10 Questions for Dr. Lauren Hughes

 

 

1. How old were you when you decided to become a veterinarian?

Like a lot of my colleagues, I wanted to become a veterinarian ever since I was a little kid, around 5 years old. It was the idea of what a veterinarian actually was that changed for me over the years. When I was in high school, I got to job shadow through the Interact program and Key Club and got a much better idea of what the job entailed and I fell in love with the career. My work as a zoo keeper at Niabi Zoo solidified my want to work with wildlife and exotic species.

2. What is the best part of your job?

As much as I love the work with the variety of species I see on a daily basis, what I love most about the job is giving back to the community and working with the owners of all these pets. Establishing a relationship with my clients and their family and getting to know them is a lot of fun.

3. What’s the most interesting case you’ve ever had?

During my last year of vet school, a large male Rottweiler came into the clinic with a swollen abdomen and we took x-rays, thinking the dog had a twisted stomach. When we began surgery, there was nothing wrong with the stomach at all and everything appear normal within the abdomen. During surgery, the dog’s right hind leg began to swell and he did not recover well from surgery. We ended up having to keep him in the ICU and do several more surgeries and through diagnostic testing and bacterial culture, we discovered that he had flesh eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis, and was unfortunately unable to recover. I will probably never see a case like that again in my lifetime.

4. What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Humane euthanasia is always the most difficult part for me. It is such an emotional time for the owners and I’m a crier anyway, so it doesn’t help the situation. The blessing of working with animals is that we have the ability to alleviate their suffering in cases of severe, incurable disease or when it’s time for them to cross that rainbow bridge, but it’s never a happy experience and doesn’t get any easier.     

 

5. Why become a vet when you could have gone into human medicine and made more money?

Because of the variety of species I work with, every day brings something new and challenging. With the exotic animals that I see, as well as the animals from Niabi Zoo, the database of knowledge in some of these critters is extremely limited and brings about my “MacGyver” skills, trying to find new ways to treat patients that have never been done before as well as diagnose their diseases. More money would be nice, but I think I would get bored. I love what I do, so the money really isn’t a factor to me.

6. We know you have to like animals for this job but what are the other unique requirements?

Communication skills, creative thinking, and flexibility. Not every patient presents the same way, even if they have the same disease and not every owner has the same budget so approach do disease treatment and animal management is always different.

7. How has veterinary medicine changed since your parent’s time?

The view of animals in the home has changed significantly over the years. Pets are now much more part of the family than ever before, so the care for them has definitely changed and improved.

8. Even though both jobs require the same amount of education; how does veterinary medicine differ from human medicine beyond the obvious question of species?

Many veterinarians “do everything” still, even though we have specialists. There are so many general practitioners in the veterinary world that act as surgeon, dentist, nutritionist, physical therapist, Chiropractor (wink, wink Dr. Meredith), radiologist, and many more. Your role changes so frequently based on your patient and it’s needs. This is much different than practitioners in the human world.

9. What do you think the new horizons for veterinary medicine will be?

Holistic medicine is becoming more prominent, as well as animal nutrition. Owners are becoming much more aware of the nutritional needs of their pets and asking a lot more information about appropriate diets.

10. If someone gave you a magic wand and you could go back and do it over again, would you still become a vet?

Yes, but I’d never want to do vet school again!

The Importance of Pain Management

 

No one likes to feel pain.  Pain can be good when it keeps us from doing things that will harm our bodies but untreated pain is never good.  There was a time when people believed that animals did not feel pain on the same level as humans.  Fortunately we now understand that this is not the case at all.  Animals feel pain in much the same way as we do. If you think something would be painful for you, it is most likely painful to your pet as well.

What animals do is mask pain.  In the wild the organism that shows pain becomes lunch.  Unfortunately, that very stoicism, if unrecognized, can lead to increased suffering for our pets.  As veterinarians and owners, it becomes our job then to ensure that our pets receive adequate pain management. Good pain control is good medicine.  It is an integral part of patient management at Animal Family.

Why is pain control so important? Uncontrolled, pain affects not only the well being but the behavior, health and longevity of our pets.  How so?

  • Pain prolongs recovery time from surgery, injury or illness.
  • It may cause arthritic cats to urinate or defecate outside the box. Sadly, this may be mislabeled as a behavior problem resulting in euthanasia.
  • It can lead to maladaptive pain.  That is pain which is caused by things that are not normally painful.  An example would be the older dog or cat which bites when a child attempts to pet them.It can cause self mutilation. An animal may lick or chew at a body part unrelentingly creating even further damage.
  • It may cause weight loss due to oral or body pain.
  • Pets may be unwilling to groom and take care of their coat due to pain.
  • A previously active animal may become listless.  It may simply be too painful to move.
  • A pet can become constipated due to an inability to posture and defecate normally.
  • Pain may precipitate pacing and restlessness. A behavior that may be misinterpreted as nervousness.
  • Pain can cause aggression towards other animals.  An animal which anticipates pain may strike preemptively at a housemate

As owners and veterinarians we must make recognition of pain a priority. It is important to watch your pet carefully for the subtle signs of discomfort or distress. Our new golden rule must be to never allow our pet to remain in pain because we have simply become used to seeing them that way seeing them that way. Watch for changes in behavior and talk it over with your veterinarian. Then as a team you can work to make your pet’s life not only longer but happier.

Finding the Right Dental Care for Your Pet

 

Dear Doctor Rob:

Why is there so much difference from clinic to clinic when it comes to dental procedures?  I want to do the best thing for my pet but frankly, I am confused.  Could you please help me understand what is involved in a dental procedure?

Confused Pet Owner

Dear confused:

Making comparisons about any procedure at a veterinary clinic (or for that matter at a dentist office, with a plumber, mechanic, lawyer, etc.) can be a bit tricky.   Are apples being compared with apples?  Any other way is just not fair.

A dental cleaning means different things to different people and there is a huge difference between removing tartar from the crown of the tooth and a complete oral exam with cleaning, polishing, charting and oral surgery if needed.

As much as we promote dental home care to prevent disease, the fact is that most of what we do is not a simple cleaning.  Most patients have dental disease that needs to be addressed, safely, under anesthesia, while on IV fluids, with monitoring.  Sometimes this also includes dental x-rays, deeper pocket cleaning and even oral surgery.

So questions need to be asked.  Do these estimates or procedures include:

Does your veterinarian provide pre-surgical bloodwork to evaluate liver and kidney function?  That is the only way to tailor anesthesia to your pet’s health requirements.   Will there be intravenous fluids to support blood pressure and help blood flow to the kidneys and other organs?  Will your pet be under general anesthesia with intubation to provide a secure source of oxygen and to protect the airway from aspiration of water and bacteria ? Does the veterinarian have trained staff monitoring your pet while he or she  under anesthesia? Are pain medications provided before the procedure? Do they use local nerve blocks to protect your pet from pain during the procedure?  This would be similar to the lidocaine you receive at your dentist.  Does the practice provide pain medications if required after the procedure?  Do they scale above and below the gumline or just clean what you can see?  What type of scaling do they use?  Is it hand scaling or ultrasonic ? Do they make certain to polish your pet’s teeth after scaling?  If not,  they are simply providing a new surface for tartar to attach to the teeth.  Do they probe the gumline for pockets and then chart their findings?  If they find a potential problem do they have the ability to do digital dental x-rays?  Do they have the tools and training to perform safe surgical extractions, if needed?  That includes closure of the surgery (extraction) sites.  Does your pet receive antibiotics before and after the procedure if  needed?  Will there be detailed home care recommendations and recheck exams?  Are extractions recommended appropriately or only when teeth are just about to fall out on their own?   Are root planing and subgingival curettage offered?  Is there a licensed veterinary technician assisting the veterinarian?  Has the veterinarian and staff received continuing education from a board certified veterinary dentist?

If the answers to all of these questions are the same, then fair statements can be made.    We are proud of the services we offer and the job that we do.  There are no standards mandated in veterinary medicine that every clinic must abide by, therefore no two clinics are the same. This is part of the reason we follow American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) standards and are AAHA certified

I hope this has helped make things a little less confusing for you.  If you still have questions, feel free to call the clinic or visit our website at www.animalfamilyveterinarycare.com

Ten Questions You’ve always wanted to Ask Your Veterinarian

Have you ever wondered what motivates someone to become veterinarian?  We have.  So this week we decided to find out why Animal Family’s Dr. Scott Bernick chose his career path. 

  1. How old were you when you decided to become a veterinarian?  ” I was nine years old.”  Really?  That’s very young to be so certain what you want to do.    “I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time working with the animals there.  I always admired our farm vet.”  So why small animals?  I raised hunting dogs when I was young and that sparked my interest in small animals.”
  2. What is the best part of your job?  “You get to interact with many wonderful pets and their owners.  We see a lot different species and have clients from all different walks of life.  It’s  really the best of both worlds.”
  3. What’s the most interesting case you’ve ever had?   “Addison’s disease is very rewarding to treat.  The dog’s present as very sick.  Often they are almost flat out.  As the veterinarian we provide  the proper medication and treatment and the pet is nearly back to normal within hours!”
  4. What’s the most difficult part of your job?  When the pet can’t tell you what is wrong.  Sometimes it would be so much help if they could just speak.  We learn to  rely a lot on our owners, on  blood and other lab work and of course  on our experience.”
  5. Why become a vet when you could have just as easily gone into human medicine and made more money? ” You get to deal with animals that cannot help themselves. That may sound like a simple statement but it means the world to those of us in the profession.”
  6. We know that you have to like animals for this job but what are the other unique requirements? A veterinarian absolutely must be able to communicate with the animal’s owner.  They are an integral part of the success of any diagnosis we make or treatment we undertake.  Veterinary medicine is as much about people as pets.”
  7. How has veterinary medicine changed since your parent’s time?  More specialists.  Even though a veterinarian still wears many hats, there are now more specialty practices we can turn to when we have a more complex case.”
  8. Even though both jobs require the same amount of education; how does veterinary medicine differ from human medicine beyond the obvious question of species? “Human medicine has easier access to specialty practices, however, veterinarians are often required to be the general practitioner, surgeon, ophthalmologist, internist, dentist, etc. This makes our practice both more interesting and more difficult.  In veterinary medicine we still see the bulk of our cases through from start to finish.  That is often not the case in human medicine.  I think that allows us to develop strong relationships with our clients and their pets.  We become very invested in the well being of our patients. 
  9. What do you think the new horizons for veterinary medicine will be?   Cancer treatments are becoming more common and we are seeing more successful outcomes. Today, pets are a part of the family.  Their owners want to do more to both extend and improve the quality of their pet’s lives.
  10.  If someone gave you a magic wand and you could go back and do it over again, would you still become a vet?  ‘Absolutely!!”

Davenport, Iowa Veterinary Clinic Lists 10 Reasons People Take Pets to the Humane Society.

 

According to the ASPCA, “approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state.” 

That is a really sad statistic.  We work closely with many of our local shelters at Animal Family and are always surprised at the quality of the pets we see.  These animals are neither worthless nor dangerous.  In fact, often the opposite is true.  Many are pure bred and almost all are loving, healthy animals who through no fault of their own end up homeless.

The 10 most common reasons owners give when surrendering a pet at the Humane Society of Scott County are:

  1. The owner is moving and is not able to take their pet with them
  2. The pet is too active for the owner to handle.
  3. The owner does not have enough time to devote to pet care
  4. The owner has encountered problems with housebreaking
  5. The animal is too expensive to care for.
  6. The animal is too young, too old or has developed health issues.
  7. The owner or a family member is allergic to the pet.
  8. The pet does not get along with another animal in the household.
  9. The pet belonged to a child who no longer lives in the home.
  10. The pet has become pregnant

Do you see a common thread among many of the reasons for pet relinquishment listed above?   How many of these problems could be avoided by a little research and planning before acquiring a pet.  For all the information on specific breeds that is available, it seems that people still jump into pet ownership on impulse.

So, please, before you bring a pet into your life, do your research. Think about your lifestyle, future plans, and overall health.  How busy are you?  Can you even afford a pet at this time?  Do you have the time or interest for training, walks and general health and coat care.  Don’t pick your pet based on looks.  Don’t assume you have to have a puppy and never, ever give a pet as a gift without a thorough discussion with the prospective new owner first.

Next week, we will go over what you need to think about before you add a new pet to your family.

Animal Family’s Guide To Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

      

  • Start with a yummy flavored tooth paste.  Vanilla mint, poultry, beef or malt are some of the favorites. Any flavor your dog enjoys is alright but make sure it is safe for pets. DO NOT use human tooth paste! It is not good for your pet.  I always open the tooth paste container in front of the puppy.  Remember to keep it in a safe place Continue…