How to cut vets' bills at a stroke

Ann Treneman
Sunday 01 June 1997 23:02

My cat Eartha Kit is thrilled with the news that she can now be treated on the NHS. "Yes! No more vet waiting rooms and no more moans from you about the bill," she crowed, pawing at the headline that said "Patients play sick to get pets drugs". She then sat on the newspaper page until I agreed to read it.

Evidently, the NHS could be spending as much as pounds 1m a year on treating people's pets. That comes about because people go to the doctor and pretend to have the same illnesses as that of their cat or dog or whatever. One dog-owner had been prescribed suppositories for her arthritis but was giving them to her poodle. Another was collecting insulin for her husband but giving it to her pooch instead. It certainly saves on the vet bills but could be worrying for the husband.

There is something rather sinister about all of this and I think it is best not to mention it to children. At the moment one of mine is trying to improve the quality of life for woodlice. That involves capturing them, imprisoning them in a glass jar and feeding them greenery. Every attempt so far has resulted in escape or illness followed by sudden death. The last to go were Rosy and Diamond and another charity case could arrive any day. I'm sure that impersonating a woodlouse in an attempt to procure medical treatment is illegal.

Eartha is disdainful of the woodlice argument. She is a militant animal rights campaigner but only for certain animals. In fact the only animals on her list are felines. Vets, she says, are harmful to feline mental health. Even thinking about the waiting room makes her a basket case: the flea powder aroma, the huge slobbering dogs, the yowling humans.

We have to endure this because Eartha has been on HRT on and off for years. Something to do with getting spayed too early. She also has a problem with thinning hair near her tail.

She is now set on the idea that I will go to the doctor for her. I refuse, noting that being sectioned under the Mental Health Act is not one of my goals in life. Of course the one thing that makes sense about all of this is that I, too, hate going to the vet. The cat-leukaemia posters are terrifying and so is the bill. Evidently pet antibiotics cost pounds 33.35 for 100 tablets compared to pounds 5.75 for humans'.

So here is an idea. Why not bring some form of veterinary service partially inside the NHS? Doctors and vets could work from the same buildings and it would be more convenient all round. Pet therapy would boom and it might prove a money-spinner.

Eartha likes the idea but is more interested in making sure her own plan is carried out. In fact, she says she will leave if I don't go the doctor. I tell her that a pet is for life. She says that is a marketing slogan that exists to make people feel important. A human is not for life, she says, and stalks out the room. Perhaps just one appointment wouldn't be such a bad idea.

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