What price peace of mind?

One of the main reasons that we limit the number of pets we have is due to veterinary costs. For several years we seemed to be permanently at the vet, or waiting at our gate for the vet, and deeply in debt to the vet. Even his wife remarked that we were particularly unlucky with our animals, although I suspect we were like manna from heaven for her in terms of revenue.

They seemed to pick up obscure complaints which in most cases required lifetime treatment. Three cats with Feline Aids needed regular expensive cocktails of drugs to maintain them in health and comfort. Two of the dogs cornered a coypu and ended up with injuries that looked as if they’d been caused by barbed wire – an ear hanging by a tiny strip of flesh, a lower jaw pierced right through to the tongue, deep lacerations that required stitching. The first and foremost reaction of horror and anxiety for the welfare of the animals was swiftly followed by the horror and anxiety of how much it was going to cost to put them right out of resources that are frequently stretched. But I don’t believe in taking on any animal unless you are prepared to accept the cost of caring for them.

Our menagerie is now composed of two pgymy goats – hitherto and so far healthy, three hens, currently in tip-top condition, one parrot in similar perfect health, and two dogs, both seniors but fit and healthy.  Over the past year I think we had only visited the vet for annual boosters. It seemed too good to last, as indeed it was.

At the beginning of January Dobby developed a limp. He’s a very large and beautiful black dog of unknown origin rescued by the Phoenix Association and adopted by us nearly tens ago. When he showed no sign of improving, off we went to the vet, who diagnosed arthritis in one of his back legs and prescribed Locox, a medication to be taken for life. Costs about 18 euros a month. No big problem. Consultation plus a month’s supply of Locox, 56 euros.

A week later he had a problem with his eye, and I bathed it in a weak saline solution for a few days. It didn’t improve, so back we went to the vet. Diagnosis: a scratched cornea. Consultation plus eye drops: 42.60 euros.

Last week Dobby looked miserable, most unusual for a dog normally so full of bounce and life. He has always been a “noisy pooper”, emitting loud groans that sounded more like sounds of discomfort than pleasure. I had mentioned this to the vet some years ago, but after examining him he said there was nothing to worry about, he was just a dog who liked simultaneously pooping and groaning. But last week he was groaning badly. I could see pain in his eyes. He didn’t want to eat, he didn’t want to get up and his tail, which is usually like a flail that destroys anything in its path, was still. He lay on his bed, groaning quietly.


On Saturday off we went to the vet, who examined him fairly thoroughly and could find nothing particularly wrong with him, other than that there was pain in his stomach. He gave us a bottle of white stuff, which thankfully Dobby drank with gusto, but by Monday he still wasn’t eating, still groaning on his bed, and still looking pained. 59 euros.

Off we went to a different vet for a second opinion. By then Dobby was looking a little brighter, and we briefly wondered whether to wait another day. But there was at the back of my mind the possibility that there might be something sinister causing a blockage in his stomach, so we decided to keep the appointment.

This vet gave him a very thorough examination, couldn’t find anything obvious, but noted that there was pain in his abdomen, and took an Xray of Dobby’s stomach. We waited for a few anxious minutes for the result.

The outcome: Dobby is constipated, and there are a couple of small pieces of bone in his stomach, which he must have picked up on a walk as we never give either dog bones because they always cause severe constipation.

98 euros poorer, and armed with a small box of pills of which Dobby is to take three morning and evening for three days, we drove home. By this time Dobby was already beginning to look like his old self, and we agreed that if we’d waited until the next day, the visit would probably not have been necessary. But it was a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Total veterinary expenses for Dobby this month: 255.60 euros. Dobby’s value to us? Priceless.

Hands up if you are checking my maths. 😉


10 thoughts on “What price peace of mind?

  1. Worth every penny… Flynn’s superbug infection in his leg, three weeks in the vetinary hospital and another six weeks of visiting the vet twice a week to have his bandages changed cost us approximately the amount of a second hand car. OK, not a very smart one but one safe to drive. We don’t begrudge a cent, though sometimes, like when he’s upended the kitchen bin and spread it over the floor we wonder if the car wouldn’t have been more maintenance friendly.
    Have you tried glucosomine on Dobby? Worked like a miracle on my old Dalmatian who went from screaming in pain to stumping around, albeit stiffly, but in no pain for another two and a half years until old age got to her at 14. You can get it from Healthspan in their VetVits range.

    • Thanks, Victoria. That must have been a terrifying vet bill, but something we animal lovers have to be willing to swallow, luckily for our pets, but it sounds as if your Dalmatian wasn’t sufficiently grateful. 🙂

      I haven’t tried glucosamine, but somebody else mentioned it to me so I will check out the Healthspan site. Also I’ve been recommended to try turmeric. I’d much prefer a natural treatment, and will have to find out more about both ideas and see how effective they can be for Dobby,

  2. The Alsatian has cost us a fortune in one way and another – he had a poor start as a puppy, has continual trouble with ears, blocked saliva glands needing removal…not to speak of his hinds but he is such a happy, loving dog that while we groan when we have to take him to the vet – a journey he loves, bounding out at the surgery to embrace the poor chap – we don’t begrudge it.

  3. How do you find veterinary care in Costa RIca? When we came to France I had some strange idea that it wouldn’t be up to scratch, but have to say that for the most part I’ve been very happy with their treatments.

    Dobby is terrified when he goes to the vet, never having forgotten a very painful experience when we were travelling in the campervan and he cut his paw really badly. More often than not he has to have a full anaesthetic before he’ll let them get near him, but the latest vet just ties his jaws with a tape which keeps him manageable. It’s rather funny how he always bounds into the clinic happily, but cringes as soon as we go into the consulting room. And when it’s all over and the tape is removed, he’s perfectly happy.

    • Varied….for big ops there is a very expensive and exploitative clinic – I’m talking about the Central valley here, where most people live – or the University Veterinary School hospital which is equally good but charges only for items used.
      Amazingly enough most expats go the former….

      Small stuff….we’ve ended up using the vet at one of the local agricultural suppliers. They don’t employ the vet – he sets up on their premises and pays a rent – and we’ve found one who is super with small animals. The Alsatian loves him dearly.
      He only charges out for items used too unless an op is required when his fees are very reasonable.

      Our last vet in France was a super, caring man, but before that we did not have good experiences…too much rough handling and big bills.

      • The practice we’ve been with for 19 years have been very good with our animals generally. When we first arrived they were 99% farm vets, but over the years with the influx of les Brittaniques they have adapted to small animals too. There is a newish member of the practice, a woman, who was very rough with Dobbie last year, and I would not go back to her again.

  4. I tried Pippa on glucosamine and it seemed to help but then no joy. Went to the vet and he prescribed cimicoxib. We’ve had Pippa ten years, so he’s getting on a bit now No idea whether he was one, two, three or four when he found us. I asked Pedro about glucosamine and he said it could help younger dogs, but in older dogs it was unlikely to be effective. I think I paid about £12 for a jar. Maybe a month’s worth? Can’t remember.

    Cimicox works out at €1.80 a tablet, and in cold and damp weather he is on one a day ie 54€ a month (seeing as we are all doing the maths ;)) Had to give him one and a half for a few days last week. But in reasonable weather, he can go for months without it. My vet rarely charges a consultation fee. I think the only time he did was when he tested/diagnosed Pippa with canine erlichiosis. Cost incl lab tests and some tablets – firocoxib and doxycyclin – less than €120.

    • Hm. Dobbie is ten, and a very large dog, so many glucosamine wouldn’t work for him. His stiffness isn’t that bad, but I don’t want it to get any worse. I’ve been recommended to try turmeric, which many people seem to find effective in humans, horses and dogs.

      It sounds as your vet isn’t very commercial, unlike ours who are very much a business. That’s understandable, they are not a charity and have expensive overheads. I suspect it is almost entirely due to us that they have been able to build two new state of the art clinics locally. 🙂 But unlike UK vets who were always willing to treat injured wildlife we took in for nothing, they are not. And although they’ve done us well over the last 19 years, recently I’ve detected a slight difference in their attitude. Maybe that’s due to the economic catastrophe that is forcing so many people to neglect and abandon animals, or leave unpaid bills. I don’t like to think that our money is more important to them than the welfare of our animals.

  5. Re Glucosomine – Jez was 12 1/2 when she started on it and Dalmatians are good sized dogs so I think if it’s going to work it’ll work whatever the age or size of the dog. It was the vet who prescribed it too. The effects on her were nothing less than miraculous; she went from being in so much pain I thought we’d have to have her put down to going back to the vet two months later with a, to me, alarming weight loss. Turned out she’d been feeling so much better she’d exercised it off.
    She did have a bottle of ‘big pills’, heavy duty pain killers for when the arthritis flared up and she’d take them for two or three days, a 20 pill bottle would usually last about a year.

  6. Thanks, Victoria. Now that our Vizsla, Tally, is getting a little stiff in his hind legs – although he is a bundle of non-stop energy, I notice when he gets off his bed he is momentarily stiff – I’m going to see how the turmeric works. If that doesn’t help then next will be glucosamine. At the moment he isn’t having any treatment, as it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. If they make a difference to Tally, I’ll then try on Dobbie when his current supply of Locox runs out.

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