Sunday, September 27, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
A dog is a rat is a doctor is a vet
With barely contained anger I informed the nurse that keeping an ill, 84 year old woman in a hospital corridor for 18 hours was not the type of care that anyone should be expected to tolerate. In fact my cat receives better treatment from his vet.This is not the first time I've seen the point raised about veterinary care being better than health care for humans. And you don't have to compare veterinary care to health care under socialized medicine to see the difference, although it becomes particularly glaring if you do.
Under our "system" of veterinary health care, there's generally little or no wait, they're invariably friendly (because you could always grab your dog or cat and take it to another vet), and as to the prices?
Let me give a personal example. My old dog Puff once swallowed half a tennis ball he had flattened, and it opened up like a parachute inside his small intestine. This formed an insurmountable blockage, and necrosis set in. Without immediate emergency surgery, Puff (by that time in horrible agony) would have been dead in a day or so. He was cut open, the foreign object removed along with a three foot section of intestine (the two severed ends being anastomized together) and after a couple of days at the vet I took him home, where he fully recovered without complication.
The bill for all of this? Nine hundred and fifty dollars.
Now, this was some time ago, and today it would be more. Probably close to a couple of grand.
But imagine how much it would cost if a boy were to swallow something he shouldn't have and it lodged in his small intestine and had to be removed. I shudder to think of the possible bill for emergency surgery and two days in the hospital, but I think you'd be lucky if it cost less than $20,000.
The instruments, the drugs, the surgical techniques, sterile hygiene, intravenous lines, and post-operative support, all of these things are basically the same. True, the boy would not be placed in a four by six cage during his stay in the hospital, but a bed in a room is not all that complicated.
What accounts for the huge difference in price? A lot of people say it's the liability insurance, but is that all there is to it? It's not as if there's much difference in the degree of education between an MD and a DVM. (And it's actually harder to get into vet school than it is to get into med school, so if there's an issue involving brains, the vets might win.)
It strikes me that there is a giant, overarching difference between veterinary care and regular medical care, and that is that the former is barely regulated by the government, while the latter is so regulated that even now -- without socialized health care -- many doctors feel as if they spent most of their time being bureaucrats. Is that it? I'm sure my vet kept records for Puff, but I'd be willing to bet they consisted of little more than a couple of paragraphs summarizing the diagnosis, the procedure, and his recovery. And I'd also be willing to bet that for the same procedure on a boy, if all of the records were all printed out they'd be a stack of documents inches thick.
I realize that people will say I am silly and comparing apples and oranges, but it wasn't that long ago that the complex education and licensing as we know it simply did not exist. When they weren't cutting people open, "barber surgeons" cut hair and shaved faces.
But you don't have to go back to the 18th century. A close friend who died a few years ago had a copy of a bill she received for the birth of her son in the late 1940s. Including delivery, hospitalization, and maternity care, it came to just over two hundred dollars. Even if we correct for inflation, there is simply no comparison between the prices then and the prices now for medical care.
While I realize technology has added many tools to the medical arsenal since the 1940s, the same tools have been added to the veterinary arsenal, so that can't be all there is to it. I have not seen any vet bills from the 1940s, but I am sure that a cursory examination would reveal that the rate of increase has risen in a normal manner that we would expect, while the rate of increase for human medical care has skyrocketed. (Of course, in those days, far fewer people had health insurance. Might the "blank check" from the big pocket have something to do with it?)
Should we allow vets to treat humans? Why not? If a woman can consent to an abortion, why can't I consent to having a veterinarian cut a tennis ball out of my intestines?
Why can't we be consenting adults?
Sunday, September 20, 2009
As some of you may know, I have been doing a lot of work lately with the greyhounds at the local dog track. I thought I would post this pretty neat order of finish in a race last week. They finished in order: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
The photo is taken as an extended exposure, the camera placed on the finish line. The contraption in front is the lure that the dogs chase. Due to the exposure, especially fast moving parts like legs can often look odd. On top, you see the "mirror" image so that we can see both sides. Sometimes we can only tell order-of-finish from the mirror. This is the same type of photo we use for photo finishes. A photo like this is taken of every race and, the ones that are close, we can zoom in on and see who crossed the wire first.
Definitely a rare order of finish!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Does Wind Get Off Easy?
When birds die due to oil or chemical exposure at an oil company's storage or waste-water facility, the company may be prosecuted for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Exxon-Mobil, for example, recently pled guilty to killing 85 birds protected under the MTBA. The oil giant will pay $600,000 in fines, and several million more to implement a compliance plan to prevent bird deaths in the future.
Exxon-Mobil's not alone. Electric utilities are also prosecuted when protected birds are killed by poorly insulated transmission lines. And yet not all power produces are prosecuted for the accidental killing of protected birds.
As the Entergy Tribune's Robert Bryce detailed in the Wall Street Journal, wind power kills more protected birds than Exxon-Mobil's refineries, and yet gets a free pass.
A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.
Altamont's turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon's tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.
The number of birds killed by wind turbines is highly variable. And biologists believe Altamont, which uses older turbine technology, may be the worst example. But that said, the carnage there likely represents only a fraction of the number of birds killed by windmills. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy estimates that U.S. wind turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds per year. Yet the Justice Department is not bringing cases against wind companies.
The problem of bird kills from wind power are well documented. A 2001 report on avian mortality by the National Wind Coordinating Council estimated wind power was responsible for 33,000 bird kills per year, the vast majority of which are protected under federal law. The American Wind Energy Association estimates bird mortality rates are, on average, "one to six per year or less" per megawatt of wind power capacity in the United States. Given the U.S. had 25,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity in the U.S., wind power could be responsible for as many as 150,000 bird kills per year. How many will die if wind production increases ten-fold or more to meet proposed renewable energy mandates? (And will we consider that actual wind output can be far less than installed capacity.)
Wind power is hardly the only thing that kills birds. Bird kills are a problem with many tall structures, and other energy sources are hardly without their problems. All things considered, wind may be preferable to available alternatives (even if it cannot provide base load capacity) and could be an important part of America's energy supply in the future. Yet it seems clear that when it comes to killing protected birds, traditional energy companies face federal prosecution, while wind energy gets a pass.
One reason for the special treatment is that it is easier to reduce bird kills at traditional energy facilities than a wind farm. In Exxon-Mobil's case, netting can keep birds away from potential contamination sources. There's no comparably easy fix for wind farms -- at least not yet. So federal prosecutors may target enforcement efforts where they can maximize the environmental results. It's also possible that there's no political benefit to going after "green" energy.
Here is the link to the article. Lots of links are available in the article to the various information sources mentioned.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
A lost world populated by fanged frogs, grunting fish and tiny bear-like creatures has been discovered in a remote volcanic crater on the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.
A team of scientists from Britain, the United States and Papua New Guinea found more than 40 previously unidentified species when they climbed into the kilometre-deep crater of Mount Bosavi and explored a pristine jungle habitat teeming with life that has evolved in isolation since the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago. In a remarkably rich haul from just five weeks of exploration, the biologists discovered 16 frogs which have never before been recorded by science, at least three new fish, a new bat and a giant rat, which may turn out to be the biggest in the world.
The discoveries are being seen as fresh evidence of the richness of the world's rainforests and the explorers hope their finds will add weight to calls for international action to prevent the demise of similar ecosystems. They said Papua New Guinea's rainforest is currently being destroyed at the rate of 3.5% a year.
"It was mind-blowing to be there and it is clearly time we pulled our finger out and decided these habitats are worth us saving," said Dr George McGavin who headed the expedition.
The team of biologists included experts from Oxford University, the London Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution and are believed to be the first scientists to enter the mountainous Bosavi crater. They were joined by members of the BBC Natural History Unit which filmed the expedition for a three-part documentary which starts tomorrow night.
They found the three-kilometre wide crater populated by spectacular birds of paradise and in the absence of big cats and monkeys, which are found in the remote jungles of the Amazon and Sumatra, the main predators are giant monitor lizards while kangaroos have evolved to live in trees. New species include a camouflaged gecko, a fanged frog and a fish called the Henamo grunter, named because it makes grunting noises from its swim bladder.
"These discoveries are really significant," said Steve Backshall, a climber and naturalist who became so friendly with the never-before seen Bosavi silky cuscus, a marsupial that lives up trees and feeds on fruits and leaves, that it sat on his shoulder.
"The world is getting an awful lot smaller and it is getting very hard to find places that are so far off the beaten track."
Monday, September 7, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
By GENE DAVIS
Denver Daily News Staff Writer
One black dress sock ended up costing Greenwood Village resident Kevin Koritza $2,500, a very sick dog and a chance to claim the inaugural Veterinary Pet Insurance Hambone Award.
Becca, Koritza’s young Labrador retriever, ate her master’s dress sock last year. As a result, Becca grew increasingly sicker and was “splashing liquids out of both ends” five days after eating the $2 sock. When Koritza was going to the pet store to buy a different kind of dog food for Becca in hopes of curing her then-undiagnosed ailment, Koritza’s dad called saying the dog had puked out a sock and was going to be just fine.
But Kortiza’s dad didn’t pick up the sock. And by the time Koritza got home, Becca ate the vomit-soaked clothing accessory back up again.
“She was so dehydrated from being so sick that the sock didn’t have a chance to go anywhere, it just got stuck in her intestines,” Koritza said.
A $2,500 surgery was required to remove the sock from Becca’s intestines. The surgery was successful, though, and Becca is now as happy as can be, according to Koritza.
“It was an expensive lesson in good housekeeping,” he said.
While Becca’s misadventures put a slight dent in Koritza’s pocketbook — Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) covered about half the cost of the surgery — the 26-year-old and his 2-year-old dog are one of 12 finalists for the inaugural Hambone Award being given out by VPO. After a year of collecting the most unusual pet insurance claims from each month, the nation’s oldest and largest pet health insurance provider is holding a competition that invites the public to vote on which is the most bizarre claim of the year.
The pet with the claim that is voted most unusual will then win the Hambone Award, which is named in honor of a VPI-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting to be found. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for treatments.
“Our intent with the Hambone Award is to let pet owners know just how unexpected the unexpected can be,” said a statement from Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI.
Koritza and Becca face some strong national competition for the Hambone Award. Some other contestants include:
• After being caught eating a pacifier, Lulu the English bulldog was brought to the veterinarian for an X-ray. The X-ray resulted in a surgery to remove 15 pacifiers that Lulu had ingested over the course of six months;
• A bucket of minnows — bait for an ice-fishing trip — piqued the interest of Quincy the Labrador. But when Quincy stuck his snout in for a sniff, he managed to inhale a three-pronged fishhook;
• Marley the Labrador retriever’s owner was trying to clear the beach of sea urchins when Marley, true to her retriever nature, ran to fetch one of the poisonous creatures. She spent the next couple hours regretting the decision.
Koritza likes his and Becca’s chances of claiming the award because it’s such a disgusting story.
“The other ones are comical, but they just don’t have that edge of absolutely disgustingness that we have,” he said. “I think lab owners know how stupid these animals can be. They’re a special breed and come with their challenges and personality.”
People can vote what they believe is the most unusual pet insurance claim at VPIHamboneAward.com. Voting will end on Sept. 14, 2009, and the winner will appear on the Rachel Ray Show in the near future.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
While stopped at a fairly busy intersection, an SUV pulled up alongside. The driver rolled down the passenger-side window as well as one of the back windows so her kids could see him. Waldi was fairly quivering with overstimulation...kids, cars driving by, people talking to him...how exciting.
"What a cute dog!" the lady said. "He looks like he is nervous. It's Sunday! You don't need to worry that you are going to the vet or something!"
The light changed...and we headed off to the vet! ;)