To the Editor:

I want to commend Dr. Carl D’Andrea for his honest and thoughtful opinion piece as to who is responsible for the serious drug problem in our country, as reported in the July 8 Spectrum.

I admire his taking some responsibility as a medical doctor.

As one who runs a non-profit organization that helps financially needy people throughout the U.S. with the cost of emergency veterinary care, I see what I perceive to be an abuse of drug usage by veterinarians.

Until perhaps the early 1990s pain killers were never prescribed for routine surgeries such as spaying or neutering.

Post -op discharge orders were simply, “keep your dog quiet, walk it on a leash, don’t let it play and run around for at least one week. Female cats should be kept in a bathroom or confined area for a few days so they don’t jump and run around. Male cats can be let loose as soon as they are fully awake!”

Then the AVMA (or perhaps local VMAs) set a new standard of care and started to routinely prescribe painkillers.

Those who refused them (like me) were told, “Do you really want your pet to be in pain?”

Having had a few children myself, and having nicely survived the painful ordeal, I knew my pets would do just fine.

Also, I’ve always had a hard enough time keeping my pets calm the next day, they being totally unaware that part of their innards were just surgically removed. It may have been around this same time period that people became “pet guardians” or “caregivers” rather than “pet owners.”

Dogs and cats were no longer pets; they became “fur babies” with human “mommies” and “daddies.” I think this attitude made it easier to play the “pain-free-at-all-cost” card.

Unlike human doctors who write prescriptions for drugs, veterinarians personally profit from each drug they use or prescribe since they stock and sell them.

Our organization, Pet Assistance, Inc. has hundreds of veterinary bills and estimates from hospitals throughout the country. They were sent to us by people asking for financial assistance.

The larger hospitals (emergency, specialty, and VCA corporate owned facilities) use maybe three or four different pain killers in the course of a single surgical or treatment procedure. Granted… many surgeries, especially orthopedic, may require serious pain killers.

But Fentanyl patches (supposedly 100 times more potent than morphine) are now being used for simple fractures and ordinary soft tissue procedures. Smaller, privately owned clinics...usually those owned by a dying breed (people my age) still operate successfully and use minimal, if any pain killers.

A large part of the problem is money. As a local veterinarian wrote in a recent letter to the editor, veterinary prices are high because younger vets need the money to repay their thousands of dollars of student loans and they have to equip their hospitals.

One way to recoup their investment is by selling products such as pet supplies, food, and drugs.

I can almost guarantee that in every pet owner’s refrigerator, medicine cabinet or cupboard there is a stash of unused painkillers and drugs that were never used for Fluffy of Fido because they were never needed.

We warn people not to leave their prescription drugs in places easily accessible to thieving addicts or teenagers looking for a quick high. Be aware: drugs that are over prescribed by veterinarians can enter the illegal market as well.

Ruth Pearl

President, Pet

Assistance Inc.

New Preston