Pet planning, Aging with Aging Dogs, Dog Bite Protocol with Dr. Edward G. Brauer III (Marquette Veterinary Clinic)
We started the year with divorce month, and the story of my divorce settlement: I got the dog, and he got the cash. During February, we’re covering the things we love in our blog posts, and we are coming back to our pets! We love our pets at Taproot Law and we know we aren’t the only ones!
We rely on our pets for companionship, hunting, and physical and mental wellness at all stages of life. What happens in our lives also affects our pets, and they constantly come up in my coaching conversations with clients.
Our Green Space series exists to build community with people throughout the UP who can shed light on legal questions and issues related to our everyday lives, even our pets!
This week I interviewed Dr. Edward G. Brauer III who is co-owner of Marquette Veterinary Clinic and Nyla’s veterinarian! Dr. Brauer shares with me considerations we should keep in mind when taking on the responsibility of owning a pet and knowing what to prepare for as they age. This impacts the pets’ humans!
What are some key legal issues that you run into in practice that pet owners should keep in mind?
One of the major things we run into in our practice is when a pet owner or an acquaintance of a pet owner is bitten by their dog or cat. In Michigan, there is a strict animal bite protocol that we as veterinarians must abide by if the bite is reported.
If the pet is not up to date on their rabies vaccines, the owner must quarantine their pet for 10 days in case the animal is possibly infected with rabies. If the animal begins to display signs of rabies, the animal must be euthanized and submitted to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for rabies testing.
This is why the county likes to have pets registered to make it easier to assess rabies vaccine status.
The second major thing we run into at our practice is an aging owner and their pet’s medical records. In Michigan, we as veterinarians cannot release the medical records of the client’s pet unless we are granted verbal permission by them. As you might imagine, that can become difficult when the client is elderly or is hospitalized and has difficulty providing that verbal consent to release those records.
That is why we advise owners to have a secondary person on file or a power of attorney to authorize the release of their pet’s medical records so that we can openly discuss the health status of the pet and the proper care it needs.
Do you provide educational resources about having an aging pet? Could you explain what those are if you do?
We typically discuss with our clients during routine wellness and vaccine appointments of what they can expect as their pet begins to age. It’s very common as pets get older that they can begin to develop arthritis, cataracts, and chronic illnesses that will need to be managed with long term medications. It’s also important to run routine bloodwork on a senior pet as a way to catch an underlying illness early enough to manage or treat it before it becomes fatal.
Is there a cost associated with an aging pet that people should really be preparing for? When?
Owners will need to be prepared for the costs associated with long-term medications and more frequent vet visits for follow-up care as their pets enter into their geriatric years which is typically around 7-8 years of age and older. As you can imagine, that can sometimes deplete owners’ finances very quickly depending on what type of illness we are treating. As a way to offset those costs, there is pet health insurance out there for owners to help cover expensive veterinary bills. We do recommend getting pet health insurance when they are younger because many insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions. When it does come time for a pet to be humanely euthanized, owners will sometimes wish for the remains of their beloved pets to be cremated, which can come with a higher cost than the euthanasia. Owners can, of course, pre-pay in advance for the euthanasia and post-mortem care of their pet as they get closer to the end.
What are the pros and cons of owning pets long term for adults?
In my opinion, the pros of owning a pet long term far outweigh the cons, but it is important for potential future owners to know what they are getting into when they adopt a pet:
- Similar to a child, pets are a long term responsibility. On average, dogs live around 12-13 years and cats live around 14-15 years. That’s well over a decade of responsibility!
- Unlike children, dogs and cats will forever be dependent on their owners for basic needs like food, water, shelter, and exercise.
- If people adopt pets from a shelter, the pet can sometimes come with many “skeletons in the closet” and have a lot of phobias, aggression issues, or bad habits that the owners need to work on or bring the pet to a behaviorist to manage these issues.
- Certain breeds of dogs and cats are at higher risk of developing certain illnesses (e.g. diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and cancers) that require extra care to keep them healthy and can become burdensome for owners.
- In the situation where a pet has multiple illnesses and the owner cannot take care of them any longer whether it be due to financial constraints or the time it takes to care for their pet, it is not unreasonable to surrender them to an animal shelter so that the pet has a better chance of finding a home where they can be properly taken care of.
Though this can seem like a long list of “cons” for a future owner, there are many pros that come with it as well:
- Pets provide loyalty, companionship, and unconditional love for their owner no matter what. There are many studies that prove owning pets are great for one’s physical and mental health. Dogs are great for forcing us to go outside and get exercise. They can also be used as a tool for hunting birds or as therapy dogs for the elderly and sick.
- Even though their life span is shorter than ours, they can leave behind many wonderful memories and moments in our hearts.
Thank you Dr. Brauer for the intel and for keeping Nyla Bean healthy for me!
The Green Space series has been a really fun way to connect with and learn from community members and we want to keep building our community! If you are interested in contributing to this series or know someone who might be, let us know by emailing Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject matter: Green Space.
Check out upcoming Taproot events!
February 24: Make a Will Workshop at Rock River Township Library in Chatham, 10 a.m. EST. RSVP to email@example.com.
March 6: Law Decoded at Gallery Coffee, Munising, 10-11 a.m. EST
March 21: Watch Erica on Ask the Lawyers on WNMU-TV, 8 p.m. EST