This week, we’ve called on our favorite expert pet owners to answer your questions about the unruly critters in your life. Faux Paws is Slate’s pet advice column. Submit questions here.
Dear Faux Paws,
I’ve been living with my roommate and his small dog for a couple of years now. The dog is a senior citizen.
My roommate hasn’t taken her to the vet in over ten years. He even brags about it! The dog is sweet, lively, and definitely has several years left in her, but I can’t avoid seeing the obvious health problems as well: infections from a decade’s worth of earwax buildup, swollen anal glands, etc… Recently, the dog has been rapidly losing weight. I’ve begged my roommate to take her to the vet, even offered to pay for a visit, but have been told “She’s just being dramatic.” I’m pretty sure she isn’t even on file with any vets. I’m moving out soon. Before I go, can I take this terrier to a clinic without permission? I don’t know the legality or etiquette of it, but I love this dog and hate to see it suffer from things a routine check-up could easily fix. How do I deal with the fallout from my insane roommate afterward?
—Pet Theft In Pittsburg
Dear Pet Theft,
This makes my blood boil. People who refuse to take their animals to the vet should not have animals, period. I can’t speak to the legality of whether you can take someone else’s dog to the vet, but I do urge you to think about the bigger picture. If you take this dog to the vet, she will likely need medication, which you will be unable to give her since you are moving away. Does your roommate even like his dog? Is there any way he would agree to let you take her with you when you move?
You should also look up animal cruelty laws in your state. In some states, it’s considered animal cruelty to deny vet care. If that’s the case in your state, you could report him to animal control or the humane society, anonymously if that helps keep the peace. Alternatively, you could use this legal issue to apply pressure in an attempt to convince your roommate to take her himself.
Ultimately, though, I want to tell you this in the kindest way possible: It’s very likely this wonderful dog does not have several years left in her. You mention she is already very old, and rapid weight loss can be a sign of very serious, terminal conditions like cancer, as well as some more minor ones like a toothache preventing her from eating well. But even minor issues, without vet care, can turn into major issues. I still think the dog needs medical care, and that your roommate shouldn’t own this dog, but ultimately, a simple trip to the vet may not be the quick fix you’re thinking it will be.
More Advice From Slate
I recently adopted a dog, and I’m experiencing extreme buyer’s (adopter’s?) remorse. He gives me a massive amount of anxiety. I spend all day worrying that he’s going to destroy my apartment. When I walk him, he scares me because he tries to charge other dogs. He can’t be left alone with my girlfriend’s dog because they got into a fight early on and actually drew blood. The long and short of it is that I don’t want to keep this dog. I’m sure he will be a wonderful dog for someone, but I don’t think I can give him the care and training necessary to get there. I attempted to talk to my girlfriend about it, and it devolved into a huge argument.