Sunday, January 6, 2013

Going Blind

Let me introduce you to Max. That's him there in the picture.

Max is our five year old Poodle. He is a happy guy who loves people and his favorite playmate Harley, our Bichon/Shih Tzu mix.

Curious and smart, Max enjoys life.

His favorite daily event is to hop in bed with Theresa and me each morning with a squeaky ball and serenade us with a wakeup morning tune. It starts his day and ours on a very cheerful note.

About 18 months ago, just after Max turned 4, I noticed a slight haze in one eye, after a few weeks it seemed to be getting worse. A trip to the family vet resulted in a diagnosis of a cataract and a referral to a canine ophthalmologist.
My visit to the first canine ophthalmologist was distressing to say the least. A very short examination with a diagnosis: Max was virtually blind in one eye and had a fast onset cataract growing in the other eye and then a lengthy sales pitch followed by a very hard sales close on very expensive cataract surgery.
I was stunned at the diagnosis, since Max was just 4 at the time and seemed to be doing OK and obliviously shocked at the cost.
As I left the office, I was struck by an elderly lady setting the  fairly posh waiting room with a small dog in her lap, a tissue in her hand, misty eyes and for some reason I noticed she wore no wedding ring. The little dog was probably one of the major things she focused her love on and it was obviously in trouble.
I sought out a second opinion with equally interesting results. This time the eye exam was longer, more through. Diagnosis: Max could probably see some shadows through the bad eye and had fair to poor vision in the other. The Clinic also provided a detailed description of the procedure and a line item estimate of all costs, medications and post operation requirements so I could have time to look it over.
There was some time to make a decision, but Max was going blind. And some comforting advice that many dogs do very well as they loose their vision, often adjusting to the point it is difficult to tell they can't see when they are in their home environment.
The cost was large, over 20 times what Max cost as a puppy. More than enough to buy the used Jeep I had been wanting. But certainly not out of reach.
As I left, my mind flashed back to the elderly lady at the first clinic. I could certainly afford the cost, but what about those who were left with only a pet to love them and perhaps not able to deal with these kinds of expenses?
It was a sobering thought.
Veterinary specialization has been a rapidly growing and highly profitable field over the years. A great deal of its success is based on the simple fact that we are highly dedicated to these pets in our lives who give us unconditional love.
There are canine specialists in virtually all of the same fields there are human medical specialists.  You can get some details at the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialists.
I took Max home and decided to wait a while. Next Post, I follow Max's continuing journey. 
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