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Friday, September 4, 2009

One Question...

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been. We vetted an overwhelming number of former puppy mill dogs. We sent 11 dogs off today to their foster homes with their own respective rescue groups, and 5 more go off tomorrow. It is an amazing thing to see these dogs, to look into their eyes. We have a golden that is so timid that it headpresses into the back of its cage so it won't make eye contact with you. We have pomeranians that bounce and bark wildly and excitedly when they see you approach their cages. Stick your fingers into that cage and they lick and rub on them. Open the door to that cage and they run to the back corner. Reach for them and they will cower or race back and forth trying to dodge your hand. Pick them up and they either go stiff and rigid from fear with eyes wide and dilated, or they tremble. Their bodies are not used to the stimulation of being held. Once the dog is comfortable being held, if you move your hand to pet it or just shift the dog in your arms, the reaction occurs again. Every new feeling, every new stimulus, every new person brings on this fear reaction.
Sometimes I feel as though I am mean. These poor dogs just get out of these terrible confines, and are transported in a vehicle to my clinic. We try to get them comfortable with us, and used to these new sorts of attention. THEN, we hold them still to restrain them while we poke them with a needle for anesthesia and surgery. BOY, what a way to violate a newly developed trust, Lisa! I forgive myself this misbehavior, as it provides an entirely new lifestyle for these little creatures, and ensures that they will not be used to breed litter after litter after litter ever again. I try to comfort them as I do it, using soft tones, telling them they are going to feel better...perhaps another small violation of the truth. Waking up from anesthesia following a major surgery like a spay, is not necessarily what I would consider "feeling better". Thank goodness they only interpret the tones, not the words.
This week, I had a small dog with a serious heart murmur. She was a cute little pekingese. She was a senior dog, estimated to be 8 or 10 years of age. She was likely bred her entire life. A large percentage of her puppies likely had the same murmur, some better, some worse, some not at all...those are the lucky ones.
I have seen an inguinal hernia the size of a tennis ball on another senior girl. When I went to repair it surgically at the time of her spay, I discovered it was filled with her intestines, often they are filled with only fat. This girl was incredibly lucky that the pressure of a pregnant uterus did not press on the intestines where they entered the hernia. If that had happened, the intestines would have died due to lack of circulation, as if strangled by a tourniquet, and the life of the mom and the pups would have been lost. But she made it to me, and to her new rescue.
I saw a 10 week old pup today that had a suture still in place where there was a small hernia repair performed. The pup was left intact (until today), meaning it was not neutered at the same time as the other surgery was performed. This really concerns me on a multitude of levels. This dog had a genetic problem. A problem that required a surgical repair, and one that can likely be passed on to its offspring if bred.
The first problem I have with it is, if this pup had been sold, would the owner be aware of the fact that their new pet has had a surgical alteration performed prior to it's purchase. Perhaps the breeder would have disclosed this information. There are many levels of breeders out there, some more consciencious than others. Not every breeder is a puppy mill. Not every breeder is bad. I know some quality breeders, they do exist. The good information that comes out of the scenario with the suture in the pup, is that this repair was hopefully performed by a veterinarian. Many of these dogs never see a vet. Not the parent dogs, and not the puppies, unless it is necessary to ship the dog to a new owner by plane. This one apparantly had. YAY!
The other problem I have is one of professional ethics. I personally do not perform most forms of cosmetic surgery in general unless it is medically warranted and will improve the animal's health or quality of life. I don't perform ear crops or tail docks for cosmetic reasons. The exception to this would be if a tail was injured and needed to be ampuatated, or the same with an ear flap. I do not repair congenital problems on a dog unless it is getting/or has been spayed/neutered. Again there are a few exceptions, like a life threatening hernia.
I truly believe that certain problems should not make a potential breeding dog look different to a potential purchaser, because they still retain a greater potential of passing those genes and those problems to their puppies.
One of the most common pieces of advice on any "getting a new puppy" brochure, book, or website is, "Make sure you see your puppy's parents". Let us say that you meet the momma dog, and she looks wonderful, healthy, and has a great temperament. Let us say that what you don't know is that she has a history of a hernia repair, a cherry eye repair, and oh, her nostrils were too small for her to breathe through so they were also repaired... All with wonderful results, kudos to that surgeon. Yet, you as the purchaser of her pups are unaware of these minor alterations! This is an extreme example used only to make a point.
Here is the longest question I think a person could ask...
Should a genetic disorder that has been shown to be passed on to further generations be repaired by a vet (excluding of course any life threatening disorder), if the dog is still able to breed?

1 comment:

Pearly said...

IMO any vet with a moral compass would REFUSE such repairs on the grounds of health and well being for all parties involved now (and in the future) and any vet that does not STRONGLY advocate spaying/neutering said animal client is morally corrupt.