Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Rainbow Bridge: A Veterinary Technician's Perspective

            The Rainbow Bridge. The safe, happy place our beloved pets go after they have brought so much love. No one wants to think about a pet’s passing, that they will ever leave us. I’d like to think that my pets will outlast me.

            My husband and I are surrounded by happy critters: our dogs, Copenhagen, Tilly and Philo, and our cats...Stella and Sambo.  Each day we have the pleasure of returning home to be greeted by these happy, four-legged kids.

            As a veterinary technician, I have the opportunity to share joyous moments with clients daily. I get to hold and snuggle puppies with a pocketful of treats to hand out, even if my patient jumps on the cupboards. I walk into the hospital every morning, knowing that there will be clients to teach and pets to care for. But as vet techs, we are also there to comfort.

            Yes, first time puppy ownership is scary--- we are there to answer those not so silly questions. Vaccine pokes and bloods draws are terrifying--- we are there to hold and comfort. The dreaded scale! Don’t worry, we will be right there. Vet techs help loved ones trust that everything will be okay. Comfort isn’t something we do only for our patients, but that we do for clients as well as we build strong relationship with them every day.

            So the question is why am I writing about trust and comfort between clients and veterinary technicians? Because I have wanted to---simple as that. Yes, we get to see all the happy times, and some of the scary times. But, we also see the pain of broken hearts when it’s time to let our pets go.

            Just a little about me...while in high school, I loved working in a small town veterinary clinic. It was the highlight of my day. I didn’t have technician training yet, but I did my best to learn fast and help in any way I could.

            There was one Monday I’ll never forget. I had a final exam that afternoon and it was the only thing I could think about. The veterinarian told me a euthanasia was scheduled that morning and that I would need to assist. When the family and their Labrador arrived, they were in tears. I put my head down and followed them into the room. They said many good-byes as I held the beloved dog for his last breaths while the doctor administered the injection.

            But, wait…why did I not feel the same way they did? I know I said that I would keep them in my thoughts and prayers, but did I mean it?

            Time went on, and I  helped with many more euthanasias, thinking that same thing, and going on with my day. Then something changed.

            My first dog was a Siberian Husky named "Holly." She was a blessing to my family, and she was 13 years old when cancer consumed her body. Now I’m the family in the exam room with tears flowing, and I realize I’m looking for comfort, comfort and trust. The first face I see is that of the vet tech. The way she was there for us was eye-opening. There were no hugs or words shared, just comfort knowing that my Holly was going to be okay. 

            She then crossed it...Holly crossed The Rainbow Bridge.

            From that day, I knew why I wanted to be a veterinary technician. I wanted to help the patients, but I also wanted to be there for the clients. I want them to know  I am here to help, to hold your loved one through your good-byes and tears. I now find myself weeping with families, then hiding in the bathroom at work until my eyes dry up.

             We hurt with the families, and our hearts break, too. We do it because we are needed most in those moments. Some days I wish my job was to just play with fluffy animals. But, instead, I get to help. I get to comfort.

            Those last moments with our furry family members are not something we want to think about. But know that if you want hugs, we have open arms. If you want to cry, we will be there with comforting words and tissues. And, if you want to talk about good times and laugh, we will find Dr. John to tell some jokes.

            Just know, you are not alone. It’s not scary. Our pets will be free of pain and suffering as they cross over that bridge.  And know that there will be a vet tech with you the whole way.
By Sarah Burford, VT

Sarah (Koeneman) Burford, VT is a graduate of the Vet Tech Institute of International Business College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She provides care and comfort to the clients and pets at Delphos Animal Hospital.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Lump in the Throat

            In all my thirty-two years as a veterinarian, I don't recall ever seeing any kind of animal with a goiter. Then I received a phone call from a Boer goat raiser named Joel. He had just started kidding, and several of his first kids were born dead with odd lumps in their throats. Photographs he sent showed the classic bilaterally symmetrical swellings in the location of the thyroid gland. They could have been textbook photos of goiters.

            From the tone of his voice, I could tell Joel was quite concerned.       If he's not the most conscientious goat breeder I know, he is at least in the top two. His herd management  has always been top-notch. So why was he having this problem? And why now?

            Joel couldn't think of anything he was doing that was different. He was feeding the same grain mixture and minerals he had used for the last few years. Furthermore, the moms that were producing the kids with goiters were his older does who never had any issues like this before.

            A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Typically in goats, it occurs as the result of an iodine deficiency. The thyroid gland utilizes iodine in the production of thyroxine, or thyroid hormone. If iodine levels are low, thyroxine cannot be produced, thus causing the "master gland of the body"- the pituitary, to produce thyroid stimulating hormone, which is sent to the thyroid gland. This prompts the thyroid gland to work extra hard to try to produce it's hormone, and almost like a muscle lifting weights, it will enlarge. 

            In addition to low levels of iodine in the diet as a cause of goiters, there are certain plants which are termed "goitrogenic." These plants interfere with the uptake of iodine in the thyroid gland, and include cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, soybeans, and turnips. I discussed these plants with Joel, but it was kind of a moot point. His goats ate none of those things.

            I heard from Joel again about three weeks later on a Friday afternoon. His report was not good. Twenty-one kids had been born dead with goiters, including a set of twins that morning. He inquired about having them necropsied, the animal version of an autopsy.

            Fridays are not the best day of the week for collecting tissue samples, because they have to sit over the weekend before being shipped off on Monday. I asked Joel if he would be willing to drive the kids down to the Ohio Department of Agriculture Lab in Reynoldsburg that afternoon. He had no problem with that. Like I wrote before, he is conscientious.

            When I spoke to the pathologist who worked on Joel's kids, he confirmed the goiter diagnosis. He also told me this: "Boer goats are more susceptible to goiters than any other breed." I didn't know that, and I see a lot of Boer goats. The pathologist then told me that goiter development usually occurs between the first and second month of a goat's five month gestation.

            When I relayed this information to Joel, he had a revelation for me. He found out the clover hay he had purchased, which he fed for the first couple of months of his does' pregnancies, was harvested from a field that had a cover crop of turnips on it the winter before.

            Cover crops are becoming more popular in this area for a variety of soil improvement reasons. Turnips, by virtue of their large bulbs and deep root systems,  help to decrease soil compaction and open the soil for worms and nutrient penetration. However, as they decompose, apparently some of those goitrogenic properties can be taken up by growing clover plants.

            In Joel's herd, it was only the older does who had the affected kids. Even though they were fed the same clover hay, his younger does were supplemented with a grain ration that did contain some iodine. It wasn't a large amount, but evidently it was enough.

              So goat breeders, before the next kidding season arrives, make sure there is adequate iodine levels in your feed and mineral mixes, or supplement the herd with iodized salt. Then, hopefully, the only lump in the throat you have to deal with is the one in your own. The source, of course, coming from the pride you feel when you see your beautiful new kids.
By Dr. John H. Jones

How to Help "Hangry" Pets Be Happy

                                My Welsh Corgi, "Betsy Louise," is a food whore. There...I've said it.

                                Those who know Betsy have seen her in action, and will echo my sentiments. Her predecessor, Welsh Corgi "Princess Bunny," shared Betsy's obsession with food.  Bunny actually went on not one, but two, suicide missions involving food while at work with us.    

                             Bunny's first "attempt" was finding and breaking in to a canine cranberry urinary supplement that contained potassium citrate to neutralize acidity of dog urine. Thank goodness for her dog sitter, Ashley Oxendine, who expediently discovered Bunny's "mission" and put the ball in motion to rescue her from a life threatening potassium overdose.

                                On her second suicide attempt, Bunny found an open bag of prescription dog food and proceeded to stick her entire head and shoulders in the large bag to feast on as much food as her corgi stomach could accommodate. Her "adventure" was revealed as she waddled up to me, smiling in her satiety glory, looking much like she swallowed an over-inflated basketball. Canine "bloat" is a true and life-threatening phenomenon that became yet another badge on Bunny's food-seeking sash.

                                I was reminded of Bunny's shenanigans recently when two staff members approached me to say Betsy Louise was attempting to eat her way into a donated bag of dog food left in a location convenient for all low-riding dogs to enjoy. The tattling was followed by the comment, "And she got a little nasty when she was busted."

                                Betsy, like so many pets and people gets "hangry" around food, especially as meal times approach or if they are delayed. This behavior is also observed in cats that conduct piercing stare-downs with their feeders or grab on to their owners' legs as they stride toward the feeding station. For dogs like Betsy and Bunny, and hangry cats, consider the following tips:

1) Many pets obsessed with food benefit from frequent, small meals fed on a consistent schedule. Pets thrive on and are more content with daily routines that are well-established. Pick a feeding schedule three to four times a day that you  can adhere to and stick with it.

2) Make meal times fun and challenging. Feed dogs that inhale their food from puzzle dishes, food balls, Kongs, or muffin tins. Consider hiding your cat's food throughout the house to tap into its instinct to hunt for prey, or use puzzle balls (Egg-cersizer) to make it work for its meals. The latter are especially effective for obesity-prone cats.

3) Avoid rewarding your pet's "hangry behavior." Initially, this is a tough task because it actually involves undoing your own behavior of "giving in" to your pet's vocal and physical demands. Many pet owners have been conditioned to relent just to make the whining, barking, pawing and pacing cease. After all, it gets annoying! But, you are inadvertently reinforcing the undesirable.  Instead, you must CONSISTENTLY  IGNORE your pet's obnoxious behavior, and stick to the above suggestions. This may result in the hangry behaviors escalating at first as your pet becomes confused by your new behavior. Simply stay the course and your pet will learn that food will be available at consistent mealtimes, and not when he or she demonstrates offensive behaviors.

4) Seek your veterinarian's advice about your pet's nutrition.  Your pet could be on an inadequate diet and feeding schedule. When your veterinarian inquires about which food and how often you feed your pet, she is assessing the pet's body condition score and overall health as a reflection of the diet. Many pets are fed inadequate amounts once daily and that often creates  hangry pets that are truly unsatisfied.  Quality of food ingredients can vary tremendously as well. Two different food bags  may share similar ingredients list, but the actual performance of each can be widely different. 

5) Schedule your pet's wellness exam with your veterinarian "twice a year for life." Remember that your pet ages more quickly than you, especially in its senior period. Intestinal parasites and medical conditions such as Cushing's Disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism can make your pet hangry and uncomfortable! Don't let your pet suffer needlessly with treatable conditions that when addressed will improve the quality of your pet's life and yours.

                                As a human being who also experiences hangry periods, I empathize with hangry pets. It is not a good feeling to have your body and brain possessed by hunger.  Ask your veterinarian to help you turn your pet's hanger into happiness.

                                 I'm feeling a little hangry right now.  It's 1:30 p.m.---approximately 30 minutes past my lunchtime...hmmm. 
By Dr. Bonnie Jones

Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM .  She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985.