(Nearly) Vet-less in Seattle

I called our local large animal veterinary hospital, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital, to inquire about doing a parasite load count on my sheep. No can do. Pilchuck no longer offers services for small ruminants. They will still work on sheep and goats brought to their clinic, but for emergencies only. Their website lists four vets who specialize in goats, sheep and llamas- I guess this must be out of date?

The person on the phone said nobody there would even know how to interpret fecal floats for sheep. Really? That cant’ be right. Isn’t that basic stuff all vets learn in college? Laymen can easily learn to do fecal floats at home, if they want to invest in the several-hundred-dollar microscope and equipment. Not to mention, I think fecal floats submitted to vet offices are usually just sent to a lab. When I had the pneumonia sheep there, I paid for a fecal float and was given parasite counts and medication recommendations, and discussed doing further parasite tests with the vet who was working with me there. He didn’t mention the no-sheep policy. It seems peculiar that a multi-million-dollar-looking large animal facility could (would?) not help me de-worm my sheep. Puzzling.

Another local vet, Evergreen Holistic Vet Care, has recently hired a new college grad who is experienced with treating small ruminants. They considered working with me, but in the end, declined the job. They  have decided to have a policy of only administering health care to companion animals, not meat animals, due to their vegetarian- and animal rights agenda- leanings. This is also a bit puzzling, because it’s not the sheep’s fault that *I* choose a carnivore diet; and the clinic has no trouble taking my money to treat my stock dogs. I guess that’s their prerogative to define their business ethical boundaries, but I don’t entirely follow the line of reasoning.

Triplets Maybe they’ve just all come to realize that in our area, horse and dog/cat owners are willing to spend more, so profit is highest when treating only those animals and passing over the ruminants. But, the Veterinarian’s Oath does say …I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources… It doesn’t mention picking and choosing only the most profitable animal species to work on. 😉 Are there no James Herriots left in Snohomish County? <sigh>

In the end, my only lead was that Pilchuck recommended giving Dr. Laura Glover a call. She used to work there, but now works for the state, and does a little on-call large animal work out of her truck. I talked to her, she sounds nice, and indeed is willing to work with me. She acknowledged that there is dire need for small ruminant services in our area, and she’s doing her best to fill in. Thank goodness, for a while there, I was envisioning having to perform home-done caesarean sections and other major jobs myself, for lack of an available vet; right in the middle of Focus-On-Farming-Snohomish-County. It’s a little disconcerting, knowing that resources are few and far between if I need help in an emergency. I guess I’d better beef-up my inventory of scalpels, sutures and injections, in case it comes down to me when a crisis develops!

6 thoughts on “(Nearly) Vet-less in Seattle

  1. Sheila Z says:

    Sad. Vet schools are harder to gain admittance to that medical schools. Exclusive club and for many profit comes first for them. Sounds like getting a good vet book, vet equipment and a 22 with some shells (just in case you have to put an animal down) is something you should consider. It’s what we used to do on the farm. You have to weigh the economic value of an animal vs the cost of obtaining veterinary care. Pets were few and far between when I farmed commercially. Only the dog got that kind of care.

    It has gotten way too expensive for the average family to even keep pets in my area. Several months ago I took the family cat to a vet clinic for emergency care. They wanted $1,200 (that was a minimum estimate, they said the total bill could be much higher) just to admit the diabetic cat who was having a hypoglycemic attack (accidentally given too much insulin). I told them I’d take the cat home and take my chances. Cost me $106 to get my cat back. Vet tried to tell me that they were going to keep the cat and put it to sleep if I couldn’t afford to take care of him. It got ugly, but they finally let me take the cat back home. I fed him glucose every hour for 12 hrs. He pulled through and is doing fine. I’ve learned that when my regular vet (the one that is reasonable) is out of town I’m on my own. The cat will either live or die. Somehow spending $1200 plus on a 13 yr old diabetic cat makes no sense to me. This cat has used up most of his 9 lives already and I know his days are numbered. My regular vet is amazed I’ve keep him alive the past 3 yrs on twice daily shots of insulin and careful feeding and monitoring of blood sugar.

    • workingcollies says:

      Sheila, it sure is a balance, isn’t it? We are equipped to put animals down, if we need to; and I’m fairly adept at medical treatment. But I’d sure enjoy having multiple livestock vets around, to consult with on difficult cases, and to be sure I could reach someone when I needed it. I do think some companion animal vets have gotten wayyyy out of hand in pricing, probably because they can; but I’ve usually been able to find reasonable places too. I think part of the trend is the transferrence of human medical technology to vet clinics; I know from working in the ultrasound industry that as soon as vets have to buy million dollar diagnostic equipment, they have no choice but to pass on the cost to the customer. And the equipment doesn’t get as much use as it would on humans, so the per-procedure price goes way up!

      I am willing to pay vet bills for sheep, sometimes, when it makes sense. I will say that when I took my pneumonia sheep to Pilchuck, the vet I worked with was very sensitive to the cost, and I wasn’t unhappy with what they charged me, given the services I got. But indeed the profitability on meat animals is thin, so you have to watch every penny, or it would just turn into a labor of love!

      I’ve had some friends have similar debates as you’ve had with vets, over the value of heroic efforts to rescue old-age animals from a medical crisis. That’s certainly a difficult ethical dilemma, where imo, the vet should defer to the pet owner’s best judgment about what makes sense for that pet. It’s not only a matter of cost, but of stressing the animal with drastic treatments that may or may not be effective. Often, I think, the best choice for the animal is to do what you did-bring them home, do what you can, and let them take their chances in the peace of the home environment. Leaving them in a clinic for more intervention is such a tradeoff between the animal’s stress with increased technological care! I think most animals have the best chance at healing at home in familiar quarters, even if the technology isn’t as good!

  2. bruce king says:

    The infrastructure to support small farmers is eroding pretty fast in Snohomish county. I’ve had to go to skagit or whatcom county to get pig stuff done, and as far as pig equipment goes, I’m having to buy it in iowa and have it shipped here. No one handles hog equipment. Well, that’s not strictly true. Everyone handles the equipment to feed a single hog or two, but once you start getting above 2, iowa.

    Snohomish county is very proud of the focus on farming thing — but when it comes down to it, the thing that would help me most is if they would stop trying to regulate me out of business. Flood hazard permit, salmonid species and resident killer whale habitat plan, arguing about my fencing… blah blah. Iowa I can take. The county “helping” me is a little harder to swallow.

    • workingcollies says:

      Bruce, your experience is sure different from mine. I originally had challenges with the county, really, I think just one person there in particular; but as soon as I had a SCD farm plan everything was cool. I hope your troubles with them eventually resolve! It’s sad to think, despite the efforts to save and promote farming here, that in some respects, it seems to late. I hope that isn’t true!

  3. jean obrien says:

    I am desperate to get help for my 1.5 y/o male border collie, Sam. He just had surgury because his stomach was full of leaves, grass, and parts of a rug etc.. Sam couldn’t throw it up or pass it out, it was stuck. He has never done this before to the point of needing surgury. He is active, fed a grain free food, and spends alot of time with me. He has a hx of chewing hats, his leash, shoes etc.. but not compulsively eating to the pt of needing surgury to remove the massive amount in his stomach. Does anyone have any ideas?

    • workingcollies says:

      Jean, wow, that sounds like a scary problem! I have heard of both Border Collies and Golden Retrievers sometimes compulsively eating inappropriate things like that and then requiring surgery, and it’s definitely a very dangerous behavior. From what I know, nobody really understands it, but it’s believed it’s a genetic problem that’s hard-wired into certain dogs. From people I know who’ve had dogs like this, they tend to repeat-offend, so it’s necessary to really restrict their environment to where there is nothing they can chew or swallow. Which is easier said than done! I think it means a lot of crate or kennel time, and no bedding or toys. Which is a bummer for a Border Collie, but better than the alternative! I wonder if you could also try having him wear a cage-style muzzle, the ones that still enable drinking but would restrict what else he could get into his mouth? And maybe trying to provide things for him to chew that would be ok, like dog bones, to satisfy his urge? Have you consulted with your vet on other ideas for how to manage the problem?

      Good luck!

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