A lingering personal health concern leads Dr. Buzby to travel to seek care from a specialist, where she finds a diagnosis, some understanding, and a big opportunity.
In this episode, Dr. Buzby shares how discovering health issues in your dog shouldn’t be viewed as bad luck or tragedy, but instead as an opportunity to improve the life and health of your dog, and in turn your own enjoyment and experience with them.
Dr. Buzby highlights how you can and should:
1. Be your dog’s advocate.
2. Understand the value of a visit with a specialist.
3. Know the importance of diagnostic testing.
4. Trust your doctor or find one you can.
5. Appreciate the true joy of wellness and health
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Welcome to the Buzby Dog podcast, where our passion and focus is proactive care and longer, healthier, happier lives for our dogs. Here’s your host integrative veterinarian, Dr. Julie Buzby.
Dr. Buzby: (00:33)
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Buzby dog podcast, where the topic is when opportunity barks. This week, I had some adventures in my own health. I’ve been dealing with a cough since June and I went to a pulmonologist. Finally, I had seen my general practitioner three times. I love the guy, but he listened to me with the stethoscope and basically said, I think it sounds fine. He had done chest radiographs and also declared them normal. And I was just at the end of my rope, so I went to this guy out of the area, definitely made an effort to get there and because my insurance wouldn’t cover it because he was a specialist out of network I paid cash for my visit. It was that important to me to get well. And he put his stethoscope on my chest and he said, do you know what I hear in your lungs?
Dr. Buzby: (01:21)
And honestly, I was so discouraged at that point. I just shook my head and felt this in my whole posture. I mean, I just felt myself kind of slump on the table because he had already told me from a breathing test that was done, you know, right, when they checked me in and did the weight and temperature and blood pressure and all that. He had said, you have the lungs of a 76-year-old, not good when I’m nearly half that in age. So I was not looking forward to what he had to say. When he said, do you know what I hear in your lungs? And he said, opportunity. And I fell in love with this doctor at that moment. And this is the kind of doctor I want to be for my clients and my patients. I’m well aware, unfortunately, after being in practice for many years, that not all cases have a happy ending, but there is so much power in offering hope and compassion to people about the health of their dog.
Dr. Buzby: (02:17)
So I have five tips that I’ve learned from this experience when opportunity barks. I want to share these with you because this was my own health journey. I’m usually thank the Lord, never sick. I haven’t been to the doctor four times. So when you add up my general practitioner visit, and then the visit with the specialist, I’ve been to the doctor four times in the past few months, I don’t think counting non-baby related visits that I’ve been to the doctor four times in the past decade. So this has been a difficult road for me because I’m not used to being the patient. And frankly, I hate it. And I know you can all relate to that. But number one, I think is the importance of being my own advocate. And I’ve talked about this over and over on our podcast, how important it is that you advocate for your dogs even more so than for, you know than for myself, since I’m a human with a voice and certainly can speak of my own feelings and my own body. Our dogs, though they have no voice.
Dr. Buzby: (03:17)
They can’t speak about how they’re feeling physically and complain about the ups and downs of their health. It’s so critical that we are observant, that we’re in touch with them. And I know that you are, I know that’s actually your specialty, you know your dog better than anyone else. And that’s what makes you such a critical asset and a crucial member of your dog’s healthcare team. So being your dog’s advocate is very important. As I said, my general practitioner, whom I really love and trust really had no more answers for me. I mean, he basically said, you know, you sounded good and he didn’t offer me any other options. I had to pursue basically a referral and ask him to do that for me and send me to a specialist and he was happy to do it. I think he wanted me to feel more myself.
Dr. Buzby: (04:06)
I think that was important to him. And I do think he believed me, but he just didn’t really understand why I was feeling so badly. So if, for example, you know, something is not right with your dog and you just know that because you know your dog, but in your veterinarian’s hands in your veterinarian’s office, you aren’t getting answers by no means. Am I trying to create any sort of rift between you and your veterinarian? I think that the trust and that relationship is so crucial, but be your dog’s advocate. That leads us to point number two, the value of a specialist visit. I mean, this man was probably in his fifties, he was a pulmonologist. This is all he does all day is listen to lungs and, and read special tests from specialty equipment that gives him data on lung function.
Dr. Buzby: (04:54)
He was the perfect person to help me with this problem that had stumped my general practitioner. And that’s often the case in veterinary medicine. I mean, veterinarians, I think human medicine is almost entirely specialized. Veterinary medicine is not that way. The general practitioner is the person who does the C-section reads the radiographs looks under the microscope. Does all the surgery on the legs. I mean, I’m very proud of our profession and I think more so than any other medical practitioner or practitioners, we have, the ability to understand many species and many different areas of the body, but in doing so, you’ve heard the, the expression Jack of all trades master of none. I don’t want to speak for my colleagues. I’ll only speak for myself. I feel like I’m really not a master of anything in veteran medicine. I have some areas of interest for sure.
Dr. Buzby: (05:44)
I do holistic medicine, for example, a lot of acupuncture, but specialists are masters in their field. That’s why they are the ones who get to use the term specialist. They have gone on for many years of additional training after veterinary school in a variety of fields, ranging from dermatology to cardiology. And then in addition to that, they have all their years of practice. So if there’s a situation with your dog and you just can’t get the answers you need in general practice, it’s okay to say, what do you think about a referral to a specialist? And I think that’s a huge value to see someone who just specializes. That’s all they do. That’s all they think about. That’s what they continually study and learn and, and have experience with day in and day out. And I think that can be a huge value in diagnosing difficult cases and really getting top-notch treatment for complicated health issues with whether it be medical or surgical that plague our sweet little dogs.
Dr. Buzby: (06:41)
Number three is the importance of diagnostic testing. And again, potentially being at a specialty facility where they have the ability to do advanced diagnostics, general practitioners sometimes don’t have the equipment that a specialty facility would have, would have for an example, an MRI unit. I mean the average general practitioner certainly doesn’t have a CT scan… The list goes on and on the main reason is these are often hundreds of thousands of dollars pieces of equipment. And so you have to have these huge practices to be able to afford them and to funnel in the cases to be able to support them. So that’s the other value of specialist, for example, my doctor was able to do a chest x-ray and interpret that, but it was normal. It really didn’t help at all. However, the specialist was able to do some breathing tests with special equipment, hooked up to a special computer and charge me $150 because he had the equipment and it was able to give him information right then.
Dr. Buzby: (07:39)
And he said, without even putting a stethoscope on, you, like I said, that’s where he got the number of my 76 year old lungs, but he was also able to say, I think I know what your diagnosis is just from reading these reports. So that’s another important thing is it was worth it to me to pay out of pocket to get the right diagnostic tests, to see what was going on and really prove not only where I was then, but that’s a great baseline test for me as I get well and look back and compare to that. And indeed, I did that today. I went back for a recheck today. This was about three days after starting the medication. And he was able to say, okay, today your test is X number. And he said, you know what? We have the test from the other day, I want to go compare.
Dr. Buzby: (08:20)
And he left the exam room and came back and said, look, it was half this just on Monday. So I can objectively tell from the data that you are getting well, you’re getting better. And that was great information to have. Number four is a hard one for me to say. And after he made my diagnosis was essentially asthma. Again, I’ve had no health issues my whole life. This is really out of the blue. He said, you have asthma. And I don’t know exactly what’s triggered it, but it’s pretty advanced at this point. And he said, there is no path for you from point A to point B in other words, from sick to, well, that doesn’t involve steroids. So that of course raised the hackles on the back of my neck because I don’t want to take steroids.
Dr. Buzby: (09:05)
Steroids have a very significant long list of side effects. I know this from my dog patients short term side effects and long term side effects. So I knew that it probably was going to make me hungrier, drink more, have to go to the bathroom more and potentially cause behavioral changes like insomnia. But I also knew that there’s long term side effects. When I give a dog any length course of steroids, I don’t expect their thyroid values to normalize for potentially months. It’s not my favorite drug prescribe. And I’m going to do a podcast next week to go into the full details of the pros and cons of steroids. Because I, especially since I practice holistic medicine and so many of my clients are interested in alternative care and for lack of a better word, shun, traditional medicine. And ike I said, steroids being probably the number one on the list.
Dr. Buzby: (09:57)
I think it’s really important to know that sometimes there’s no way to avoid it when the doctor said that, oh, I was really wanting to just try other things, but I knew I’d been trying other things for months. I’ve been trying other things. I’ve been trying a whole spectrum of holistic modalities. I hadn’t told you that I had actually seen a naturopath who had prescribed some herbal things. I really was trying to do this without the traditional pathway through the doctor. And honestly it cost me, it was a mistake because I was very sick when I went and I don’t think I needed to get to that point. But the path that I had gone was really the path. I chose that path on purpose to avoid steroids. So I’ve been on steroids now for three days, I’ve done well on them and they have improved me greatly.
Dr. Buzby: (10:42)
And as I said, I think it’s important that when they are used, they are used judiciously. One of the most common uses in, in veterinary medicine is for skin problems. And if it’s used in a short term function to break a dog from a very serious bout of itchiness, you know, I think that’s potentially appropriate if something is just so severe that you’ve got to change the situation immediately. But what I don’t like is like a long term chronic use of a drug that, like I said, the body’s got to pay a lot for, in terms of short and long term side effects. And we have so much more to offer in veterinary medicine. Now steroids used to be used, you know, they would just be prescribed for years to manage skin conditions or prescribed for years for old arthritic dogs. We don’t really do that anymore.
Dr. Buzby: (11:31)
In veterinary medicine we know there’s better ways. There’s better drugs. I would just like to say that I think it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bath water and to have a relationship with a doctor whom you trust. I see stuff on social media all the time about people really bad mouthing their vet and kind of going their own way. You can’t have that kind of a relationship with your vet. Find if that, if that’s the relationship, then please move on. Your vet will appreciate you moving on. If that’s the relationship, if you’re going to second guess everything that they say and do. And instead go with Dr. Google’s advice, find a veterinarian whom you can trust so that when they tell you hard things that you disagree with, you either a second opinion, like I said, potentially a specialist, or you just do what they say because they’re the expert.
Dr. Buzby: (12:17)
And, and they’ve been to veterinary school. So that was my attitude with this, with the pulmonologist, he was telling me something I really didn’t want to hear, but I believed him and I trusted him. And I knew that he had my best interest in mind and was giving me the advice that I needed, the medical prescription that I needed to get well. And as I said, he said, there’s not a way around this, Julie. So I’m so thankful. He also said, you know, when he was going over the list of side effects, he said to, to me speaking about himself and said, I’ve only been on prednisone once in my life. It was in med school. And, and it gave me the insomnia was so bad that I painted the inside of my house at two o’clock in the morning, one night. So like I said, he knew that there were side effects and he was being very judicious in prescribing the medication.
Dr. Buzby: (13:05)
And because I know this can be a hot button topic, we’re going to go into it in depth in the next episode. But what I really want to drive home in this episode is just the importance of having a trusting relationship with your vet, finding a vet with whom you have that relationship and trusting them when they prescribe and diagnose medications for your dog. And point number five is just the joy of feeling good. So, as I said, I’ve been on medication now for a few days and I feel better than I have actually in a couple months. And it feels so good to just be back to feeling like myself and being involved with my family and my daily life activities. And I, my heart just bleeds for our, our dogs when they’re not well. And you know, it you’ve seen it when their head’s down and they just aren’t engaged with life as we would expect to see, or their, their eyes just look sad or, you know, they’re not running to the door when somebody knocks, they’re just not themselves.
Dr. Buzby: (14:04)
It breaks our hearts because as, as owners and as guardians of these dogs who are responsible for making decisions in their lives, their health, I think there’s a huge, responsibility for us to do all we can to keep them feeling as good as possible for as long as possible. And I think all of this ties in, when we think about opportunity barking, I think we’ve got so many fantastic opportunities in this day and age for healthcare, for dogs, for all kinds of home products, supplements, there’s just so many great opportunities. And again, I would encourage you, if you have any concerns about your dog’s health, wellbeing, or quality of life, to have discussions with your veterinarian, be just very upfront and honest about how you’re feeling your concerns. Even if they sound crazy, I’ve sometimes had clients say, you know what? I can’t really, I’m almost embarrassed to share this piece of information, but here’s, what’s going on with my dog.
Dr. Buzby: (14:57)
And I know it’s not right. And it’s often really valuable. And people don’t realize how much those little insights that they have that we can’t have, cuz we don’t, we don’t live with our patients. We don’t see them in a day to day basis. We don’t really understand as never will understand like an owner does, you know, what’s normal for that dog and, and those little tiny signs and symptoms that you can pick up at home, but they’re valuable to us as a veterinarian. So don’t be embarrassed about sharing them. Like I said, sometimes they can be the key that unlocks the, the secrets to your dog’s best health. All right. So there we, we have it. I hope that next time, we’re together next week and we’re talking about prednisone pros and cons and I’ll just give you the, the spoiler alert, prednisone, like I said is a drug that I think has its place in veterinary medicine, but really needs to be used judiciously. And that’s why you trust your doctor. If it is prescribed, talk it over with them. Talk about the side effects to expect again, we’ll go into that more next week when hopefully I will not have the lungs of a 76 year old. I’m hoping to be at about, I don’t know, 56 next week. And we’ll go from there. Thanks for listening. Take care of your dog. Don’t forget to be his or her advocate
Speaker 3: (16:14)
And now a message from Dr. Buzby’s mailbag. I have seen the transformation. Mick has dysplasia and arthritis and has been in pain and inactive for a long time until yesterday. When I put his ToeGrips on was so frisky and active. I haven’t seen him that full of life in so long and I was actually hoping that he wasn’t going to overdo it, but he was fine this morning. Thanks to all involved with Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips for more info or to help your dog get a grip. Go to ToeGrips.com.
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