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Great Expectations Part 3: I Will Never Become Ill

Author: Andrea Obey | Date: October 9, 2013

For over two years, I’ve worked at an animal hospital and have been amazed at how many people are in utter shock to find their pet is ill.  It’s certainly emotional, as we really never want our beloved four-legged family member to fall ill or have an accident. But unfortunately, it happens.  I’ve seen pet owners assign blame to everything and on everyone they can, react irrationally and go ballistic when their pet is sick.

It’s heart breaking. I feel for them, because I was that person once.

Years ago, I had a mixed breed puppy named Elvis.  I loved that little trouble maker.  He was my “gateway dog”, as we trainers say, because he had some major unwanted behavior issues I needed to address and thus learned about pet dog training.  Fast forward from puppyhood to young adult and to him becoming a much more social, relaxed and friendly dog, when he suddenly became ill.  Very ill. Within less than a week his little bones began to creek, he had sores on his tongue and a few places on his body, wouldn’t eat, couldn’t bark (more lesions on his vocal cords it turned out), could barely walk, was dropping weight at a shocking rate, was having cluster Grand mal seizures and had a constant fever.  My poor little guy went downhill so fast, and I was a complete wreck.  I was in no way prepared for this to happen. I couldn’t accept it and became angry. I was furious with the first vet I went to who didn’t even recognize any of the symptoms. I finally found a team of vets who helped us and began to blame myself and other random circumstances on his illness. After months of testing and thousands of dollars, we found out he had Systemic Lupus and was terminally ill.  He wasn’t even three years old before we had to say goodbye.

I’m sharing this story because having been in that situation and seeing similar stories unfold at the animal hospital, I would like to offer some proactive advice.  My situation was extreme and most people will not have to experience their pet becoming that incredibly ill at such a young age.  However, eye infections, skin infections, gastrointestinal complications, dental surgery, accidents, ear hematoma, hereditary diseases, etc., will probably happen at some point.

So, how do you prepare for these sorts of troubles?

I don’t think anyone can prepare 100% for everything.  That would probably be impossible.  But taking a few steps prior to any sudden onset of illness or accident can help ease the shock.

  • Talk to your vet.  One of the best places to start is a talk with your vet about preventative care.  This includes any hereditary or congenital concerns, vaccines, diet, parasite prevention (especially heartworm disease) and physical limitations for your dog.
  • Talk to your dog trainer.  We have some really good tips and tools for you about preventing unwanted behavior issues and accidents.
  • Set aside some money for emergencies.  This is a hard one.  Most of us are on a budget these days, but I deeply encourage you to set aside some sort of account or designated budget for your pet’s health care and some extra just in case of illness or accident. Some clients literally have a separate savings account just for their pets.
  • Investigate pet insurance.  Admittedly, I’ve not had pet insurance before.  Most of the pet owners I’ve spoken to are very happy that they have it for their pets.  Do some research and see which plan works for you.
  • Emotional support.  Remember your pets are living beings and they can and will get sick at some point.  Talk to friends, family, pet health care providers and trainers.  We are all here to support you and your beloved pet.

If anyone has other tips about preparing for a pet’s illness, please share.

I sincerely hope no one has to experience what I had to with my baby boy Elvis, and I wish a very happy, healthy life for your pets. But I implore everyone to have a bit of a plan in place just in case you ever need it for peace of mind.


Having never trained a dog before I knew I was out of my depth with our puppy and AnimalSense threw me my life preserver.

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