As I mentioned in last week’s Caturday Thoughts I was at a veterinary conference put o by the IAAHPC, which is the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. I had a great time, met a lot of great people and learned a great deal. As with every conference I came home with a “goody bag” full of samples, brochures, business cards and most importantly, information. At 13, my Mi Sun and Simba are now considered senior cats. With luck and care they will become geriatric cats. Cats are considered senior from the ages of 11 to 14. Geriatric cats are those 15 and older. I want to make sure that all my cats have the best possible care and quality of life for as long as possible and to make sure they have the best possible end of life experience as well. It’s not something we talk about or handle well in this society but this conference had a whole track for social workers, grief counselors, and people involved in the animal hospice area.
Mi Sun has already been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Much of her life she has been overweight, so this was something I was watching for. At the conference, however, I learned 70% of all cats over 10 have some osteoarthritis. I have seen other reinforcing statistics and study results since I returned home and did my usual follow-up investigating. Simba has always been more active and less overweight than her sister Mi Sun but now I am watching her more closely too. I have serious osteoarthritis myself and it means pain. Since cats are good at hiding pain you have to be vigilant. Like many humans do, Mi Sun attempted a physical activity she shouldn’t have and wound up at the doctor. She is better now and being more careful about jumping off the bed.
As at any conference, there were vendors. One was presenting something I had never seen before, non-slip toe grips for dogs. It seems as though every tine I go to the vet there is at least one dog slipping and sliding on the slick floor. I always feel sorry for them. They are usually coming in for surgery, being sent home post-op or just old and frail. The grips slide over the toenails and put just enough surface on the floor to give traction. Another vendor represented a company selling books and materials on veterinary TCM (Traditioal Chinese Medicine), so I treated myself to the book shown at right. Accupuncture and other modalities of TCM have helped me a lot and one my accupuncturists taught me to do accupressure on myself, so the idea of learning about it for the cats appealed to me. I doubt there is a practitioner in my area but I always want to learn. Another vendor was a compounding pharmacy based in my state of Virginia. When Mosby was sick we had to get his special medicine all the way from Florida. I the United States compounding pharmacies have the capability to create specialized medications for individuals. The can create a prescription is a form different from the mass-produced version of a drug. Because Mosby’s cancer was in his jaw, pills were really not an option. He needed medicine that would go in his food or that I could inject subcutaneously. I was glad to find one more accessible, should we need one.
One of the most important things I took away from the conference is what a tough job being a veterinarian is. They have all the stresses, problems and regulations of medical doctors but don’t make nearly as much money. They deal with patients who have to communicate through a third party who may have no idea what ir really going on. Think how your human medical doctors would deal with that. In the United States at least, cats have now become the most popular pet, yet they see the vet far less than dogs because people see cats as independent and not needing as much attention. Many of the vets said the first time they saw a cat was for euthanasia. Veterinarians do euthanasia on a regular basis, not something human doctors have to contend with. In spite of this, every single vet I met at the conference was dedicated and concerned about their patients and really trying to improve their practice. Needless to say I came away very favorably impressed.