“Taking a sick day. How to prep for and handle when your pet isn’t doing so well.”

Y’all, I feel the same pang of worry when it happens at my house. “Fluffy won’t eat his breakfast…and then dinner…now it’s been two days. Or “I haven’t seen Lucky use the litter box in a hot minute.” If you’ve owned a pet it has happened. An unexplained illness for lack of a better term. So, what can us pet owners (I’m one too yo!) do to prep and what should we expect from our vet and the veterinary team?

How to prep:

1. The low hanging fruit, but also the most important to me as your veterinarian, is to start with your regular preventive care. Think about all the wonderful insights and clues a veterinarian can use if he or she knows a patient and pet owner through preventive visits and a good relationship…I mean really really knows them. Here are just a few that easily help vets get a head start when your pet is sick.

  • Weight trend!!!
  • Your pet’s typical temperature
  • Heartworm status
  • Temperament of the pet
  • Intestinal parasite status
  • A recent “normal” physical exam for comparison
  • Owner’s mindset, goals, and wishes for their pets’ life

Look, I just stopped at six because I don’t want this post to be more than an eight-minute read for an eight-year-old, but you get the drift. Not only have I just cut through tests that need to be run just to get started, I also cut through a half hour of hemming and hawing about what’s been historically normal for your pet saving incredibly valuable time for you and your pet. So, find a vet you know and knows you and your pet and see them AT LEAST YEARLY!!!

2. Another thing that is a little more nuanced is how much money to have saved for when these days arise. To me a simple answer is $1000 (past the aforementioned preventive care). I’ve done relief work at A LOT of places in a lot of demographics at this point, and this is pretty consistent within a couple hundred bucks. It’s hard for me to come up with a non-emergency event that can’t at least get the ball rolling to diagnose and treat your pet for a grand. Most places are going to need to check your pet’s blood and urine, and then x-ray your pet; the jargony word in the profession is “minimum database.” Eh, anyone who knows me knows I don’t like big words so let’s call it casting a fishing net. A few tests cast out like a net and see what we catch. From there, we treat. Matt pulls back curtain on vet med…pssst sometimes we don’t know what we are treating, only the symptoms, and that’s ok.

In 2023 you should be able to find a veterinary practice in your area that can get going on your pet for around this price. Sometimes it’s less…like waaaay less. Yippee. Sometimes it’s way more, and we need more tests blah blah. But that’s where your relationship (see number 1 above again) with your vet becomes paramount. Only by knowing you, your pet, and what makes y’all tick can we as a group decide what the prudent path forward is.

Ok man, I don’t just have $1000 laying around. How can I handle these types of events?

Three easy answers:

  1. At Aberlea we do Veterinary Life Planning (VLP). It’s awesome. You should check it out on this site, or we’d love to meet you and talk about it in person. At any point in the year, your pet has had checkups and lab tests that are AT MOST six months old. No really, check it out. No sales. Just intellectually honest veterinary medicine!

2. Get insurance. I cannot pretend to know all the pet insurance companies out there. I can say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what some companies pay for. Others not so much. My rec would be to go with a larger company with a track record of not being fly by night. Next be prepared for a monthly premium…or you could just get the personal touch with VLP;)

3. Wing it. Look everyone is different. I have done it all at this point. I’ve slung treatments at the wall to see what sticks. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I definitely am not. But here is where I plead with you: Be kind if the testing and treatment plan your vet puts forth is “too expensive” or not feasible for you and your situation. As calmly as you can, just let us know. Vets aren’t too judgy in my opinion. We will try what we can, but even the best chef cannot make a pizza with only red sauce.