Friday, January 13, 2012

Kitty Care in Spain

On 20 December my cat Felix became ill with what turned out to be acute Pancreatitis.  That evening I took him to the vet where he received two shots: one antibiotic and the other for I’m-not-sure-what, either for pain or to aid his digestion.

The next day we were back for another shot of antibiotic.  If he had improved, the improvement was slight.  Either that day or the next the vet took a blood sample to determine what the trouble was, and that was when Pancreatitis was diagnosed.  On Friday he still seemed poorly so the vet hooked him up to an intravenous and kept him at the clinic overnight.  The next day I went in to get him since they said he didn’t need to be hooked up any longer and of course would be more comfortable at home.

For about two weeks, Felix had to go in every day for an antibiotic shot.  Marcel, the vet, came in for Christmas to see him as well as the following day which is also a holiday here.  At some point early on, I thought that maybe the time had come to put Felix down since he was hardly improving.  I am very much against overdoing medical treatments for pets.  It’s not just the money, but I strongly believe that if the prognosis is poor or the animal is suffering, it is kinder to end their suffering, something we can’t do for our loved ones or ourselves.  In that way, our pets are the lucky ones.

But Marcel had assured me that although his recovery was going slowly, that was to be expected with ailments of the pancreas, and that he was, in fact, getting slowly better.  He didn’t think that Felix’s time had come yet.

I don’t have a count of how many visits we actually made.  At some point around New Year, Felix graduated to pills and didn’t have to go in daily any longer, although we still had to make visits.  The 9th of January was Felix’s last visit.  At that point I paid for about two weeks of daily visits (including holiday visits), two weeks of daily injections, the blood tests, an overnight stay with the intravenous, and the antibiotic and digestive control pills they had given me to give him at home.  The total bill was 162 euros.

This incredibly low bill had nothing to do with socialized medicine for pets.  I have had arguments with some Americans who think that socialized medicine for humans would rob them of some kind of freedom – freedom to choose their doctor or to have to be on a waiting list for treatment, or I-don’t-know-what.  These people invariably point to Canada as a country where socialized medical care does not work well.

I don’t know anything about Canada’s health care system.  So I tell them that if they looked at Europe, they would find that all the EU countries has socialized health care and many of these countries have systems that are enviable and that compare favorably with that of the US private system.  In any case, anyone covered by the national scheme who wants private care or a private supplement, can buy it here at small expense.

The reason for this is not only that the national systems are paid for by tax payers.  It is also because doctors here (and pharmacists) do not make as much money as American doctors do, and insurance companies do not get rich off of health insurance.  The fact is that health care in Europe is regarded as a service and not as a business and that, I believe, is the heart of the matter.

Do I digress?  Not really.  Because it seems to me that health care for pets is also considered a service more than a business and that alone can account for the relatively tiny bill I received for so much care for my sick cat.  And for that I am very grateful.


  1. Hi, I'm an American living in the UK and I really can't see why the average American, especially parents, would prefer the US health system over the UK's National Health Service (NHS)- and i'm assuming that you get a very similar service in Spain as part of the EU? Yes there are some advantages in the States, like having a pediatrician for your child and an OB when you are pregnant. But, the referral system here is quick and the advantages by far outweigh the drawbacks. But it's not only the Americans who poo poo the NHS. Over the years, I have listened to mainly British parents complain and at times express utter outrage about their terrible experience with the NHS. I do not doubt their unfortunate experiences, but I still believe the alternative (apart from going private), would put them in a much riskier and stressful situation.

    As for pets, in the UK - it seems I pay more for my cats' treatments than for my own children! This is very much more of a business than a service I think. And this would be the same in the States too (but maybe considered even more so a business).

  2. People also forget that many people have had bad experiences with expensive private care too. That, somehow, tends to be left out of the argument. This is not to say that public health care is worse than private, only that private is not necessarily a guarantee of quality care. France, for instance has the highest rating of health care for any country, and theirs is a public system.