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Matthew Sisk: Not all bad things that happen to pets can be prevented
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My tooth hurts.

As I sit at my laptop writing this column, it’s doing this annoying ache thing. It is not quite a throb, but enough to make me feel like a small fire is simmering in my jaw. And the muscles are cramping. It’s not fun.

You see, about six years ago, I had a root canal and a crown placed on a tooth that had passed its best days. I floss and brush, but my genetics apparently aren’t the best for premolars.

Now, the root canal has failed. I’m on antibiotics and pain control, but my tooth may be doomed.

I mention this in the pet column, because it’s a parallel to veterinary medicine. I have no ill will toward my dentist. He is competent and did his best. But with medicine, as with life, not everything goes your way. Even the best dental work may fail in the future. It’s not malpractice. It’s life.

The same is true for your veterinarian. Now that’s not to say malpractice is impossible in veterinary medicine. It is. But if some unfortunate complication does arise, please consider your veterinarian may not be incompetent. Bad things happen. We use preventive medicine to avoid as much danger as possible. But sometimes, things happen.

Every time you break the skin of your cat with a needle to inject a vaccine, a chance of infection is possible. After all, you made a hole in the skin.

Every time your veterinarian prescribes antibiotics for your dog’s bladder infection, the drug has a greater than zero risk of causing an allergic reaction. That reaction could be deadly. It’s not likely at all, but it is possible.

Some anti-inflammatory drugs can have individual effects that lead to kidney or liver damage. When your veterinarian uses these for your pet, it’s with a knowledge of the risk and an informed comparison of the benefit versus potential for side effects.

Every time you feed your pet, there’s a chance they could choke to death. Never feeding them will kill them, too.

Remember, complications are rare. But malpractice is rarer.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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