I consider death pretty serious. Now then ...
I was watching television with my son, forcing him to endure an hour or so of shows I wanted to watch (i.e. anything without a cast of overenthusiastic pre-teen "actors" and a laugh track).
Once he settled down, realizing I wasn't going to give in to his demands for Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel or Cartoon Network, he began watching the program, an innocuous home improvement show, in earnest.
The program wasn't the problem - it was the commercials.
"Mom!" my son exclaimed at one point, "It's ANOTHER commercial for pills!"
His pronouncements became more urgent with each successive ad.
Thanks to his alerts, I became painfully aware of these ads.
But could I find a pain reliever for it, I wondered? I saw pain reliever ads for arthritis pain, headache pain, back pain, tension headache pain and menstrual pain.
I didn't see any for painful awareness.
During one inordinately long commercial break, we were urged to call the doctor to inquire about no less than five prescription medications.
I know, because I counted them.
Keeping all of this in mind, I am wondering why owners are surprised that their veterinarians also can offer various prescription medications for their pets.
Did you know that we have a drug to treat senility symptoms in old dogs? Owners think I'm joking when I mention it.
But, it's not only real, it works in many cases.
How do you know if your dog is senile? He starts to forget stuff, like where he put his keys, where he should urinate and defecate, his name, who you are, where he parked the car - dog stuff.
From prescription heartworm control medications and dewormers, to pain relievers, drugs for behavioral problems, heart problems, breathing problems, thyroid disease, urinary tract problems - including incontinence, and now, a drug to aid in weight loss for obese animals, we've got a lot to offer.
We've also got a lot to explain, since the "magic" pill hasn't been invented.
What do I mean?
It's the same reason you're urged to call your doctor about the medications you see on television: education.
The drug companies can make you aware of their products, but the doctor, or in my case, the veterinarian, is responsible for making sure you know the details.
Sometimes, this is easy, sometimes not.
Take pain relievers, for instance. You can't watch prime time television without seeing many, many ads for different types of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for people. Celebrex, Advil, Aleve, Bayer aspirin, to name only a few.
Why so many? Because not all of them work on everybody, and some cause more side effects than others.
In the same vein, the veterinary field has developed its own NSAIDS, for the same reasons.
And, since all of these drugs are slightly different, there is more for the doctor to learn and be able to communicate to you about their use.
We also must keep in mind that when dealing with animals, the warnings may be very different between species.
For instance, most people nowadays are aware that Tylenol and aspirin are quite toxic to cats.
Aspirin has fallen out of favor for dogs with chronic pain, with the advent of newer, more effective drugs with fewer long-term effects on the GI tract and blood clotting mechanism.
One of the important things to remember about veterinary prescription drugs is that they mimic prescription drugs for humans - none are without side effects or warnings.
And yes, just about all of them, if you read the fine print, may cause death.
This wigs people out. Nobody wants to risk their loved ones' lives for any reason.
Although side effects may be scary, they have been with us as long as drugs.
Even seemingly innocuous herbs can be toxic.
The best policy when deciding whether or not to use a prescription drug, be it for yourself or your pets, is to discuss it and your concerns with the doctor.
Being informed is being empowered. Know the risks, and follow the prescribing doctor's dose and recommendations for monitoring.
By "follow the prescribing doctor's dose" I mean give the medicine as directed.
If you have concerns about the dose, or something doesn't seem right to you, ASK.
Many times, we hear about pets not getting better, only to learn that they were not given the medication at the correct dose.
Less is not more, and more may be detrimental.
As for monitoring, veterinarians tend to recommend blood tests or other objective diagnostics in addition to our follow-ups to watch for trouble in its early stages.
Animals can't describe how they feel. Medicines, especially those given long-term, can cause various organs to work harder to clear them from the body, and eventually cause these organs to malfunction.
Many medications' dosages should change with the development of other diseases such as kidney disease or heart disease, which may happen spontaneously, especially in our older patients.
Also, many senior patients need multiple medications at once, which can have other consequences.
Now that my kids are in bed, my cats and I have some important TV to watch.
At least I know that the cats won't beg me for toys or sugar-coated sugar if they watch my shows.
And, since I know they definitely don't suffer from insomnia, they won't beg me for sleep aids, either.
As for that juicy cheeseburger, I'm not so sure.
They may just want the burger for the toy surprise that comes with it. They are cats, after all, and cats love toy surprises.
My biggest concern is that I may be part of the target demographic for the ads that appear during the TV programs I enjoy.
If that's true, I may suffer from restless leg syndrome, insomnia, depression, high cholesterol, various pains, rheumatoid arthritis, an irregular GI tract, menopause and PMS, osteoporosis and COPD.
I know I don't have erectile dysfunction, so for that one, I'm off the hook.
Of course, if I have developed Alzheimer's, I may have forgotten some important stuff.
The fact that I may need a vitamin-mineral supplement that will cause me to look forward to taking it above all other things each morning frightens me.
I'm wrestling with the urgent ads for me to ingest sandwiches larger than my head, followed by miracle diet pills, followed by diet programs that actually will deliver food to my door, all with "results not typical."
With other disclaimers in these commercials that tell me if I take the medicines, I may develop various detrimental symptoms, including death, all I can say is: I'll take it!
One ad goes so far as to urge those who develop hives, trouble breathing and a severely swollen tongue as a result of taking the medicine they're pitching, to call their doctors.
I am mildly concerned that if I develop hives, trouble breathing and a severely swollen tongue, my doctor may not understand me when I call.
Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital.