Monday, October 31, 2011

The Dead Pile

OK, it's not just a catchy title, we actually have one. We have a box under the front desk where we put the deceased pet's files. I know it is gruesome, but it is a part of life here. We unfortunately lose a pet and by law we have to retain their records for 5 years. So we put them in a Bankers Box under the desk until the box fills up and then we get a new box. Further, I go through the box weekly.

I am not telling you all of this because it is Halloween, (which it truly is), but because it is truly true. I go through these files to see who has passed and to send out my condolence cards. I like to keep apprised of who has passed so I don't say something inappropriate to an owner, (I have done this before, not good). I also occasionally find a file of a particularly interesting pet that I want to talk about.

I went through the box yesterday and found "Skipjack." Based on my sailor background I like this name. It is a great name for a dog, especially a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. There was a time not too long ago where my husband and I were looking for a name for our then new cat, Jitterbug, and we went through all of our favorite nautical terms to find a good name. He liked "deadeye," "bollard," and "plimsal." I liked "dunnage" and "bowline." We settled on Jitterbug because we were making fun of each other getting old, and those phones they marketed to "old people" that the company presumed were too feebleminded to learn more than 9 buttons. (As I look around the Barnes & Noble I notice ALL of the patrons over 50 have iphones. Do they even sell Jitterbugs anymore?). Back to the point, I like his name, but I am not a big Chessie fan. I have yet to meet 1 I can do a full examination on. Now I know I am going to get arguments from many a Chessie owner. And "Yes, I know that your Chessie loves you, but they HATE me." It is hard to do an exam on a growling, hair-raised-down-the-spine-dog-already-more-than-it's-supposed-to-be dog. I have had to muzzle every Chessie I have met. Hence, I am not a fan. But OK, this isn't about me. The point of this post is to say that,

So I am going to highlight some things every owner should check on their pets. Especially if you have a pet that allows your Vet minimal cooperation.

Everyday you should check;
  • Eating. Is your pet eating the normal amount?
  • Urinating and defecating normally. That means looks normal, smells normal, done normally.
  • Gums for color. White is not the color they should be. I hope you look enough to know what "normal" for them looks like. And we are supposed to be brushing daily anyway. So brush and take note of gums and teeth.
  • Acting normally. The same behaviors, mannerisms, etc.
  • Ambulating (movement) normally. No limping, weakness, etc.
  • Standing, walking, sleeping normally.
  • I also do a overall body check everyday. For me I am primarily looking for ticks, because Jekyll sleeps with me and I don't like the idea of sleeping with ticks. But I also look for wounds, burrs, and painful spots.

If any of these are abnormal make a note describing what is different, for example, what? when? why? Are all good things to jot down. I think it is a great idea to have a place for all of your pets records, and a little journal in it too, to keep notes. Things like dates, time, number of occurrences, and what specifically you notice, really help us Vets figure out how to best treat your pets problems. A detailed accurate description could save you a lot of time and money in diagnostics.

Weekly you should check for:
  • Overall body size. I have hands that have been "trained" to identify an overweight/underweight dog. But you should also have your hands on your pet often enough to "feel" whether their weight has changed. A "BIG clue" in dogs with cancer is that they lose weight without their owners making any change in their feedings. In "feeling" for body condition we are feeling for the ribs, the spine, and the overall muscle mass. But we are also feeling for masses, growths, wounds, pain, lymph nodes, etc. 
  • I also think you should be checking, (or cleaning) ears, and
  • Trimming nails.

When Skipjack came in for his last visit he had lost 20 pounds.  He had gone from 90 pounds to 70 pounds. That is 22% of his body weight. So if you weigh 200 pounds, that is 44 pounds of weight lost. That is significant!. When he showed up for his examination and was weighed the Vet told his owners that he had lost 20 pounds and they had no idea. We see this a lot because a dense furry coat can "hide" a weight change. That's why we use our hands and feel every pet.

As it turned out Skipjack had lost weight because of his kidney disease. He had other clinical signs that weren't identified immediately because he was a difficult patient to examine. He had severe dental disease, (also because of the kidney disease), and was most likely urinating excessively (a urinalysis wasn't done so I can't verify this). There were a lot of clues that weren't as obvious because his health care providers weren't able to identify them. It is a challenge to spend more time and try to look harder in a patient that refuses to be a model patient. In these cases educating owners with "homework" and asking them to "take notes on their observations" can help identify problems earlier.

Behavioral Problems

It is not a surprise to me how many pets are surrendered based on behavioral issues. It is the reason Cesar Milan stays in business, and so widely popular, and why a huge amount of my business is dedicated to this topic. I have two staff members who specialize in "Behavior Modification." There is no shortage of business for them, but there is a HUGE shortage of clients willing to take responsibility and put forth the necessary time and effort in "correcting" the problem. In almost ALL of the cases the problem is not with the pet it is with the pet parent. There needs to be as much re-training of the owner as the pet. If there isn't a full commitment from everyone in the family to understand, identify, and start modifying actions, situations, and reactions the behavior training is unlikely to work.

I literally just got off of the phone with an owner who called to try to surrender his 8 yr old Lab mix dog to us. After a lengthy discussion and a few modifications in the underlying story it was revealed to me that they want to surrender their dog, (that they have had for 8 years, and adopted from the Humane Society) because they "got a new dog a few years ago, and the dogs have never really gotten along." The husband called to investigate his options with his dog, but stated to me that his wife "is done with her." It seems that the dog in question bit her on the lip because they had "been loving on the other dog." He further explained that the arguing between the dogs has been ongoing for the whole time they have had the new dog. (Point number 1, the longer you wait the harder it is to fix. This goes to every problem in life, doesn't it?) The owners have tried separating the dogs, crating one while the other is out, but the underlying anxiety has never been resolved. I also think that the dog he wants to surrender was his dog before the owners got together and the new dog is "their dog." I have a hard time with this. Do we treat children from prior marriages differently than the children from the "new marriage." Jesus, I hope not! Your Old dog is just as important as your new dog. And why are any of us surprised that a behavioral problem arose? (OK, silly question to myself, probably both are silly questions to myself.) Point number 2, if you treat your kids different, 2 or 4 legged you will probably get some resentment. The husband that called is feeling guilty about giving up his dog. If he wasn't he would have just surrendered her at the shelter. I did point out to him that a "surrendered dog, in most cases, especially an older, larger breed dog, often has a death sentence" if "surrendered." He was not aware of the fact that in the U.S. alone we euthanize millions of unwanted pets every year. He truly had no idea. Point number 3. If it is so easy for you to give away a pet that you have had for 8 years, why do you think the rest of society will be more responsible and compassionate than you are? I say that knowing full well, that much of society has a big generous heart and often does step up for a pet/child/person in need. I did want to ask him how many other dogs he walked by the last time he was at the shelter? It is ALWAYS full. There isn't a waiting list for dogs or cats, there is a freezer in the back full of "unwanteds", "unadoptables",  "behavioral issues", "surrendered", "caution/bites", "found/no owner."

I tried many times to help this owner understand that his dog was not exhibiting these unwanted behaviors as a personal attack against one or both of them. She was merely unhappy about something and trying to communicate that with you. Dogs don't speak in the human language, they speak in their own language. It is our job to provide them with a healthy, rounded home and environment, and understand that they have their own unique needs. This includes food, water, shelter, emotionally enriching, ability to exercise, mentally and emotionally stimulating, and free from fear and aggression from their owners. We all deserve this.

Before getting off of the phone I told him that he needed to sit down with his wife and go over the things that we had discussed. If they both weren't willing to commit to the time and effort needed this wasn't going to work. He told me that his wife wasn't "forcing him to get rid of his dog, but if he chose to keep her she had to go to the basement and not be a part of the family." How is this an an option? I urged him to try to call a rescue and place her, or call me back before that became an option, (or the euthanasia). How can that be fair? or be a life?

I also told him that I would worry, and keep his chart out, so I could check up on them later.

My gut tells me that this family can't put the time or effort forth needed, and that this dog, like so many others will become one of those shameful US pet euthanasia statistics.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snow on Halloween!

I thought I would keep it really light and fun today. Partly because it is almost Halloween and partly because it is our first official snow fall.

I love Halloween, just because it gives me a chance to celebrate fall, start my winter nesting, and I love to dress up. I mostly dress up the dogs, (they aren't such fans), but I also decorate the house.

Michele decorates the clinic (she does an AMAZING job, and she is a big Halloween fan too). We always have treats available around Halloween so please stop by. And PLEASE! bring your pet, (if they will let you), or foward a picture. We go crazy for the pet costumes!

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, no matter how you celebrate it.

Mom and Diedra, dressed as the Addams Family. 2010

Mom and Dad, 2010

Diedra, Mom,Lilly and Shelby

The staff, Diedra, Me, and Joe

Savannah, the mouse

Jekyll, the bunny, and Charleston, the black sheep

Jekyll the pumpkin

Jekyll the shark

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Ones I Left Behind, My Regrets

I know that I am one of the few people that can truly say out loud and with full confidence that I get to do what I love. Being a veterinarian fulfills me and my sense of purpose.

I have so many friends who go to work every day because they feel like they have to. Because they have people who depend on them to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables. But they all work because they have to. The endless grueling cycle of; wake up go to work, punch a clock and wait for the end of the day whistle to blow.
I go to work every day knowing that I will be faced with challenges, meet new faces, and touch a life. Sometimes it is a life that will never speak a thank-you, sometimes it is staff member going through their own life trial, and sometime it is just the opportunity to take my own dogs to work and spend the whole day with them. I am lucky and blessed on many levels. It took me a long time to get here and I am savoring every moment.
I met with a drug rep the other day. They stop by (usually without an appointment) with the hopes of stealing your ear for a few minutes. I am one of the few vets who let them in, spend time discussing their newest products, and their personal stories. As we sat down she asked me the routine questions, like, “How’s business?, the family? etc..” All were replied with a simple “Good.” 

The conversation migrated to asking me about “How long I wanted to own JVC?” I told her that “I still love veterinary medicine and owning a practice, that I am immensely proud of the work we do here, the dedication of my staff to saving pets, and to being so devoted and compassionate to our cause, and that quite frankly I know myself well enough to know that I don’t want other partners.” 

She then surprised me when she said that she “doesn't know many other female practice owners who feel this way. That most of them can’t wait to sell and get away from the pains of ownership.” I then confessed and told her that “I wasn't done with veterinary medicine yet. That I wanted to do more, to help more lives because there is so much need out there. So I am not done yet.”
As I look forward I am also looking back on where I have been. I am left thinking about some of the pets I have left behind. I feel as if I have failed some of them. I bear the burden of that failure every day, and I move forward with more conviction, dedication, and determination because of them.
My first scarring failure occurred when I was still sailing. I was house sitting for a friend who lived in a cute renovated row home in Fells Point Maryland. One early morning headed out her front door to go to work I saw a little 10 pound, 6 week old brindled Pit Bull puppy just walking down the sidewalk. He was only a few feet from the very busy road full of cars rushing off to work. I froze in my tracks. I felt so sure that within a second someone would come rushing down the sidewalk frantically looking for this little puppy. After about 30 seconds I couldn't sit by any longer. I couldn't sit by and watch this pup get hit by a car so I picked him up and sat on the front steps of her house with him and waited. I waited 20 minutes, and no one came. I now officially late for work so I put him inside her bathroom with newspaper, food, water and said a little internal “sorry” to both her, him, and my boss.

I rushed home at 4 pm and was greeted by a happy hungry puppy. I spent the entire evening walking around her neighborhood trying to find his owner. Three days of this went by. No posters, no missing dog report at the shelters, no owner. That afternoon he started acting really lethargic. He wouldn't eat, and he wasn't playful. Later that evening the vomiting and diarrhea started. It didn’t stop all night. At 4 am I drove him to the emergency clinic. As my luck, and fate would have it, I only had 2 more days on the ship and then I was done and could drive the 5 hours back to my house in Blacksburg, VA.
I presented my very sick puppy to a very cold, very matter of fact veterinarian. She told me that he had parvo. And she told me that he needed to be hospitalized, on i.v. fluids, and antibiotics, and that his prognosis was not good. I explained my situation to her, she offered to keep him for the next two days and then transfer him to a vet down by my home. She gave me an estimate of about a thousand dollars, and a poor prognosis. I remember sitting in that white linoleum waiting area trying to sort out my thoughts and figure out what I should do.
I told the Vet that I couldn’t afford to provide his treatment, and that he wasn’t really my puppy, (which is what I said, but not what I felt). So I had him put to sleep.
I have carried the guilt of giving up on him to this day. If the same thing happened now I wouldn’t make the same decision. And when someone walks in with a pet that they can’t afford to treat I offer them to transfer the pet to JVC and our pet rescue takes over the pets care. That day defined what kind of vet I was to become and what kind of person I wanted to be.
Three years ago I was working the evening shift. One of my receptionists came to me and said that she had just taken a call from one of our clients who told her that their dog had been run over by their lawn mower. They arrived a few minutes later with their 2 year old female boxer. Both its front and back left feet were taped and wrapped in blood soaked towels. I very quickly looked at the dog, and then gave her a much needed dose of morphine for the pain and to sedate her. I wasn’t going to take off her taped on towels until she calmed down. She was also going into shock so I need to replace her fluid loss with i.v. fluids. The whole time her parents stayed by her side, (not an ideal way to treat a patient, but I didn’t think she was going to make it so I wanted them to be there with her). Within a few minutes she was sedated and I needed to investigate what lay under those towels. The owners had told me that they thought the “front leg was minor but that the back leg was bad.” I also was told the story of how the accident had occurred.
It seemed that their 12 year old son was being tasked with taking over the lawn mowing. He did not want to use the riding mower because he was afraid. His dad then admitted that he had forced him to get on and start mowing. At some point he lost control of the mower and ran over the dog. Oh god, how could this get worse? A two year old dog that I knew very well, because I had done all of her puppy shots and spayed her, a young boy who was hysterical about injuring his dog, and a family that would now have to deal with the trauma of all of this. I started with the front leg because I wanted some good news. I took the towel off and the whole paw was gone. It was not salvageable at all. I took the other towel off and the foot was gone from the ankle down. I replaced the towels and added a tourniquet to each foot to try to control the bleeding. I then put their dog under anesthesia and I took the owners aside. I told them that a three legged dog can adjust and do well, but a two legged dog needed a prosthetic. I told them that their dog needed surgery now, and then probably more surgeries later, and multiple trips to a specialist for a prosthetic. I knew the cost of these treatments would be in the thousands.
They discussed their concerns and decided to put her down. I wish I had pushed harder, and tried to convince them, that their pet, and their child, would be impacted by this. I wish I had had them sign their Boxer over to us. I still think I could have configured some sort of “peg” leg for her, and she was so young, I wish I had given her a chance.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bailey's Beyond bad Belly, really it was Abominable!

I have introduced you to Bailey already, but I thought I would give you her full story.
I met Bailey on a Tuesday evening appointment. She was brought in by her owners who were in their mid-twenties and full of smiles. They told me that they had just returned from their 2 week honeymoon.  After the “congratulations” were exchanged I started to focus on Bailey. Bailey was a big (like 100 pounds) fluffy, (which makes you look even bigger) 2 year old spayed female white Husky. She had sky blue eyes, an open sweet mouth with her tongue was always hanging out. She was always engaged in her surrounding company, always very alert, and always a big cuddly, fluffy, sweet, gentle girl. She looked a little intimidating but she was as friendly as a Golden Retriever. I will say though, that for as friendly and gentle as Bailey is she also possesses that stoic, strong, impressive stance. She is definitely a big boy’s dog. Every manly man loves her. She is the dog my husband would pick if he could pick, (don’t EVER tell him he can pick, he can’t, sorry, that’s just the way it is in this household).
Bailey’s parents had left the care of her and their other dog with their parents while they were honeymooning in sunny Mexico. Their parents had called them and reported that “Bailey wasn’t acting quite herself.” Apparently everyone wrote this off as her just not used to being in a different house and missing her parents. Later their parents called them back to report that “Bailey’s gums were pale.” Now as soon as this came out of their mouths I wanted to scream! This is like telling me that you noticed that your child had had passed out, had a seizure and stopped breathing. I was waiting to hear that their parents had recognized the immense severity of this clinical sign and IMMEDIATELY brought her to the emergency clinic, but this never came. I let them continue to tell me about her, from the perspective of their parents. They went on to tell me that Bailey had seemed to wax-and-wane the whole time they were away. She wasn’t playing, or eating as well, then she would be a little better the next day and worse a day later. They also said that after their parents noted her pale gums they watched the gums very closely, and reported her gums were pale pink, then pale, then white, then got pale again.
I was writing all of this down as fast as I could, because it kept me from talking, and I was afraid my gasps and looks of horror might cause us to loose track, and Damn, I couldn’t really believe what I was hearing. After they told me about what their parents had observed I asked them what they had observed. I think that they had been pretty wrapped up in wedding plans, honeymoon plans, and each other to be too observant with Bailey. It was all very understandable. (FYI they told me that the wedding and honeymoon were fabulous!)
Bailey’s parents had just gotten back the day before and they too had realized that she just wasn’t right.
I started my examination of her. One of the things we have to “train” ourselves to do is understand what a “normal” gum color looks like in all of the different breeds of dogs. There are some breeds of dogs with very dark gums, it can be hard to tell the color pink when your background is black. And then the white dogs can have a red, pink, or pale gum. It is definitely a learned assessment. I looked at Bailey and she had what we call a “muddy pale” color. I did not like this at all. The second I see such a bad color I stand on alert and dig hard. There is NO way a pale mucous membrane pet is getting out my door without a lot of talking about my fears for their pet. AND just in case you aren’t getting my “I am really afraid” vibe yet, I will say for the record..
Every single person and pet with pale gums needs to be at the emergency room right now!
Further, if you or your pet, or anyone else, ever has a seizure you must go to the emergency room ASAP!  My dad actually came home one day and found their dog having a seizure, what did he do? He got back in his car, and drove to my mom’s work, to tell her. He left the dog at their house. He got a lecture from me later. Now I understand we don’t always respond correctly in the event of an emergency, that’s why I write this blog, and talk to my clients a lot.
Bailey’s physical exam also revealed an increased heart and respiratory rate, and a palpable mass in her belly. I discussed my exam findings with the owners. I wanted to do some blood work and take an x-ray. They told me they had a budget. I thought to myself, this was not the case to have a budget on.
The x-ray revealed an enlarged spleen, which had been what I suspected when I felt the mass in her belly, but thankfully no blood in her abdomen. I ran a PCV (packed cell volume to get a red blood cell count), because by this point it was after 7 pm and I couldn’t keep her in the hospital alone, and they told me they couldn’t afford the few thousand dollars a transfer to the ER would likely cost. Her PCV was 30, it is supposed to be mid 40’s. I told them I would have the blood work back in the morning and I wanted her back at the hospital by 9 am and left here for the day. I suspected that she would need her spleen taken out then, (splenectomy). They said “ok” left with a brochure for Care Credit. Care Credit is a credit card for those who need to pay for a medical procedure.
The next morning Bailey was dropped off with a large amount of trepidation from her parents who had been warned she would probably be having a surgery today, and a Care credit limit of $1500. Which we were pretty sure would cover her needs.
Dr. C looked at Bailey and to my surprise did not feel an abdominal mass. She did however see bailey urinate. The urine was bright orange. This is a big CLUE! I called Baileys owners immediately and told them our newest findings. We were now concerned that maybe she had Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Which made a little more sense, because Bailey was so young and splenic tumors are much more common in older dogs. I wanted to give Bailey an ultrasound but this was going to cost $200. They couldn’t afford this. So I tried to cut a corner. Dr. C and I tried to do an ultrasound on Bailey. Neither one of us has had enough practice to be proficient at ultrasounds. I was fairly certain that there wasn’t a mass in her belly, but we don’t have eyes trained well enough to distinguish the finer details of a trained ultrasonographer.
Because there wasn’t a mass on palpation, and we couldn’t see it on the ultrasound. We defaulted to the IMHA diagnosis.  We started her on a steroid, and sent her home. I wanted to see her in 3 days to re-check her PCV and immediately if anything worsened or changed. They came in 3 days later and then 3 days after that. Bailey’s PCV never changed. Neither did her demeanor. I wasn’t settled we were right. The next Monday, 6 days later I begged them to come back and let the very very well trained ultrasonographer take a look at her. I told them we wouldn’t charge them for this.
As soon as the ultrasound probe hit Baileys belly the ultrasonographer said. “Splenic torsion!, “ “you have to cut this dog now!” I very quickly called the owners and braced them for surgery, again. I told them that if we didn’t remove her spleen she would die.
Bailey’s surgery happened a few minutes later. Thankfully there were 2 other vets in the building. For a bad splenic surgery you need a few more hands in the belly. I have done probably 20 splenectomies in the last few years. When I looked in Bailey’s belly I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Her whole entire spleen looked like it had been tied in knots. I couldn’t even recongnize the surrounding organs. My heart sank. I had to look up, close my eyes, and take a few deep breaths. How was I going to break the news that she had an inoperable, beyond the worst thing I have ever seen abdomen, and that she was certainly going to die soon, and shouldn’t even be woken up from this surgery? I just sank.
This is what a REALLY bad spleen looks like
I asked Dr. E to help out. I needed another set of hands and eyes, and I damn well needed to be sure before I made that phone call. Dr. E scrubbed in and helped me lift out the tangled mess. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing either. That belly looked so bleak.
We looked at each other and I just said. “Let’s just start taking out what we know we need to, and let’s see what’s left.” “Okay,” she replied.
3 hours later, we had what used to be a spleen out and some completely unrecognizable structures that I think were really angry lymph nodes? Maybe? Without being able to explain it the stomach and kidney which were right up to, but not incorporated with the mass, were fine.
I closed her up, said a little prayer, and crossed my fingers. I called her parents and told them how lucky this girl was. And, how after seeing what was in her belly, how I couldn’t believe that she could walk, eat, live, not be screaming in pain, and how lucky we were that we did that ultrasound and didher surgery today.
Bailey walked out of the clinic the next day. She was actually wagging her tail, and eating. It took a week for her PCV to get back to normal. But I swear that dog is a miracle.
1 day post-op picture, going home

As a parting thought I told Bailey’s parents to RUN to the emergency room if she ever hints at not feeling well, because that girl can mask the most horrific illness. Talk about stoic, that’s an understatement!
1 week post-op

It has been about a month since Baileys surgery. She has done remarkably. And she has her sparkle and playfulness back. And her parents still have room left on their Care Credit. JIC they go away again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Minnie's Menacing Gracile Grimace

When I bought JVC about 6 years ago there were quite a few breeders who used our clinic. One of the breeders I met back then bred and raised Dobermans, Ms. White. Ms. White would breed and raise several litters a year. She cared about her puppies but she wasn’t very familiar with the breed. I really feel that one of the most important aspects of a Veterinarians job is to educate. I do a lot of talking to my clients about their pets. Shoot, I think I do a lot of talking period. I love to hear about my clients family, their pets, their hobbies, how their pets got their names, how their pets are doing in every aspect of their lives, everything. I feel compelled to talk about diet, exercise, preventative care, breed specific concerns, the whole gamut of every aspect of my pets, and much of my client’s life. I wear the hat of veterinarian, therapist, behaviorist, psychologist, nutritionist, etc, etc. I have some strong suits and some weaker suits. For example I really enjoy surgery, but I am not so great in reproductive medicine. My predecessor was what we “newbies” call an ”old timer”. Back 30 plus years ago we Vets did a lot of reproductive medicine. Remember 30 plus years ago Vets saw just as many cows, pigs, and horses as they did dogs, and honestly, they probably didn’t see many cats. They could teach me a thing or two, (probably a million) things about reproduction.
Well, Ms. White came in one day with her newest litter of Dobie pups. Now I have already admitted to you that I LOVE the puppy visits. Nothing in the world makes me happier than a puppy. I devote a huge block of my schedule when I see a “litter exam” coming in. I need extra time to hug, kiss, cuddle, smother, smell, and coo over puppies. When we entered the exam room Ms. White pointed out that one of the pups (they were about 6 weeks old) had an odd quizzical look. This little female puppy had a pretty severe head tilt. It was definitely noticeable, but she still had all of the charm, joy, and happiness of the rest of her littermates. Ms. White asked me if I thought that she would “out grow this condition?” I told her that “I couldn’t be sure, but I thought that there was a good possibility that she might.” I asked her if she “thought that the puppy had improved over the last few weeks?” She replied “no, I don’t think so.” I gave the puppy a thorough exam, to make sure that if this was a congenital defect that there weren’t any others we didn’t know about. I didn’t find anything but a sweet, exuberant, playful puppy who just had a crooked neck. I kissed all of the puppies goodbye and told Ms. White to call me if she had any questions or concerns.
4 weeks later I saw that Ms. White was on the appointment record to see another doctor for a euthanasia. I made sure that I stuck around until she got there to see who she was bringing in to euthanize. My greatest fears came true when she came in with her crooked necked puppy.
I interjected and brought her and the puppy immediately into an exam room. She began to explain to me that she had sold the rest of the puppies but couldn’t sell this one because of her head tilt. She also told me that her husband would not let her keep this puppy. So now comes the hard part for me. I have in the past jumped in to try to save a pet from being euthanized by its owner only to have the following happen; 1. I get really angry clients yelling at me, because I have "intervened in an already difficult decision" and “they have MADE THEIR MINDS UP AND SAID THEIR GOODBYES!” 2. I have had clients tell me to “mind my own business” like this clinic isn’t my business? I remind them it is. 3. they say to me “I work for them and I will do what they tell me to do.” That’s my favorite one so far. “Buddy,” I sarcastically replied, “I don’t work for you, and my conscious is not for sale.” He left, he reported me to the State Medical Board, and I still think he is an A-Hole. He can report me to the State Board for that too. 4. I have had some clients cry, and thank me for giving them an option that saves their pets life, because they didn’t think anyone could help them. 5. I have had clients march out, drive down the street to the neighbor vet in my town and have their pet euthanized there. So I took a deep breath and told Ms. White that we do not euthanize healthy pets at this practice. I then very quickly, before she could get a word in, followed up my statement with “you can sign her over to us and we will find her a home.”
I waited on the edge of my seat, and braced myself for an attack. She looked, paused, and then handed over the puppy. I think that she was relieved to have the offer on the table.
We named her “Minnie”. She stayed with us at the front desk for a week or two. During that time, Dr. Wilson, the previous JVC owner, came in and saw her. He immediately looked at me and said, ”You know that dog will be perfectly normal and outgrow that, don’t you?” I replied, “I hope so.”
Within two weeks one of our favorite friends and clients, CB, came in. She saw Minnie and immediately fell in love with her. She announced to all of us that she was “going home right now to tell her husband that she was bringing her home.” I think she wanted it to sound like she was being respectful and considerate in asking for his blessing, but in reality we all, husband included, knew she had made up her mind, and the matter was not up for discussion. She came in the next day and brought Minnie home.

2011 Pets With Santa, Murray on the left and Minnie on the right.
Over the next few months, we received photos, phone calls, and the funniest stories I have ever heard. She told me that Murray, her dog, was having a tough time convincing himself that he was happy to have a puppy in the house. Minnie would play, and pester, and bite, jump, romp, and annoy him until he snipped back as recourse to dissuade her. Problem is, all puppies just think they are playing back; finally. So they continue the annoyances until the play resumes again. Then there was the whole pool fiasco. See, Murray the lab loves to swim, so he jumps into the pool all the time, for a quick cool off dip. Of course, Minnie thinks that whatever her big brother can do, she can do. Labs float, Dobes don’t. So down to the bottom she went, and into the water her mom went after her. After re-learning that same lesson over and over again, CB finally decided she had to do something. So she bought her a child’s wading pool. Minnie loves her pool! She lays in it all day and avoids the deep section.

Within 4 months Minnies head tilt disappeared completely. She remains one of the happiest, sweetest, gentlest girl I have ever met. She truly is one of my favorite patients. And her mom, well, we all love CB too. We are really lucky to have such great clients who help us make happy endings.

Minnie in her 2011 costume, with Murray

Dr. Zantop

The Veterinary community lost a great Vet and an amazing Aviary medicine advocate and doctor. Dr. Zantop was co-owner of Fallston Veterinary Clinic. He specialized in Aviary medicine, was deeply respected by his staff, his collegues, and the entire pet loving community. He did a great deal of rescue work, especially for the rescue organizations in need of expert aviary medical care, but also served dogs, cats, and some pocket pets. I loved to hear the stories of the birds that were being cared for at his clinic. It amazes me to think of an owl, an eagle, a heron, etc, sitting in a cage next to the kittens, the puppies, and receiving their care just like, (ok, almost like), every other human-pet.

Dr. Long is the other co-owner of Fallston Vet. She is also one of my closest friends. Dr. Zantop's passing has really left the staff and her feeling like they lost a dear longtime friend. My heart goes out to his family, all of his staff, his clients, and his patients. I can't imagine how you even try to go on serving others when you are so distraught inside. I wish them all love and deepest sympathies.

Veterinarians are reminded on a daily basis how precious and short life really is. To be here for 59 years seems like it isn't long enough. To be so young, and to have worked your whole life and then pass so quickly and tragically is hard for me to fathom. My heart hurts for all of us. Dr. Zantop was a talented, respected, compassionate Vet, a loved husband, and an admired dad and boss, friend, and collegue. I toast to you, smile at the clouds, and kiss my pets in your honor. Thanks for all you did for all of us.

This is the obituary written for Dr. Zantop, in the Baltimore Sun: (there is also a photo of him in their article).

Dr. Donald W. Zantop, co-owner of the Fallston Veterinary Clinic who was noted for his avian rescue work, died Oct. 13 in a diving accident off Bald Head Island, N.C.
The Fallston resident, who was 59, had been collecting underwater fossils with friends when the accident occurred.
Dr. Zantop was airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., where he was pronounced dead.
The incident remains under investigation by the Coast Guard, according to news reports.
"My only consolation is that he died doing something he really enjoyed," said his high school sweetheart and wife of 39 years, the former Suzanne Merlo, who is hospital manager for her husband's practice.
"Don was a certified technical wreck diver … and had logged more than 800 dives," she said.
Dr. Zantop, who was born in Arlington, Va., and raised in Allen Park, Mich., had aspired to a veterinary career from the time he was 7 years old, his wife said.
He was an Eagle Scout, and after graduating from Allen Park High School, he enrolled at Eastern Michigan University. He later transferred to Michigan State University, where he earned his veterinary degree in 1976.
Dr. Zantop worked in a veterinary practice in Silver Spring for three years before becoming part-owner in 1979 of the Fallston Veterinary Clinic, where he specialized in treating small animals. He also was an avian and exotic animal practitioner.
"Don's death is so tragic. We go back many years to the early 1970s, when he came into the area not long after I started my career," said Dr. John E. Brooks, a veterinarian who is the former owner of Fork Veterinary Hospital and now manages Bel Air Veterinary Hospital.
"He had a strong affinity for avian medicine and was one of the pioneers … certainly in our area. He was the go-to guy in this field," said Dr. Brooks, who served as state deputy secretary of agriculture from 2003 until 2007. "He was committed to his community and veterinary community. He was the full package and the consummate veterinarian."
"Dr. Zantop was one of the 100 board-certified avian experts in the world," said Sharon Pfeiffer of Crofton, whose macaws, African gray parrots and cockatoos were cared for by Dr. Zantop.
"We were very lucky to have a vet like him in our area, and has been mine since 1997. He was just phenomenal. Some vets are good with animals and not people, but he was really good with both," said Ms. Pfeiffer. "He was a really good guy."
"He had a worldwide reputation as an avian veterinarian," said Dr. Greg Harrison, a veterinarian and friend of 30 years, who is also the founder of The Bird Hospital in Florida, and Harrison's Bird Food.
Kathy Woods founded Phoenix Wildlife Rescue in 1997, a Jacksonville, Baltimore County, nonprofit wildlife rescue organization.
"Don was the No. 1 … avian specialist in Maryland. He was a bigger-than life person who taught us our wildlife credentials, and that was more than 20 years ago. He was so damn smart," said Ms. Woods. "I was so inspired by him, and I wanted him to be proud of me when I was in the field. He was my hero and always treated me like a peer."
Since 2004, Ms. Woods has been state-certified to handle the recovery of injured bald eagles.
"He was the vet in Maryland who treated bald eagles. He'd do a $10,000 bald eagle surgery and only charge me 31 cents for the X-ray. He never charged us what he should have. He was always behind us and knew that we were a nonprofit," she said.
Dr. Zantop was the avian specialty exam chairman of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and president of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, the Mid-Atlantic States Association of Avian Veterinarians.
For the last 35 years, he had been a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and was president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association and was secretary of the Maryland Veterinary Foundation. He was also a member of the Greater Baltimore and Harford County veterinary medical associations.
Dr. Zantop wrote widely on avian veterinary matters in the Journal of the Association of Avian Veterinarians and was a co-author of "Avian Medicine: Principles and Application."
In addition to Phoenix Wildlife Rescue, Dr. Zantop provided pro bono medical care at the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, Wildlife Rescue and the Carrie Murray Nature Center in Leakin Park.
"Don was truly what we all aspire to be. We're far better off for having him in our lives. He gave us so much in making us better people," said Dr. Brooks. "He also reminded us that life is so fragile."
In addition to diving, Dr. Zantop was an avid sailor and who enkoyed boating in the Chesapeake Bay as well as the Caribbean, Belize and Thailand. He also was a world traveler.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 28 at St. James Episcopal Church, 3100 Monkton Road, in Monkton.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Zantop is survived by his daughter, Ettienne H. Zantop, a junior at Salisbury University; his father, Harold Zantop of Martinsville, Ind.; his mother, Barbara Wray of O'Brien, Fla.; three brothers, Michael Zantop of Fort Lauderdale, David Zantop of Belleville, Mich., and Douglas Zantop of O'Brien, Fla.; and two sisters, Melissa Zantop of Littleton, Colo., and Melanie Zantop of O'Brien, Fla.

Dr. Zantop's obituary, a wonderful write up of his life.,0,6284627.story

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Galliano's dad can curse like a sailor, Lucky for both if us I used to be one

Dr. C came to me asking me to call a client to discuss a mass removal surgery with them. She explained to me that the dog “Galliano”, an 8 year old spayed mixed black and tan shepherd, had been brought to the clinic because she was drinking large amounts of water. We call this polydipsia. She had performed an examination and some blood work on Galliano and found a very high calcium level and a mass in the rectum. For those of us vets this mass is usually an adenocarcinoma and has a very bad prognosis. I told Dr. C that I needed to see the Galliano before I could discuss the surgery because I needed to palpate the mass, identify how close it was to the really important structures that you need to keep intact if you want to be able to poop voluntarily, and because it is pretty close to impossible to give an estimate without seeing the patient. Well, here is where some of client communication broke down. Seems Dr. C thought that I was calling with an estimate and I was pretty positive that she was calling him to tell him to book an appointment. Galliano’s dad called a few days later angry that no one had called him. I picked up the phone to talk to him about his dog and was instead barraged by a very angry very foul mouthed man. He told me that he was “taking his dog to see another Vet because we obviously didn’t care about dogs!” I apologized for the mis-communication and told him that I believed he had been told by Dr. C that he had to bring in Galliano in for me to examine. I also told him that I was the last person on the planet that could ever be accused of not caring. Galliano’s dad finished the conversation with more profanities and then he hung up on me.
A few weeks passed and then the phone rang. It was Galliano’s dad asking to speak with me. I picked up the phone and he said, “I am sorry I was such an Ass.” I replied, “apology accepted.” He then went on to say, “I just left the surgery specialists office and I don’t have any money left to treat Galliano.” “Ok,” I thought, “apology accepted does not mean I will do your surgery for free.” I let him continue without my commentary. He was already angry with me once, and I got a lot of cursing, (believe me I spent 10 years at sea, I am a very good judge of cursing), I was going to keep my mouth shut this time. Galliano’s dad went on to tell me his latest saga in trying to get help for Galliano. He went on to explain that he had taken his records to Mainstreet Vet, to get a second opinion. They had in turn referred him to a veterinary surgery specialist. Once he had arrived there his dog was examined, bloodwork was taken, x-rays were taken, and an ultrasound was done. All of this was done as pre-operative testing. At the end of the day the Veterinary Surgeon came out and told Galliano’s dad and mom that they were awaiting the results and would schedule surgery as soon as they were in. The surgeon also presented them with a bill of $1100. It was at this point that Galliano’s dad started cursing again. Needless to say the meager budget he had for Galliano was spent at the referral office. In actuality he refused to pay most of the bill, and left without the needed (in an ideal world, (I don’t live there, I get to visit it sometimes)), pre-operative diagnostics. He was now calling to ask me if I could do the surgery on a payment plan.
I get the payment plan request a lot. I was foolish enough to try it when I first bought JVC. In three years I wrote off $50,00. Yep that’s right $50,000. I don’t do payment plans anymore. I politely tell people that I tried, it doesn’t work, and I end up broke and bitter. No offense, of course, because “yes, I am sure YOU wouldn’t do that to me, only EVERYONE else would.” And afterall, he had cursed me out. So I stood my ground and said, “no, I am sorry I don’t do payment plans.” Then we needed to re-open that whole can of worms about the fact that I still hadn’t even met or seen Galliano. Back to the painful discussion of needing to do an examination before I even think about signing myself up for surgery on a patient everyone else is trying to refer up the food chain.
I met Galliano the next day. She had terrible skin, (due to the enormous flea infestation she was crawling with), she was thin and had a very large, (golf ball sized) firm/hard mass encompassing the 6 o’clock to 10 o’clock position (we describe lesions on your rectum like a clock, gross, but true) in the rectum. To resect this mass I needed to remove about 1/3 of the rectum and I was likely going to damage the ring-like muscular tissue called the rectal sphincter which is what allows all of us to defecate willingly. Every owner, well, let’s just say, everyone, wants to defecate willingly. I told Galliano’s parents that I would do the surgery for them, and I gave them an estimate of $800. I also went over all of the possible complications. They left with a plan to return the following day with $800 in cash and to drop off Galliano for surgery.
Galliano’s surgery went very well. In spite of cutting a massive number of corners, she did great and I was hopeful that I had removed all of the cancerous tissue. We doctors believe that there are usually microscopic pieces of cancer left behind when we do a mass removal surgery. Or worse yet, that we have missed, or not been able to see/find small clusters of cancer that have spread, or taken up residency in other places in the body. It takes a rather large cluster for us to be able to see/find these on an x-ray. They are often there, but they are too small for us to be able to see yet. This is why the human side of medicine uses MRI to look for tumors, and follows up every mass removal surgery with chemotherapy/radiation.
I followed Galliano very closely over the next few weeks. She did great for 2 months. She gained weight, we got her terrible skin under control, and her incision healed remarkably. Unfortunately the financial constraints made her follow up care sporadic. We had planned on keeping her on a few medications for the long term. It became difficult for them to pick up her medications or bring her in for her re-checks. I spoke to her parents often, and I could hear the desperation in their voices as they reported her deteriorating condition.
The last time I spoke to them they reported that she had stopped eating. I once again urged that they bring her in, and they promised to bring her in as soon as possible. Two days later, they called to report that she had died at home.
I know that they truly loved her, and that they will miss her.
I called to check on them today. They told me that they were” doing ok”, and had actually gone to visit Animal Rescue already to get another dog.

Skunk's Sweet Tale

I have to admit it. I am a cat person. I mean I love dogs, A LOT! I have three, and they go everywhere with me, but my true love is a kitty, (you know, if I am forced to pick). I think it is the fact that a cat makes you earn their love, a dog is just an opportunist. Cats, they are a challenge that repays you with purring.
I understand that most people are dog fans. I sometimes blame it on experience, rather their lack of it, with cats. I think that if you get to know the love of a cat, especially on those cold snowy winter days bundled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a curled up ball of purring sumptuous fur on your lap, then you know what true joy and peace is. On the flip side, if you have ever watched a kitten tail all puffed up dancing on tip-toes playing with a scrap of paper jumping like a pogo stick Chinese fire cracker all sideways hopping, then you are witnessing pure bliss.
I met Skunk’s mom many years ago for the routine examination and vaccines. Skunk was a very important part of his mom’s life. She had had Skunk since she was a kitten, and they were very attached to one another. For the last few years of Skunk’s life she had intermittent bouts of gastro-intestinal upset. We had a difficult time trying to figure out what exactly would cause the episodes. I have a personal (I am a self-proclaimed cat-xpert, because I do have 6, and I dote on them like an over bearing mom) opinion that many cats have GI issues due to a few basic reasons. Here is my medical opinion for diarrhea in both dogs and cats. First check for intestinal worms, really we should ALL be doing this yearly, don’t skimp on this, your dog eats poop, your cat grooms profusely and catches and eats everything it kills. Check a fecal, save yourself those terrible pictures of what worms look like in YOU. Next, is a reminder that your pets eat things they shouldn’t.  If you drink water from the toilet, or a puddle, or lick your hands clean after you climb out of your litter-sand-poop-box then you shouldn’t be so shocked to have diarrhea every so often. In hind sight I do think that Skunk had a chronic GI issue probably related to diet (almost ALL cats get an inferior commercial cat food, “you get what you pay for, and you are what you eat”, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to get a good cat food from your grocery store). Please don’t underestimate how important a good diet is to your (yes, YOU and YOUR cat included) overall health. Try a bland diet (chicken and rice, or Hill’s Science Diet I/D) and a good probiotic (get it at your Vet’s office). Some pet’s, (and some people (see Crohns disease)) need a special diet lifelong.
With Skunk, she also had chronic persistent dental disease. I find that almost every cat over 5 years old needs a dental every 4 to 5 years. I also think it is almost impossible for the average human being to brush their cats teeth. I beg my Vets to check the molars of every cat at every visit, and I also break the Vet Laws by manually removing those huge hunks of tartar glued on the molars at every visit. Then I beg and plead with the owners to have their cats teeth cleaned. I wholeheartedly, fully admit, that 1 in 5 owners will actually pay for, and schedule, a dental for their cat. So for those other 4 of you I at least take some small solace in knowing that I at least removed some of the insulting tartar. (Ok, that’s a BIG can of worms, and I know many a Vet is now shaking their head, and pointer finger at me.) Skunk’s mom did have Skunk’s teeth cleaned, she did come in for every exam, and she did pay very close attention to her cat. She is a great example of how to do everything right, despite having a cat that seems to have everything wrong.
In the summer of this year Skunk came in with a mammary mass. Mammary masses in cats are notorious for being very invasive, fast growing, and have a terrible prognosis. We don’t see them very often but when we do it is a hard and sad discussion to have with an owner. There are surgical options, and there are Veterinary Oncologists who offer treatment plans, but I admit, based on personal experience most cats die within 6 months.
Skunk was euthanized 2 months after she came in and was given her poor prognosis. I know her mom was very concerned about her comfort level at the end. I spoke to her many times about the possible treatments available to try to alleviate her kitties discomfort. I always tell owners to keep me posted on every aspect of their pets life. I want to know if you think they are hurting or struggling, and I want you to know that there are many options available. Some are expensive, some are cheap, and some patients respond differently than others. So keep your healthcare team posted on how you are doing, and we are here to help you every step of the way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Delicate Dance of An Over-Possessive Owner

I have previously explained the intense bond between Mrs. Stompf and her little Yorkie Sydney. They were inseparable. But in many ways Sydney’s dependence on Mrs. Stompf was mirrored by Mrs. Stompfs dependence on her husband. Mrs. Stompf came into every appointment with a concern about Sydney explaining his problems in the third person. She was the primary care giver to Sydney, but she reported his problems from the voice of her husband. Now mind you, I never saw or met her husband. He was the elusive patriarchal lord of the house. I know that I made it more difficult for Mrs. Stompf to treat Sydney. Mrs. Stompf would bring Sydney in for me to see and I would try to get an opinion or answer from her about the concerns she was here to present me, but I could never get her take on them. It was an incredibly difficult position to try to be a health practitioner. It’s not like it isn’t difficult enough to try to understand your patient’s problems when they don’t speak. Try to unwrap the puzzle of a patient’s problem when they don’t speak and their caregiver is just the middle man messenger. Very difficult. Add to that your patient being brought to you for “old age issues” as reported to me from Mrs. Stompf who was told “to go to the Vet and tell her that Sydney is having “old age issues””.
I listened carefully, observed even more carefully, because sometimes I have to gather my most important clues from my patients by looking and not so much listening. I tried to probe Mrs. Stompf as to what those “old age issues” might be? She told me her husband had expressed concerns over the following; sleeps a lot, increased urination, sight and hearing loss. Oh, and she brought us a fecal. I questioned and probed for more clues, and came up empty handed. I then performed a very thorough examination on Sydney. I sat down with a very concerned and distraught mom. I told her that I thought some blood work and urine might help us figure out what might be going on with Sydney. I knew that she had some concerns about how much all of the diagnostics that I wanted to do would cost. I also knew that even at this point in our conversation Mr. Stompf was talking through his mouthpiece wife. We agreed that we could get a preliminary health picture with a basic blood profile. I tried to be very clear that I was here to help not only Sydney but also Sydney’s mom, take care of Sydney. My gut told me that Mr. Stompf did not want to pursue too much with Sydney. But I felt compelled to offer some assistance to Mrs. Stompf and I believed that some of his clinical signs may have a medical origin.
Sydney’s blood work revealed kidney disease which explained the increased urination. I tried to offer some suggestions for the treatment of kidney disease, and also offer some encouragement to Mrs. Stompf. She was cuddling Sydney stronger than ever, starting to sob, and holding back some burning questions and concerns. As I began to wrap up my dialogue and description of the disease, its process, and possible treatment plans she broke down. I understood that it was too much for her to take in, and she was too overwhelmed to comprehend the next step. I gave her a hug and told her we could continue our discussion on Monday. In hind sight, I think she went home to ask her husband what to do next.
She returned on Monday with “my husband thinks it is time to euthanize Sydney.” My heart sank. I didn’t want to give up on Sydney. He sat in her elbow on her arm as scared and consistent as he ever was. He was eating, drinking (alright maybe too much), urinating and defecating as he always had, and loving his over-clinging mom as much as ever. How could I assess his quality of life if it was just as it had always been? How could I interject anything if I couldn’t get the appropriate permission from his care giver? How could I ask his mom to go against her husband?
 I told her that we could try something to make him more comfortable, (it was also reported to me that he was pacing and circling and this was upsetting everyone). I knew it was a shot in the dark, but I told her that I was here to help them both with every step of Sydney’s care, and I told her to call me anytime.

One week later Mrs. Stompf came in to put her beloved companion Sydney down. She wanted to have his ashes returned to her. I am left feeling a deep sense of despair over her loss. I know how much she needed Sydney, and I know how much her heart most be hurting her over his loss. She is in my thoughts, and I carry her devotion to both her husband and her pet with me. Few of us will ever feel as cared for, loved, and devoted to as her Sydney was.

Your Vet, The Psychologist

Mrs. Stompf always carried her little Yorkie Sydney into the clinic the same way. He would sit up in the bend of hr elbow, front legs wrapped around her neck, head buried under her chin, and hoping that if he couldn’t see us then of course we couldn’t see him. (Perfectly sensible if you are a dog, or a three year old). She carried him everywhere. He is one of my patients that I wonder if he has ever felt a floor or grass under his feet? Although he seems perfectly content to not know what they feel like. And, I think his mom feels that he is safer in her arms. They have both built a very inter-dependent lifestyle around each other. They are each others’ security blanket. It is the reason many of us seek a pet. It is that unconditional love, acceptance and mutual need for each other’s company.

I am trying to recall if I ever saw Mrs. Stompfs’ husband escort the two of them into our clinic? She is a very good client, who is very devoted to her constant little hitch-hiking Sydney. She watches his every move, behavior, and action. Trouble is, I never get those reports from her in the first person. I receive every report from her in the third person. Well, actually, I get the reports from the vantage of her husband. He would interpret her observations and findings and then she would relay them to me. I would often ask her “what her thoughts are on whatever Sydney-issue of the moment we were discussing was?” And instead I would be told, “My husband thinks it is…” Those discussions were a little futile and frustrating for me. On one level I had to try to interpret for Sydney via a middle man, it's not like trying to identify a pets problem isn’t hard enough when they don’t speak, try trying to figure it out when your patient doesn’t speak and their caretaker doesn’t have their own voice.
Everywhere Mrs. Stompf went Sydney went. They were as connected as a pirate to the parrot that perched on his shoulder. Sydney was an extension of her. I understood very early on that these two needed each other as much as any pet and parent ever could. She needed his companionship, and he returned the devotion by being afraid of everyone (and thing) else in life. It is the reason many of us seek the companionship of a pet. It is the unconditional devotion, acceptance, and love that only a pet brings to our lives. It is the reason we are so drawn to pets, and it is the reason so many pets develop behavioral issues. Pets, in many ways, are like children. They are an independent complex assortment of genetics (that’s why my Beagle Jekyll can’t stop howling at the wind), and “learned behaviors”. If you never let your pet meet, greet, interact, or play with another person or pet they will think that anyone (and anything) else is something you fear. It is often a difficult, delicate dance we as Vets have to try to maneuver as we try to address the behavioral problems, (sometimes only the Vet recognizes the too tight tie between a pet and their parent) and not disturb or disrupt the bond between a pet and parent.
I think that the reason most dogs bite or mis-behave is a general lack of early appropriate socialization. There are many articles written about this, and a huge over representation of behavioral problems, i.e. separation anxiety, because single women over protect and over shelter their pets. In almost all cases they don’t even understand their part in the process, or that their actions influenced the end behavior. To this I would offer the following advice. Your obligation to your pet is in many ways the same as it is to your children. You are there to help provide protection and assist them into becoming an independent (almost) self sufficient part of society. Your pet needs all of the same training as a 3 year old does. No biting/hurting others, don’t be afraid of the world if you are with your friends/family, and we all need to eliminate in an appropriate place.
It is often a difficult discussion to have with a client. How to explain to them that the reason their dog bites at everyone else, tears up your house when you walk out the door, or can't travel anywhere is because you never introduced them to the world and the other people in it? I have learned that it is a delicate fine line between addressing the problem and not placing blame on the owner or resentment toward the behaviorist trying to help recognize, address, and treat the problems. And then there is the whole big can of worms where some owners don't actually want their companion to like anyone else.

The following is from "New Dog Choosing Wisely and Ensuring A Happily Ever After" by Dr. Bruce Fogle. I love this book. It is a great resource for all owners, but especially the owners looking for a new pet.

And also some information on Behavioral Problems from The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Break From The Present To Revisit The Past

I am going to take a few days off from the vet life and the blogging life.

Awful as it sounds I am soo looking forward to a new state of mind. I am heading to NYC tomorrow for my 20 year college reunion.

I can't believe I am really that old!, and that it has been two decades since we were all together inside the gate. We all have our own lives, and we are all scattered around the globe. I will see some friends that I haven't spoken to in 20 years, and some that I see and talk to almost weekly. Oddly, some of my classmates work with my husband, and ironically many of them still make a living on the high seas. For as much as we have grown apart we all still share one of, if not arguably, the most, defining part of our lives. We saw each other at our lowest points, (the constant barrage of stress and subordination, brings even the strongest to their knees), and we have seen each other through the happiest moments, (the weddings and the past reunions and celebrations). I feel profoundly lucky to have been a part of such a small tight knit group of people. I also feel grateful to not be living the life I was trained in that college to live anymore. I can't imagine my life with the starts and stops that you have to live with when you are going to sea for four months at a time. It ruins any continuity with anything. Families included. It ruined many a relationship. For me it ruined almost every relationship. I lost friends, or couldn't make them, because I was always a part-time resident of every place, and I lost pets, relatives, and a husband. It is good money but at a price too high for me to pay any more. I went to Vet School to get out of the Merchant Marine. It was the second best decision I ever made.

I popped into the clinic a few minutes ago to drop off our three dogs, and Jitterbug, (he is 2 years old and can't stay inside by himself for four days), and Wren, the baby. It is like dropping my kids off at camp. I know that they are far safer there than anywhere else on earth (short of being with me, of course!). I leave them with blankets, treats, leashes, and detailed instructions. I know the staff will take excellent care of them. I know this because I have an incredibly caring and dedicated group of people there. Certainly being the boss means they get more visibility, but they are with me at work everyday, so they are comfortable at the kennel on their own campus.

But in true form, I want all of you to know that when I come back on Sunday to pick up all of my cats and dogs the following will happen; the dogs will act like I was gone for a year and a half (secretly we are all flattered and gushy that they love us and miss us that much, aren't we?). They will jump, squeal, kiss, dart, and smother Joe and I. And my place in the universe will be re-solidified. The cats, well, Jitterbug will scream and howl in the crate on the way home, then be right back to normal as soon as I release him in the house. Wren, will do what she does best; snuggle and nuzzle in my neck, (in all honesty she does this to everyone all the time, but I will soak it up, and kiss her and tell her that I missed her very much too.)

So you see, as much as I like, (and NEED) to get away, I like coming back even more. Just because I love my pets soo much, and I love my life, my job, and my practice, every bit as much.

Bon Voyage Amigo's! I will be in NYC painting the town red, dragging my husband all over the grid, buying more than he can carry, and then re-living the good ole days with my old college friends. I'll talk to you all next week.

And I'll post pictures!

Here are some from 20 years ago, plus, at USMMA

 And here is one from a ship, with two friends, on the bridge wing, getting ready for another trip to sea. 1995ish

Ok, Here are the 20 year Homecoming Kings Point reunion Photo's. It was great to see my OLD friends.

For more information on the United States Merchant Marine Academy, in Kings Point, NY. Please see their website here..Or find me at the clinic Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice. 

For any pet questions you can ask me for free on

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