5 Ways You're Screwing Up Your Pet (Explained by a Vet)
When you were 5 years old there was probably a point when you passed a dog or a raccoon and asked your mother, "Can we keep him?" And, if your mother was wise, she probably said no, you're not ready for the responsibility you little shit. Well, people reach a certain age and decide they are ready for the responsibility, dammit. Then they get the pet they've always wanted and quickly prove themselves wrong.
I've worked as a veterinary tech for seven years, and I've seen people make all kinds of stupid decisions with regard to their furry friends. Let's learn from their mistakes, shall we?
A Startling Number of Pet Owners Just Don't Give a Shit
Look, there are a lot of people out there who have no business owning animals. You might think I don't see them, because people come to the vet when they want to solve a problem instead of cause one, but you would be wrong.
Such was the case of one family who brought in their pit bull, insisting she needed to be euthanized. The request was a bit puzzling, because we found her to be perfectly healthy, aside from a slight case of being filled with puppies. That turned out to be the entire problem. There are all kinds of ways to deal with a sudden influx of puppies -- sell them, give them away, roll around in a room full of them -- but somehow this family had calmly and rationally settled upon the disposal of not only the unborn puppies but their beloved family member as well. I sure hope their teenage children are inspecting their condoms carefully.
Sometimes you make rash decisions when you're trying to skirt this level of horror.
It's not always that heartless, though. Some people genuinely mean well but just can't help being complete fuck-ups. One man brought in a dog in such bad shape that my co-worker simply looked up and asked him, "When was the last time you saw this dog?" It was inconceivable that a dog could become so ill unless its owner had been given an urgent months-long mission to Russia by his international spy ring (and also traveled back in time to 1956, I guess), leaving the animal with nothing but a 500-lb. bag of food and a prayer. That was pretty much the case, minus the espionage, and as a result the dog withered away with heartworm. The pitiful creature was so close to death, he had maggots on him. And he could have been saved if this guy had noticed the obvious signs at some point before a mysterious hooded figure with a sickle started hanging out in his backyard.
Luckily, his skeletal mouth couldn't whistle or make kissy sounds to call Spot into the grave.
But even among the people who do mean well, you get another problem ...
Trying to Self-Diagnose and Treat Your Pet Can Kill It
Thanks to the Internet, we live in an age where anyone can play doctor: Sites like WebMD allow us to look up any symptom and convince ourselves our headache is surely a brain parasite. But did you know that the Internet has that for animals, too? Sites like PetMD have convinced countless clients that little Hissyphus' case of taco shits is actually a sign of some obscure immune disorder, and they will argue to the death about it with someone who actually does this for a living.
"For the last time, yes: I am 100 percent sure she has feline leukemia. Now can we hurry this along?"
One dog that had heartworm previously came back later experiencing joint problems, and the owner was convinced that somehow the heartworm larva had ended up in the dog's knee. For the record, that doesn't happen. How could that happen? A woman brought in a dog with a pretty cut-and-dried case of ticks, but she was absolutely certain they were ... beetles. Why did she think they were beetles? "I don't know, they're kind of a greenish color."
Don't do this, people. I know some things are obvious, especially to experienced pet owners -- I have every faith that you know what a flea is -- but if you're so knowledgeable about veterinary medicine, why did you come here in the first place?
The only thing worse is the people who don't come at all. Sure, you don't need to run to the vet every time Bunnydict Thumperbatch gets the sniffles (yes, rabbits do get colds, and yes, it is adorable). I know that vet visits are expensive, and hypochondriacs are just as annoying. A good guideline to follow is that if you would go to the doctor for those symptoms, so should your pet. Vomiting one time? Probably fine. Not keeping anything down for days? Probably cancer, according to that stupid website.
Online self-diagnosis that doesn't end with cancer is still purely theoretical.
Severe illness lasting more than a few days, broken bones, cuts deep enough to need stitches -- these are all things that would justify a trip to the emergency room for a human. Incredibly, tons of people are content to let their pets limp and bleed, slapping on some tape and a Popsicle stick and calling it good. One family brought in a dog that had a pretty nasty laceration, to which they had responded by wrapping it in an ace bandage -- for a week or two. When that bandage came off, the smell was unimaginable. Are you imagining it? Stop, because you can't. The wound was pretty clearly badly infected, a problem that could have been prevented if he'd been treated properly when he was first injured.
People Refuse to Stop Stuffing Food into Their Pet
People generally don't take animal medical issues as seriously as human ones, so they tend to treat instructions from the vet more like casual suggestions. Like, for example, when it comes to diet.
Animals have ballooned up right alongside their owners recently, and if Princess Petunia Von Puffbutt has been handed a clinical diagnosis of fatty fatshit, that means you need to stop giving her treats. I know a fat kitty is a lot cuter than a fat teenager, but you wouldn't continue stuffing McDonald's into an obese child's face, hopefully, so if you really love her royal highness as much as you would love a child, you need to cut it out. It will certainly save you money for the expensive surgery required after her knees or hips say "fuck this shit" or for the special food that she'll be on for the rest of her life because she can't pee properly without it. That's a real problem, and it's so common that we have an entire shelf dedicated completely to what we call "piss food."
Like Arby's, if you want the human comparison.
Another big one is feeding animals before surgery. All the same problems that can happen to humans under anesthesia with a full stomach can happen to animals (such as sleep vomiting), so it's important not only to discontinue feeding them at the instructed time but also to watch them carefully. That's because when you stop feeding an animal, it doesn't know why. It just thinks you're starving it to death because you've suddenly decided to be an asshole, and unlike (most) humans, animals have a tendency to eat not-food. This leads to awful situations like the time I had the pleasure of watching a dog vomit its own feces.
Which he then tried to eat again.
Are you imagining how that smelled? Because again, don't bother. You can't.
Online Pet Pharmacies Can Be Shady as Hell
Unlike the human pharmaceutical industry, just about anyone can sell drugs for animals and nobody has to go to jail. You've probably seen commercials for services like 1-800-PetMeds, like this one, that claim they sell the same medicine as the vet for as low as half the price. So when your vet gives the hard sell for their own pharmacy, you start to think their motivations may not be entirely pure and wonder why anyone would fall for such a scam. Well, not you. You know better. Thanks, 1-800-PetMeds!
Finally, you can save enough to afford that cut crystal stitches cone.
The truth is, online pharmacies have a pretty shady history. First of all, in my experience, they're not even actually cheaper. Much worse, though, is that many companies have been caught providing counterfeit medication, so every order is a game of Russian roulette. Maybe you get flea shampoo, maybe you get a box full of bees. There are legitimate online pet pharmacies, but unless you research hard you won't know if your pet drugs are shipping from some sterile medical facility or a random dude's house:
Like this actual online pharmacy's shipping address.
Even 1-800-PetMeds has a history of refusing to say where they get their drugs, and they've been disciplined by the pharmacy boards of several states for bypassing vets who refuse to authorize a prescription with an "alternate veterinarian program" (basically, a vet they pay to write prescriptions for animals they've never seen). That's a big deal, because it can result in some serious complications. For example, if a dog is prescribed a heartworm preventive but already has heartworm -- something this vet wouldn't know -- it can freaking die.
They claim to have cleaned up their act in recent years, but you can see why these online pet pharmacies set off alarm bells for your vet. We're not just being pushy because we want that sweet, sweet commission -- we're trying to save your dog's life here.
Owners Refuse to Acknowledge Their Pet's Capacity for Violence
It always goes the same way: Border Collie and the Infinite Flopness hasn't pooped in a week. I start prodding Floppy's unmentionables, and he's understandably not pleased with this state of affairs, snapping at me and making demands that I buy him dinner first. I ask you for some assistance, but you just chuckle knowingly and assure me, "Don't worry, he won't bite." And chills run down my spine as my own bowels become quite unclogged.
Look, I know that at home Floppy is a giant ball of love that walks little old ladies across the street and teaches life skills to at-risk youth. But this isn't home, and I'm not a precocious ragamuffin: I'm a big scary creature he's never seen before who is holding quite a lot of pointy things. He's going to do what any of us would do in this situation. To wit: whatever it takes to make this weird dude stop poking his asshole. Don't think that it makes a difference that Floppy is one of the so-called "friendly breeds," either. Let me show you what a "friendly" dog can do:
Cute dogs don't give cute bites. Click for unedited image.
That wasn't a pit bull or a rottweiler -- it was a Labrador retriever. He's still out there waiting for me, but fortunately he will warn me with his tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.
That's why we might ask you to give Floppy a hug and take on the admittedly onerous task of convincing him it's OK for this stranger to violate him. It's a simple gesture, but so many people regard the notion that their pets do indeed have the natural instincts of Mike Tyson as absurd. One man was in such deep denial that he never stopped insisting, "My dog doesn't bite," even as the dog was biting him. In those cases, we refuse to do the procedure unless they hold the animal. That way, it bites the asshole owner instead of us. That might sound insensitive, but I only have so many fingers, and I'm pretty attached to them. Well, nine of them, anyway.
Manna's favorite animals are llamas. Send her adorable GIFs of them on Twitter.
Related Reading: Did you know talking to your dog is actually screwing it up? And that convincing animals to bone each other is a lot harder than it sounds? Do you have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.
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