Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kids at the Vet

It’s that time of year again. It’s that sun is shining, school is out, everybody seems happier time of year. It’s also a time of year that many businesses, including veterinary practices, experience an influx of often loud and energetic young visitors. Because the kids are not daily cooped up and getting an invaluable education at the schoolhouse — we at the veterinary hospital see many sun-kissed, flip-flopped youngsters who look like they just got out of the swimming pool to tag along with their parents or grandparents for Fido’s trip to the vet. Man, to be a kid again.

I, for one, am always excited to see kids at the clinic. I remember as a young girl taking our dogs to the vet with my mom and dad. These childhood clinical experiences, as well as an innate love of animals and people, powered my drive to become a veterinarian. You never know what may trigger a passion or even interest in a career in a young person. I love the idea that everyday experiences like taking the family dog to the vet can enhance knowledge and overall personal life experience.
I see a large variety of kiddos at the clinic. Many of them seem genuinely excited to be there, however, some of them are more shy and stand-offish. I have seen the out-going inquisitive type, asking me questions every step of the way who are eager to tell me about this pet and all of the other pets they have ever owned. As their accompanying adults sit back and beam with pride, many children are very helpful and clearly take an active role in the responsibility of owning a pet. They even help answer my questions regarding the patient’s eating habits, mobility concerns and strangely they are sometimes the ones who know the most detail about their pet’s bowel movements and urinary habits.

This is in stark contrast to the times I walk into an exam room full of juvenile-influenced chaos. I have seen red-faced tantrums, siblings pushing and punching, exam tables turned into active diaper changing tables, creative rearrangements of all of our retail products that live on the lowest (and most accessible shelf), kids slamming cabinet doors and discovering that, yes, the light switches do turn the room lights off and on no matter how fast you flip them. In these rooms often I find pets who are feeding off of the stress level. A trip to the veterinarian is at least to some degree very stressful for most pets, but when you add screeching and tumult in a tiny exam room with a bunch of little bodies, it increases the stress level for poor Fido and miserable Whiskers by ten-fold easily. Keeping the chaos to a minimum is a goal to be achieved with every child-accompanied vet visit.
Children are always most welcome to attend their pets’ appointments and I encourage it wholeheartedly. However, keeping each pet’s stress level in check is also very important for the mental health of the pet and for the safety of the veterinary team and owners alike. If Whiskers has been pushed to the breaking point by one too many shrieks in his ear and pinches while Timmy is manhandling him, then no one in the room is safe from Whiskers’ inevitable out-lash when being examined and vaccinated.

Teaching children proper pet respect is important for the child’s safety. Getting children to ask an unfamiliar dog’s owner for permission to pet a dog before approaching is basic safety and helps prevent many dog bites. Many children do not have an understanding of what a friendly versus a non-friendly pooch may look like. Just because their family dog appreciates their embraces, dogs in veterinary lobbies often have enough stress to deal with in their life and may not like hugs.

As a veterinarian, I get to hang out with kitties and puppies all day long. Getting to interact with the kids that come with them is just an added bonus to my job. As summer picks up full swing, the veterinary hospital becomes a little more lively and boisterous with the pitter patter of little feet visiting with their furry friends. While these visits can be enriching experiences in a young person’s life, keeping our pet patients stress-levels to a minimum helps keep the smallest of our clients safe and happy. When Timmy and Suzy are safe and happy, they will be able to look forward to future visits where they can regale me with stories of their dog’s pooping abilities. Perhaps memories of happy stress-free appointments will help Timmy or Suzy become the next generation of veterinarians.

Author:  Dr. Marisa Tong
Image courtesy of artur84 at

Monday, June 16, 2014

If I Could Do It, Anybody Can

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Sometimes, even a ton. As a veterinarian, I've essentially preached something similar to pet owners and farmers alike my entire career. “Heartworm test your dogs, vaccinate your cats, spay and neuter them all, and de-worm your sheep!” All of this was done with the intent to keep animals healthy and prevent the spread of disease in the population.

As a 53 year old, however, there was something I had been putting off for quite some time, something that was widely and highly recommended by the human medical profession — the dreaded colonoscopy.

Oh, I've had my old man prostate examined three times already, thank you, but there was something about this other procedure that seemed more, for lack of a better term, “invasive.” Plus, I had heard horror stories of hemorrhaging and perforations. The real reason, though, I'm ashamed to admit, had more to do with squeamish modesty and privacy concerns of having my “you know what” out there for all the world to see.

But this spring, in a rare mature moment, I decided that was stupid thinking and it was time to schedule an appointment. The young lady at the check-in desk mentioned that I looked familiar.

“You probably never forget a … face,” was blurted out nervously. I thought I was hilarious. My wife apologized.

Nonetheless, the girl was right. I was there two months prior for my wife's colonoscopy. Okay, so I made the mature “colonoscopic” decision if Bonnie went first. It was lambing season, after all, and I couldn't afford to be out of commission during the preparation. Besides, truth be told, she's braver about such things. Most women undoubtedly are. This was her first colonoscopy, too, however, and we are the same age. What was her excuse? I'm guessing it was me.

Thankfully, she did go first, because a valuable lesson was learned regarding the gowns which would have been the death of me. After giving the order “Everything off but the socks,” her nurse exited the cubicle, leaving my soon to be naked wife and I with what appeared to be a flat sheet, a couple of ties, and snaps that made no sense. With 14 years of college education between us, you'd think we could have figured it out. Nope. After what seemed an eternity, we called for help. The snaps, if properly aligned, were to form the arm holes — a lesson not forgotten.

When I received that same command two months later, the first thing checked were those darn snaps. My gown, fortunately, came pre-snapped, and within seconds I was up to code and safely tucked in the bed.

Not long after, the doctor entered the “room” to explain what was going to happen during the procedure. He went on to say that colon cancer is the most preventable cancer there is, and most colon cancers begin as a small out-pouching of tissue called a polyp, which over time can become malignant. If any were found, they would be removed and biopsied.

I really didn't think he'd find any, though, because I had no problems in that department, if you know what I mean, and fecal occult blood screenings after my yearly man exams were all negative. Still, my family physician had always cautioned me that a person can have colon cancer with no discernible blood.

In the procedure room, I asked the nurse how many colonoscopies they did per day. “About thirty-five,” she replied. It was then I felt myself begin to relax as I realized my “you know what” wasn't going to leave much of a lasting impression on them. After the sedation was administered, I bid the team “good luck,” and as far as I was concerned my first colonoscopy was over.

I awoke, what seemed like seconds later, to the sound of my wife and doctor talking. Guess who had a polyp? Apparently my own colon health assessment was not very accurate. Because I did have the polyp, the doctor wanted to see me back in five years. And you know what? If he had said five days, I would have complied.

We all die, and I know something will eventually get me, but that insignificant little piece of tissue will not be the thing that does. If you need to schedule your first colonoscopy or are overdue for a follow-up, do it now. The preparation part isn't much fun, but the procedure itself is not a big deal. The reason for it, however, is. It can save your life.

If you won't do this for your family or friends, then do it for your pets. Surely, they'll miss you.

Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at

Monday, June 9, 2014

Take a Bite Out of Cancer and 'Bark for Life'

Cancer is a word that I am certain everyone does not want to hear, especially with his own name in the same sentence. I would venture to say that all of us have been touched by this malevolent disease in some way, at some point in our lives. Perhaps it was through the loss of a loved one, through our own personal experience, or even through a beloved pet. Cancer, you see, does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, nor species.

Throughout my 29 years as a veterinarian, I have cherished the relationships I have formed with my clients and their pets. I have been blessed to observe the love and strength of the human-animal bond over and over again. I have had the privilege of watching my clients’ children grow into pet owners, and, sadly, I also have experienced the loss of clients of all ages to cancer.

Veterinarians are unique in the respect that we are honored to form relationships with people as well as their pets, while simultaneously observing the powerful bond between them. Pets provide purpose, companionship, security, unconditional love, and joy, without judgment, and always with unquestioned forgiveness.

So when one of my patients is diagnosed with cancer, it becomes a “double jeopardy” of sorts for me. Naturally, I know I must provide the very best care and compassion that I can for my four-legged patient. At the same time, my heart aches for the pet owner who is experiencing the inevitable heartbreak of losing a pet to a dreaded disease. I celebrate the human-animal bond at the same time that I grieve its loss.

Currently, I have the responsibility and privilege to care for three canine cancer patients, all of whom have loving and passionate caregivers, and all of whom are thriving throughout their treatments without illness. I am reminded that these patients are experiencing prolonged quality and quantity of life, not only because of the love and dedication of their human caregivers, but because of research, both veterinary and human.

Yes, pets do benefit from human cancer research. Because pets get some of the same cancers as people, pets and people are in cancer trials together. Pet cancer treatments and medications are often born out of the results of human research.

Due to the alluring power of the human-animal bond and my fondness for animals, I have a personal vendetta against cancer. My mission, and the mission of so many others, is to fight cancer by educating others about early detection and by being a cancer research fundraiser. Coincidentally, I was introduced to the American Cancer Society mini-relay called “Bark for Life” last year through the Delphos Relay for Life. This unique and novel fundraiser for the ACS honors the life-long contribution of “canine caregivers.”

Bark for Life is a dog walk fundraiser that pairs people with their canine companions and, cancer survivors with their “canine caregivers.” BFL walkers seek financial sponsors, with all funds collected being donated to the ACS to continue their mission to advocate, create awareness, educate, and fund cancer research. This mini-relay gives people an opportunity to be empowered through their canine companion partnerships and to contribute to cancer cures through the mission of the American Cancer Society.

In short, Bark for Life gives everyone who has been close to a cancer experience, and has a dog in their life, a chance to fight cancer in a very unique way. Celebrate the human-animal bond, while remembering loved ones and “barking back” at cancer.

On behalf of canine cancer survivors “Olivia” Friedhoff (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), “Jack” Frost (Multiple Myeloma), and “Petey” Ladd (B-Cell Lymphoma), I am personally inviting you to gather your sponsors and attend the second Delphos Bark for Life being held from 2 to 5 p.m. June 21 at Leisure Park on Ridge Road in Delphos. This event was highly successful in 2013, netting more than $7,500 for the American Cancer Society.

As I like to point out, who among us has NOT been touched by cancer? This is our opportunity to “take a bite out of cancer” while celebrating the human-animal bond, which just might be the best medicine of all! Will I see you at the Delphos Bark for Life?

Author:  Dr. Bonnie Jones