7 Questions Before You Register with a Veterinary Clinic

DSCF0997_editedRealistically most people attend their nearest vet. If you are lucky enough to have a choice then here are a few things to think about to avoid potential disappointment further down the line.

Out of Hours Policy

All vets must provide 24 hour emergency cover BUT this can take different forms. Traditionally your own veterinary surgeons cover this out of hours answering the phone 24 hours a day 365 days a year. This will still be the case in many vets however emergency clinics are popping up all over the place and in many cases their veterinary surgeons cover the on call for a large number of practices.

Pros – you get a wide awake staff and a clinic set up specifically to deal with emergecnies; the staff may have further qualifications in emergency and critical care.

Cons – the emergency clinic might be miles away from your usual clinic; you (and your pet) won’t be familiar with the staff or the building; they may have a different pricing structure to your own vet; they may not have ready access to your pets medical records.

DSCF0995In-Patient Care

In some veterinary clinics there will be 24 hour supervision of hospitalised patients. Usually these are the clinics also providing 24 hour emergency cover.

Some clinics will use the out-of-hour emergency provider to look after their in-patients and this will mean someone will have to transport the animal to another location.

In other clinics the animals will be checked during the night. Obviously no animal is neglected but in some clinics there may be lonely parts of the night if animals are otherwise stable and not requiring treatment.

Referrals

All veterinary surgeons graduate as a jack of all trades and are familiar with routine procedures but if your pet needs more complex treatment, for example surgery on a broken limb or more sophisticated diagnostics, can these be done in the same clinic or will you have to be referred to another practice.

Some clinics will be a one stop shop with specialists in all fields. Other clinics will do the basics and send you elsewhere for more complex procedures.

Cats

Most cats find a trip to the vets stressful but some practices make the visit easier than others. There are cat friendly clinics and these will have separate waiting areas, a separate cat ward and maybe even cat-only clinics to avoid cats having to endure a room full of barking dogs as well the vet.

Open clinics or Appointments

Very few vet practices have open clinics because they are inevitably busy and chaotic. However, they can be handy for some people if they don’t mind the wait. Most clinics run appointment systems but it would be worth knowing the average waiting times as even with an appointment time the waits can be lengthy in some practices.

Branches

Clinics operating over various sites are handy so you don’t have to travel so far. This is great for routine appointments. However, bear in mind branches are often smaller than the main clinic meaning they are less well stocked, have less staff and your animal may have to be transported to a main clinic for further treatment.DSCF1237_edited

Price

I’ve put this last deliberately. Price is always the first thing people think about but I think it’s better addressing the above points first. Decide on the level of care you feel comfortable with. Every pet owner is different. Some people like cheap and cheerful others want the gold standard. Generally, the level of care you want is directly proportional to the cost.

If you want to compare prices, asking about the price of a dog booster or cat spay is advisable as these procedures should be roughly comparable across clinics. You may also be interested in how much they charge for a prescription.

 

 

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Is Your Cat Poo Green?

Having looked at the greenest option for dog poo disposal it’s only fair to look at cats. There is one main reason cat poo cannot be thought of in the same way as dog poo…Toxoplasmosis.

Some catDSCF0890s excrete Toxoplasma gondii which is zoonotic (i.e. infects humans). It can cause illness especially in those with a weak immune system and it can cause foetal damage and miscarriage if pregnant women are exposed. (For those of you in farming circles it causes similar problems in sheep – one cat can lead to an abortion storm in an unvaccinated flock!)  I was surprised to find out  water treatment systems don’t always kill this parasite!! Don’t get me wrong, not all cats are super shedders of this organism. When a cat is first infected it only sheds infective oocysts for around 14 days. With that in mind the first big question is whether or not your cat goes outside.

The 100% Indoor Cat

Here we need cat litter. Clumping cat litters contain clay retrieved from environmentally damaging mining. Many litters also contain silica which isn’t friendly for cat or human lungs. Torn up newspapers are quite a good option although people have less old newspapers lying around these days. If you want to purchase an eco-friendly litter there are lots to choose from. Friendly Natural cat litter made from straw, Yesterday’s News made from newspaper and World’s Best Cat Litter are among an expanding market.

But what do you do with the soiled eco-friendly litter?

The first point to note is that the risk of your cat excreting infective oocysts is minimal. If they have not been outside in the past 2 weeks where could they have picked up Toxoplasmosis from? Now, if you are feeding a raw meat diet then that’s a different matter. But if they have been inside for at least 2 weeks, they are fed “normal” cat food, are otherwise healthy then I see three options…

Bag and Bin

If you read my dog poo review you’ll know I wasn’t too impressed when I discovered that even supposedly biodegradable bags don’t really break down in land fill conditions:-( Really, there is no eco-friendly way to put cat litter in the bin.

Flush it down the Toilet

Having assessed the Toxoplasmosis risk as being negligible this actually seems a pretty good option. Check that your eco-friendly cat litter is suitable for flushing – many of them are.

Composting

Similar to dog poo I’d be a little wary of using the end product around veggies or where kids are playing but if you have a use for the end product, maybe around fruit trees, then why not? In the highly unlikely event that your cat somehow was excreting Toxoplasmosis oocysts the heat in the compost bin would probably kill the oocyst anyway. If you want to go down the composting route check out this link for a how to guide. There doesn’t seem to be a cat poo composter on the market in the same way there is for dogs.

Dig a Big Hole

Another option is to dig a big hole and bury the litter. Seems pretty straightforward if you have a suitable site, a shovel and a little time.

The Less than 100% Indoor Cat

Cat which go outdoors are  a little more risky in terms of Toxoplasmosis as they pick it up from wildlife. There is no way of knowing if/when your cat has been infected as they don’t get sick. Young cats will be inherently more risky. Although the risk is small it is still present and that means composting and flushing don’t seem like such a great idea. Let’s face it many of these cats will bury their poo themselves and in fact that’s probably the most eco-friendly option! You can’t really argue with nature in this case! If you can train your cat to poo well away from veggies and children then well done:-)

If these cats are also using a litter tray when indoors then I have no better option but to bag and bin the soiled litter.

Technically, you could go down the route of blood testing your cat to try to assess whether it’s been exposed. If you get a positive result then you would reasonably safely open up the flushing and composting options. Whether it’s ethical to take a blood sample from your cat for this purpose is entirely up to you !

Any other ideas let me know!

Reliable Sources:

Toxoplasma gondii infection

http://icatcare.org/advice/cat-health/toxoplasmosis-and-cats