch her also. She is only six weeks. And she is in great health other than the spots. No fleas. I’m just curious as to what these spots could be. And what I should do about them. I don’t have the money for a vet office visit. Thank you for your help. Lisa.
Needless to say, I keyed in on, “I don’t have the money for a vet office visit.” Had I responded to Lisa with my initial gut reaction, she would have received this fiery, shouting reprimand (on line shouting accomplished by using with extra capital letters and punctuation marks):
Listen here Lisa. Skin problem aside, don’t you know that your new puppy is going to need deworming and multiple vaccinations, not to mention neutering?!? If you skip the vaccines and Daisy develops parvovirus disease, she will die a horrible death unless you come up with thousands of dollars for veterinary expenses!! What were you thinking, adopting this six week old puppy when you don’t even have enough money for an office visit?! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE PUPPY!!
No, I didn’t send this email. Instead, I did what I do on a daily basis when confronted with an “I don’t have any money” email. I take a deep breath, summon forth the grownup that lives within me, and remind myself that the proverbial horse is already out of the barn. What’s important now is to figure out how to catch the horse and repair the broken barn door.
Here is the email Lisa received from me:
Hi Lisa. Some possible causes for your new puppy’s skin problem include mange (a mite infestation), ringworm, and malnutrition. You can discontinue the bathing and antibiotic ointment for now. I recommend that you begin feeding Daisy a premium (super high quality) puppy food. If after a week the skin abnormalities have not improved or are progressing, I strongly encourage you to figure out a way to pay for a visit with a veterinarian. Here are some suggestions to make this happen. Try to find a vet clinic with a payment plan policy. Contact your local animal shelter to see if they provide low cost services. Visit www.speakingforspot.com where you will find a list of organizations that may be able to provide you with some financial assistance. Lastly, it is important for you to begin strategizing how to pay for Daisy’s other health care needs. In order to keep her healthy, she will need vaccinations every three weeks until she is four months of age. These are super important to prevent distemper and parvovirus both of which are life threatening and very expensive to treat. Daisy will also need to be dewormed and neutered, receive a microchip (for identification purposes), and get started on heartworm preventive. A puppy this age requires lots of veterinary care to make sure she will remain healthy. Best of luck and enjoy you new little girl. Dr. Nancy Kay
I often contemplate whether people with very limited financial resources ought to be caring for a pet. The joy an animal can bring into the life of someone who is troubled (I suspect that most folks who are really struggling financially are troubled) is monumental. Don’t such individuals deserve to have a pet in their lives? Given the dog and cat overpopulation issue in this country, isn’t life for an animal spent with someone who is broke better than no life at all? What if social service networks existed to provide consistent assistance for pets belonging to indigent people? I will continue to ponder these issues, but am not optimistic I will arrive at any hard and fast answers any time soon.
How would you have responded to Lisa’s email?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.