They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Pretty site of the day: Creative Commons

I’ve been meaning to blog about extreme veterinary medicine for a long time now. The ‘net is dead for the holidays, so here goes…

It all began with the iguana hysterectomy. I didn’t even know iguanas had hysters, or that you could pay someone to remove them. My only concept of iguana finance was put down your nickel, take home a five-inch iguana. Apparently, once it’s grown to four feet long, a mysterious bond forms between the iguana and the designated food provider - a bond capable of making the employed party shell out $600 to have part of the iguana removed, rather than another five cents for a fresh, fully-functional iguanalet.

I figured iguana owners were a breed apart, but extreme measures in veterinary medicine don’t stop at iguana hysterectomies anymore. Page back through Mustang Sally’s blog and you can get the full tale of her medical adventures with her diabetic cat. Dr. Deb, my consulting physicist, had her cat on feline chemotherapy before he was finally allowed to pass away in peace. And my own lovely sister Veronica, having gotten all the pet appreciation genes in the family, subjected her mad cat Kitty to a procedure I cannot even describe here because of the severe squick factor.

Yes, it’s the pet owner’s money to burn as she wishes, and it keeps the vets employed, but the whole thing disturbs me. I wouldn’t mind so much if the average patients at Angel Memorial Animal Hospital were endangered birds or prize cattle, but we’re not even eating the cats afterwards, and more are born every minute. What’s the point of torturing the ones we have?

There are people dying in Africa because they cannot afford hysterectomies, insulin, or chemotherapy. (They do seem to have a grasp of amputation, however, so Kitty is at no appreciable medical advantage here in Boston.) Sure, we have the resources here to do iguana hysterectomies and pump life-saving chemicals into our housepets, but is it right? I think it’s grotesque to save feline lives while humans are dying for lack of the same medical care. I’m not the sort of person who usually worries about people dying in Africa, but there’s something egregious about an iguana hysterectomy.

Nor do I consider it fair to the animals. Once upon a time, it was considered cruel to let an animal suffer. Human beings undergo painful and prolonged medical treatments because we want to live even at that price. Animals have no notion of future benefits - the only motive in making them suffer is our own. It’s one thing to hurt an animal in order to save lives or fend off starvation, but it’s another to do it because Fluffy is cute and you can’t bear to be parted from her.

So if you ever need someone to pull the plug on Fluffy, just give me a call.

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