Stuck in the 60’s

There’s an interesting mind set with some clients when it comes to treating animals, a sort of temporal stickiness. Their minds get stuck in time, to when they were kids and how animals were treated “then”.

Most of the time this happens with people from a rural background, and I can understand why. Animals on the farm are regarded as commodities, which most certainly are (thinking cattle, sheep, chickens). You can only put as much money into them as you think you can get out, or you’ll go broke. Horses and dogs are in a bit of a different class but are still regarded as working animals rather than pets (though I think a lot of farmers and ranchers are deeply bonded to their horses and dogs, so I don’t know how far this goes).Dog, sheep in fieldI see it with urban people sometimes, too, where growing up the dogs and cats weren’t regarded with much specific fondness. The dog was “the family dog” and nobody really bonded with it. Maybe it lived in the yard, or it was the mom’s special dog and nobody else cared much for it. The kids certainly regarded the dog as something around the house but peripheral to their own existence. (They also refer to the dog as “it” a lot.)

When it got too expensive, or too sick, the pet was euthanized. Then the kids grow up, having had this attitude to model. Although they are often quite bonded to their own pets as adults, they question the need for the kind of care we generally advocate.

It’s like they are stuck in time. Because their “growing up pets” never received any preventive care, they don’t think it’s necessary. The pets were never vaccinated then and most didn’t die of dire contagion (although some did), so vaccines aren’t necessary now. Their pets only saw the vet to get spayed or neutered and to be euthanized (if they weren’t “put down” at home) back then, so nothing more is needed now. Routine checkups never happened then, so why bother now? The truth is that many pets “back in the day” suffered silently from disease that just wasn’t recognized. Poor things.

Now if their pet does get sick then minimal time and money are spent trying to fix the problem, often even if it’s something perfectly treatable. Lame dogs either get better or not. Vomiting and diarrhea are largely ignored (“they’ll get over it”). If a dog or cat develops a chronic illness they live with it or are put down.

And it’s not just a financial issue. Believe me, I completely understand about budgets and spending limits, and having to choose between shoes for the kids and blood tests for the dog. This isn’t that. It happens with owners who have adequate money to put toward the problem. It’s all in the mindset.

And so we get the dog with the horrible dental disease, mouth full of pus, who desperately needs a whole lot of teeth extracted in order to make his world a happy place, and an owner who says to me, “We never did any of this for the dogs when I was growing up, and they were fine.” And declines to do anything about it.

It’s like the last 50 years of advancements in medicine and preventive care never happened. I don’t know what to do with that.

3 thoughts on “Stuck in the 60’s

  1. I face that too. Frankly, I bring up the fact that my grandmother died at 40 of breast cancer and I never got to meet her. If they had been doing regular mammograms back then I might have had her in my life. It’s good that medicine changes and develops.


    • It’s freakin’ amazing how much veterinary medicine has changed even in the last two decades, never mind the last 50 years. We can cure things we couldn’t before, improve longevity, prevent disease. Science is the bomb. Too bad some people don’t want to take advantage of this.


      • Why people do things and why people *think* they do things are often very different. I feel like often deep down there’s more going on (financial, level of commitment to pet, fear) but those things are more shameful to admit even to ourselves. That “we never had to before” is less emotionally scary or shaming.


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