March 19, 2013

Speaking for Spot: Dog Health Care Tips

The book cover

One of the toughest challenges a dog or cat owner faces, after learning the serious risks of overvaccination, is saying "no, thank you" when your veterinarian suggests it's time for booster shots.

Good girls and boys that we are, we just weren't brought up that way. He (or she) is a doctor. We want to trust. We want to believe. We want to respect authority. Underneath it all, I suspect we really want to hand over the responsibility to someone we feel is more knowledgeable, more competent than we. After all, what if we're wrong?

This understandable insecurity is one of the reasons I am happy to stumble upon Speaking for Spot: Dog Health Care Tips, authored by Nancy Kay, DVM.

Here's why she wrote it.
My book-writing journey was jumpstarted by a breast cancer scare of my very own. Three months of my life were blown off course by a myriad of diagnostic tests and conflicting opinions, all triggered by an abnormality on a routine mammogram. I certainly experienced a good deal of apprehension and uncertainty, but from the time my ordeal began until the moment it ended, the overriding feeling I had was that I was incredibly fortunate because I knew how to be a clever and effective medical advocate for myself. I knew how to ask important questions, find the right doctors, and make informed choices. An unnecessary surgical procedure was avoided because I did more than simply follow one doctor's recommendations. Rather than allow myself to be buffeted about in choppy medical waters, I managed to remain steady at the helm. I was able to transform what could have been an impossible medical maze into a clear pathway.

Thankfully, my medical saga had a happy ending (not a trace of cancer) as well as a substantial silver lining - it planted the seed from which this book germinated. Having benefited profoundly from my own medical advocacy skills, I had a strong desire to teach others how to do the same. Given what I do for a living, it made sense to begin close to home. Voila, the birth of Speaking for Spot! My hope is that this book will help you become a highly effective medical advocate as you navigate the often confusing, overwhelming, and expensive world of veterinary medicine. Who knows, you might just become a better medical advocate for yourself in the process.
A graduate of Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Kay completed her residency training in small animal internal medicine at the University of California-Davis Veterinary School.

She is a board certified specialist in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and published in several professional journals and textbooks. She lectures professionally to regional and national audiences, and one of her favorite lecture topics is communication between veterinarians and their clients. Since the release of her book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life, Dr. Kay has lectured extensively and written numerous magazine articles on the topic of medical advocacy and veterinarian/client communication. She was a featured guest on the popular National Public Radio show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Dr. Kay's newest book is called, Your Dog's Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet.  Her award winning blog, "Spot Speaks" is posted weekly (  

Dr. Kay is a staff internist at Upstate Veterinary Specialists, with locations in Greenville, South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina.

So if you have any reservations at all about rejecting your veterinarian's advice to vaccinate Spot or Fluffy annually, here is a well-educated, highly regarded, extremely compassionate doctor of veterinary medicine who is telling you the truth about the risks of annual vaccinations:

What’s the downside to your pets receiving three-year vaccines once every year? My concerns extend far beyond wasting your money. (Please pause for a moment while I step up on my soapbox!) Vaccinations are so much more than simple shots. They truly qualify as medical procedures because each and every inoculation is associated with potential risks and benefits. While adverse vaccine reactions are infrequent and most are mild, every once in awhile a vaccine reaction becomes life threatening. As with any medical procedure, it is only logical to administer a vaccination if the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Giving a three-year vaccine once a year defies this logic in that the patient is exposed to all the risk of the procedure with absolutely no potential benefit. How in the world does this make sense?!
According to Dr. Kay, it's a sad fact that six out of 10 veterinarians are still vaccinating annually. So chances are you're going to encounter a few die-hards before finding a wonderful partner in keeping your dogs and cats healthy.

I assure you that, with commitment and persistence, you will. 

 But if you still don't feel comfortable asserting yourself to protect your companion animal from a risky and unnecessary medical procedure, have a look at Dr. Kay's book. Just reading the table of contents, it's clear that she's offering tons of great advice to help you speak up for the health of Spot or Fluffy (as well as your own peace of mind.) 

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