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I am sorry. I intend for this blog to be about uplifting stores of holistic and integrative veterinary medicine, not a venting session for all of the frustrations that come with my job. But…it is my experiences in daily practice that inspire my writing and even negative stories often have a silver lining of hope (such as my last Cautionary Tail article noting that Stella will be a special needs child of my family).
Incredibly just after I wrote my Cautionary Tail article about an unethical and criminal Craigslist breeder, I had yet another disturbing breeder experience, only this is not a current breeder but a likely future one. A sweet, beautiful pit bull puppy presented to me currently under treatment for demodectic mange and was in for an eye problem consultation. The puppy’s skin was not perfect but treatment was working well for the mange and it was making progress. The issue that was affecting the puppy’s eyes is a condition known as entropion, which is an inward inversion of an eyelid that causes the hair of the eyelid to rub on the cornea and irritate it. In this case, the puppy had it on both upper and lower eyelids of both eyes and required surgery to correct it.
Demodectic mange is a non-infectious mange that occurs due to an immune system deficiency that affects predisposed puppies from between 1-18 months of age. If treated, prognosis is usually good, as treatment is commonly only necessary until the puppy outgrows the immune system deficiency, generally no longer than 12-24 months. Both demodectic mange and entropion are inherited conditions and since the puppy is just shy of 6 months of age, I suggested taking advantage of using just one general anesthesia to repair the eyes and have the dog spayed all at once, thereby saving cost to the owners and sparing the puppy a second anesthesia. The husband declined the spay stating that he intended to breed the dog, although his wife did not seem so enthusiastic.
While I know full well that breeding this dog would be a travesty to her future puppies and their owners, I always give the benefit of the doubt that the client simply does not understand the implications of breeding a dog with 2 inherited health conditions. I took the time to explain this to the couple that breeding the puppy may not only worsen her skin condition during the hormone fluctuations as she experienced twice yearly estrus cycles, but that breeding a puppy with even one inherited health condition would be highly unethical, let alone two. I also added that spaying a dog before her first estrus cycle decreases the incidence of mammary cancer by 80%. They took the information I gave them along with the treatment plan and said they would think about it.
The owners ultimately scheduled eye surgery but still declined the spay. On the morning of the procedure, it was just the wife and puppy when the patient was admitted for her pre-surgical exam and consultation. There was no more benefit of the doubt since I had taken ample time to educate them about the situation and I now put it bluntly to owner present that I am appalled by the decision not to spay and that after I repair the eyes, I have no interest in working further with owners that would knowingly breed a dog with significant inherited health conditions. I half expected the owner to leave at that point, but she put her hands up in frustration and told me she understood, that she agreed with me, but it was her husband that would not budge.
The surgery went very well. One day when this dog has puppies, prospective buyers will be able to meet mom who will have normal looking eyes since they were surgically repaired. Her skin condition will likely also not be evident since the condition is self limiting and resolves beyond 18-24 months of age. They will see her remarkable demeanor and her beauty and will enthusiastically purchase the puppies having no idea that $1200 in veterinary care awaited them in the near future at the hands of an unscrupulous breeder completely devoid of ethics and conscience.
These are the times when veterinary medicine is not so fun.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.