Guest Blogger: Mr. Guru Thapar
The opinions expressed here are those of Mr. Thapar, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Annie or Animal Wellness Centers. Mr. Thapar is an actual client of Animal Wellness Centers and received no remuneration for this blog post.
Loki is my first pet as an adult. He was so helpless as a puppy, and I was so nervous about being a good dad, I did a ton of research on veterinary care for him. I looked hard at quality of care as well as cost.
I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT: ANIMAL WELLNESS IS LESS EXPENSIVE!
I called around to many local vets and shopped prices for exams, medicines, and surgeries. After reading her website and learning about the way Dr. Annie practices medicine, I thought for sure she would be more expensive. I couldn’t believe it — they were less expensive than any comparable vet!
I asked her how she can be less expensive. She said they are extremely efficient and productive in the way they run their hospital. I am still surprised and hope they can expand to Malibu where Loki and I spend the weekends!
PET STORE VACCINES
Low-cost vaccines offered at pet stores were attractive at first. Then I realized not all vaccines or vaccination strategies are equal. First, there is often a huge difference in the quality of the drug inside any particular vaccine. I can only assume the low-cost places use the lowest-possible cost version. I don’t know this for sure, but I what I do know is that Dr. Annie uses the highest quality vaccinations because she specifically showed me what she uses. The crazy thing is her vaccines are just a few dollars more than the super-cheap deals at pet stores.
Second, I found out that there are several vaccines, such as Giardia and Corona virus, that, it turns out, are completely unnecessary and apparently sometimes harmful. Also, I learned that many vaccines only need to be given every 3 years. In fact, kennel cough is one of the only vaccines that needs to be administered yearly.
LOW COST SPAY, NEUTER & SURGERY
I was also enticed at first by low cost spay and neuter options I found in ads online and driving around LA. After researching it, I learned that spays and neuters are serious surgical procedures involving anesthesia. Many facets of these procedures pose serious risks. For example, I read that inducing anesthesia is essentially the same as bringing an animal very close to the brink of death. Specific surgical practices and materials used can literally mean the difference between life and death for my dog.
I called around to different vets and asked detailed questions like:
“What kind of anesthesia do you use?”
“Do you re-use endotracheal tubes?”
“How do you keep my dog warm during surgery?”
“Do you do blood-work before surgery to make sure my dog is healthy and ready for surgery?”
“Will you give my dog medicine to relieve any pain during and after the surgery?”
I got some astonishingly different answers from “I don’t know” to “Yes, we reuse endotracheal tubes, we clean them, and they are expensive.” … (When I know that “cleaning” usually means simply rinsing with water, they cost under $3, and go down my dog’s throat during surgery!)
When I had surgery, I had to get blood-work before the operation to make sure I was healthy enough to have it. I asked about this for Loki, and most places told me it was “optional.” Dr. Annie said she requires blood-work before putting any patient under anesthesia. She said there is an inherent risk associated with putting any body, animal or human, under anesthesia. She said she won’t take that risk unless she has a thorough understanding of the pet’s health and can make a decision backed up by data. This makes a lot of sense to me.
Reusing a tube that goes down your throat?
Dr. Annie told me that she does not reuse endotracheal tubes. Instead, she uses a brand new tube for each procedure. I think it’s obvious that this decreases the chance of respiratory infection and tracheal irritation.
Anesthesia is not all the same
I learned that Animal Wellness Centers uses the drug Propofol – the same thing used in humans – to induce anesthesia. I read that using lower-quality anesthesia drugs results in at least a horrible hangover and at worst brings a higher risk of mortality. The most astonishing thing is that Propofol costs just a few dollars for each surgery!
A microwave bag of rice to keep a warm?!
Like humans, when animals are under anesthesia their body temperatures drop. I was shocked to learn that some places microwave bags of rice and put the bag of rice on the animal during surgery! Dr. Annie showed me the special warming unit she bought to keep her patients comfy during surgery. It’s similar to what is used for human infants and babies during surgery on them. This is very important to me.
Then I looked into how to manage pain after surgery. Believe it or not, some places told me they don’t use pain medications for “routine” procedures like spays and neuters. My understanding is that these procedures are painful and traumatic and absolutely require medication before the procedure and for several days after. I think people get confused that because the animal can’t talk, that it might not be in pain. I read that dogs and cats have actually evolved not to show pain as this made them vulnerable in the wild. I want a vet who thinks through pain issues and makes sure my dog never in avoidable pain.
Since I brush my teeth twice a day, I wanted to understand what to do about Loki’s teeth. I learned that dental health in dogs is super important because germs and disease can start and fester there. Most vets and pet dental places I checked with offer dental cleaning, but they don’t have dental X-ray machines. I found out online that a surface examination doesn’t reveal anything about what’s happening underneath. Dogs and cats can have gingivitis and tooth root abscesses just like humans. The only difference is they can’t tell us they have a toothache.
Only by taking x-rays of the teeth can it be determined whether a tooth is infected and needs to receive a root canal or be extracted. Apparently, this can be a life changing procedure for an animal with dental pain.
I was surprised not many vets have a dental X-ray machine. I was psyched to find out that Animal Wellness does!
I remember as a kid my family dog was prescribed steroids a lot for almost anything from itchy skin to a cold.
I wanted to find out about this and read up on steroid use. It turns out steroids offer a “quick fix” to treat the symptoms of many ailments but do not attack underlying cause of illness. I read a lot about veterinarians who prescribe steroids, like voting in Chicago, “early and often.”
I asked Dr. Annie, and she said she uses steroids as a last resort. She said steroids offer temporary relief and are not typically a cure virtually never addressing the root cause of pain. She said that before resorting to symptom-masking drugs that are expensive and often have negative side effects, she likes to focus on the underlying cause and consider how nutrition, behavior, exercise and alternative treatments can manage chronic pain.
LESS IS MORE
I asked Dr. Annie about the pressure of making money and the influence on medical decisions. She told me that her core principle is “First Do No Harm.” She said she prefers to pursue alternative treatments that have few to zero side effects, like Acupuncture. She assured me that her health treatment decisions are made free of outside factors with Loki’s wellness at the heart of everything she recommends.
I called and asked other vets how long their appointments are scheduled. Some places told me the actual veterinary appointment is six minutes. 6 minutes!
Animal Wellness has 30 minute appointment slots. I asked Dr. Annie why her appointments are so much longer, she said it is important to take the time to get a thorough history and complete a comprehensive exam.
I read through some of the SEC filings of the big corporate veterinary hospitals, and it says in black and white: often the shorter appointment time comes down to a financial decision rather than a medical decision.
Taking price and quality into consideration, I feel that Animal Wellness Centers is hands down the best value for money in Los Angeles. Loki and I love going there, and Vilma, their groomer, is great too. I recommend AWC for anyone with a pet, young or old.
Here are some awesome Yelp reviews from some satisfied customers.
Dr. Annie Harvilicz and her team of veterinary medicine professionals are revolutionizing animal healthcare with her forward-thinking integrative approach to health and wellness. The Animal Wellness flagship veterinarian hospital in Venice – Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, is a state-of-the-art clinic designed from the ground up with your pets’ perspective in mind.