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!

Christmas Hazards That Can Harm Your Pet

 

 

 

 

1)   Potpourri:    Liquid potpourri can make your home smell festive for the holidays but remember to keep it away from your pets.  If the worst happens and your pet swallows liquid potpourri or spills any of it on themselves, you may see some of the following: drooling in case of ingestion, burning of the skin or mouth, weakness and vomiting. If you think any potpourri may be left on your pet’s skin, bathe them ASAP and call your veterinarian.

2)   Oh Christmas Tree:  As beautiful as Christmas trees are, they can pose considerable danger to your pets.  Don’t make this the Christmas you remember because of the trip to the emergency room. Be sure to secure your tree properly so playful pets don’t topple it and injure themselves. 

3)   Ornaments:  Cats love to play with tinsel but it can be a deadly game.  If ingested tinsel can cause a linear foreign body capable of cutting through intestines. Signs may include loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting. Notify your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten any tinsel.  Ornament hooks can also be a hazard.  They are easily swallowed by pets and can lodge in the stomach or intestines.  Even broken ornaments knocked from the tree can cut sensitive paw pads. In general, it is best not place ornaments low on the tree where pets can dislodge them. 

4)   Electrical Cords: All kinds of pets are susceptible to allure of chewing electrical cords. Once they come into contact with bare wire,  they can die suddenly or receive severe burns to the mouth.  Signs of electrical burns include drooling, blisters and swelling around the mouth and an unwillingness or inability to eat or drink.  This type of injury requires immediate veterinary care.

5)   Poinsettias/Mistletoe:    Both these plants are commonly used as decorative accents during the Holiday season.  Poinsettia can cause local irritation to the mouth, gums and GI tract if ingested.  Treat your pet by washing the sap off immediately to stop further irritation. If your pet is  vomiting or if their eyes appear inflamed, call your veterinarian  It is the berries of the Mistletoe that pose a danger to pets.  Depending on the amount ingested, symptoms can range from GI upset and vomiting to drooling, diarrhea, increased urination, and rapid heart rate and respiration.  All of these symptoms require immediate veterinary care. 

6)   Alcohol:   Are there still people who think it is funny to feed pets alcohol?  Sadly the answer is yes.  It really doesn’t matter whether toxicity occurs by accident or intent; it is important to understand that pets can die from alcohol ingestion.  Alcohol poisoning is dependent on the amount of alcohol ingested as compared to an animal’s weight. That means when a small pet gets into an alcoholic beverage, it can cause a significant toxicity problem. According to Becky Lundgren, DVM, “Within 15 to 30 minutes after the pet has drunk the alcohol on an empty stomach (or within 1 to 2 hours on a full stomach); central nervous system signs (such as staggering, excitement, or decreased reflexes) can begin. Behavioral changes can be seen, as can an increased need to urinate. As the problem gets worse, the pet may become depressed, have a slow respiratory rate, or go into cardiac arrest. Puppies and kittens are at particular risk because of their small size and immature organ systems.”

7)   Chocolate:  Most people are aware that chocolate is bad for pets.  We just need to be extra careful to keep it away from them during the holidays.  As with most toxicities, problems with chocolate vary depending on the amount of cocoa, the size of the animal and the total amount ingested.  Again, a small pet that eats dark chocolate can be expected to have a much more severe problem.  Signs of toxicity include increased excitability, increased irritability, increased heart rate, restlessness, increased urination, muscle tremors, vomiting and diarrhea.  Be sure to call your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet may have ingested chocolate.

8)   Grapes/Raisins:   Lots of Holiday breads and treats contain raisins or grapes. We love them but accidental ingestion by our pets can cause kidney problems.  If you suspect your pet may have ingested either call your veterinarian ASAP.

9)   Burning Candles:  This hazard doesn’t need a lot of explanation.  We all just need to remember to take extra care that candles are safely out of the way of rambunctious pets and children. 

10)  Overindulgence:   As tempting as it may be, please don’t share your holiday bounty with your petsToo much fatty food can cause a bout of pancreatitis (an inflammation of the pancreas caused by over secretion of the enzymes used to digest food) and land your pet in the emergency room.  Signs of pancreatitis include: vomiting, no or decreased appetite, an abdomen that is painful to the touch and/or a hunched appearance, fever, diarrhea, lethargy /depression, and dehydration.  Pancreatitis can be life threatening and requires immediate veterinary care. 

So, please enjoy the holidays but remember keep a watchful eye on your pet as well.

   ASPCA Poison Control:   888-426-4435       

   https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control

Davenport Veterinarian’s Guide to Pocket Pets, Part 2

Last post, we covered some general information on pocket pets.  This week we are introducing you to some of the small but mighty critters we see at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center.  Of course, this is just an introduction, so, if you’re interested,  feel free to facebook us with any questions you may have at Animal Family

Each type of pocket pet has its own requirements.  Hamsters are nocturnal and sleep through much of the daylight hours.  In addition, many don’t get along well with others of their kind and will need to be housed separately. Hamsters will bite if frightened.  Our experience at the clinic has been that the larger Teddy Bear hamsters are generally much easier to handle. Most hamsters live 2 – 3 years.   Like all rodents, hamsters can be prone to respiratory and GI troubles.  All rodents have teeth which grow continually which causes dental problems when malocclusion is present. Rodents with malocclusions will eventually stop eating if their teeth are not cared for.

Gerbils and mice are both a little friendlier than hamsters although again, in our experience, both will bite if frightened.  They are small, fast and agile and can easily slip through your fingers making them a poor choice for small children.  They are susceptible to the same health issues as hamsters and have about the same life span.  All of the pocket pets which were originally bred to be used as lab animals are especially prone to tumors as well

Rats are extremely smart, gentle and social.  Most can be taught to perform tricks and can become quite attached to their owner.  Rats generally get along great with each other as well but it is a good idea to house same sex pairs unless you want a lot more rats.  Sadly, rats are more prone to develop tumors than any other pocket pet. We don’t see as many dental problems with rats but they can be susceptible to respiratory infections.  The average rat lives to 2-3 years of age.

Guinea Pigs make wonderful pets.  Nonaggressive and social, they will quickly become accustomed to handling. Unlike other rodents, guinea pigs must receive supplementation of Vitamin C on a daily basis or they become ill.  Even though most foods formulated for guinea pigs contain added vitamin C you need to make certain it is fresh or the Vitamin C will degrade.   Guinea Pig’s larger size means that they require more room to move around. However, unlike mice and gerbils, guinea pigs are not climbers.  They come in a large variety of different coat types and colors.  On the down side, guinea pigs have very small lungs for their size and will become quite sick if they contract any respiratory disease.  In general guinea pigs live 5 – 6 years.

Rabbits, like guinea pigs also make wonderful pets.  Rabbits are not rodents but lagomorphs.  They come in a huge number of varieties, coat colors and sizes.  Most housetrain easily and will use a cat litter box.  In general, females tend to be the most cantankerous but are better behaved if spayed.  Unaltered females housed together will fight.  In addition, females can develop mammary tumors and reproductive tract disease if left intact.  Unaltered males will spray urine to mark territory.  They do well on a diet with large amounts of timothy hay and small amounts of rabbit pellets and veggies.  They are susceptible to respiratory and dental problems and generally live 5 – 8 years or more.

Ferrets are a Mustelids and the clowns of the pocket pet world.  Smart, active, agile and a little stinky, ferrets are endlessly entertaining.  They require lots of exercise but can get into trouble if left out unsupervised.  Of the small mammals, ferrets are the guys we see the most often for foreign bodies. Unlike the other small pets discussed so far, ferrets need to be vaccinated for distemper and rabies.  Not everybody loves ferrets.  They are banned in some states while others require that they be registered.  Ferrets can be taught to use a litter box and will learn to walk on a leash and halter.   They are true carnivores and unable to handle fiber.  Fortunately there are several commercial ferret diets available.  Although they have a lifespan of 5 -8 years, ferrets are prone to developing adrenal tumors and insulinomas as they mature.

Chinchillas were once used for the fur trade but have recently become popular as pets.  They are considered nocturnal but can be active during the daytime.  They prefer a diet of hay and pellets with small amounts of fruit, nuts and veggies added in. They are active but enjoy being cuddled and rarely bite.  Their housing requirements are similar to a rabbit but their optimal temperature is 50 – 60 degrees.  They are very susceptible to heat stroke, and don’t do well in high humidity.  They also require access to a dust bath 2 -3 times a week.  Common chinchilla problems include dental malocclusions, respiratory and GI disease. They can live 9 -17 years.

Hedgehogs are insectivores.  We generally see the African Pygmy Hedgehog in practice.  There a few commercial diets available for hedgehogs. They require a diet that is high in protein and low in fat.  Dog and cat foods alone are not adequate and will need to be supplemented with mealworms, crickets, fruits and veggies. Don’t feed too much or leave food out all the time or your hedgehog can become obese.  Although cute, hedgehogs are solitary and generally not too happy with being held.  They require a 20 gallon or larger aquarium or other smooth sided enclosure and 75 – 85 F temperature year round. They don’t like toys but will use exercise wheels if one is provided. Hedgehogs will develop tartar and gingivitis if you don’t take care of their teeth.  We also see them for obesity, tumors and fatty liver syndrome.

Sugar Gliders are marsupials.  They are nocturnal, highly social animals.  Please don’t keep one all by itself.  If handled from a young age they can develop a bond with their owners.  They are primarily insect eaters but also consume tree sap in the wild.  They do not eat foliage or fruit in the wild. A good diet is composed of 50% commercial insectivore diet and 50% “Leadbeaters mixture “(your veterinarian can provide you with the recipe). Diced fruits, worms and crickets can be acceptable treats in captivity. Sugar gliders can be hard to keep healthy in captivity.  They suffer from stress related disorders and one of their main health problems is malnutrition.   Because they glide they are also susceptible to trauma. Pneumonia, diarrhea and blindness are other problem seen in captive sugar gliders.

One final reminder; just like your dogs and cats, pockets pets need to checked annually for parasites. It is also a good idea to bring them in yearly for an overall health check.  Since most exotic pets mask illness, this is one way to help us diagnose any medical problems early enough to treat them. Our aim is to keep them healthier and you happier.

Remember, this is just a quick overview of the world of pocket pets.  If you are considering adding one of these charmers to your home, please do your research first.  Shelters are already seeing an increase in the number of little critters that are thoughtlessly acquired then just as thoughtlessly discarded.  Please don’t add to the problem.

Davenport Veterinarian’s Guide to Pocket Pets – Part 1

Just what exactly is a pocket pet? We use the term to describe small mammals.  These include rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, rats, gerbils, ferrets, sugar gliders, chinchillas and hedgehogs.  Some have been around for years and others such as sugar gliders and hedgehogs are relatively new to pet owners.  Each has its own specific set of needs and health issues and all have become a growing part of veterinary medicine.  We certainly enjoy having them as patients at our clinic.

One of the key differences between the pocket pet owners of today from those of the past is the desire to provide better care for their pets. No longer satisfied with just replacing one pet with another should illness occur, they insist on quality care.  Pocket pets have become near and dear to our hearts, often assuming the same importance as dogs and cats to many owners.  Often one of the biggest hurdles in small mammal ownership is finding a veterinarian who is well versed in the specific requirements of their unusual pet.

Why choose a pocket pet? They can be a great option for those with limited space or a rental situation where larger animals are not allowed.  They are generally housed in a cage and so are much less likely to damage your home or apartment. Even better, the cost of feeding and caring for a little critter is generally about ½ or less than that of a traditional pet.  For the most part, most pocket pets are nonaggressive and will adapt quite well to handling.  They each have individual personalities, are quite playful and generally fun to have around.  Some, such as rats and ferrets, are highly trainable and capable of learning tricks and other complex behaviors.

Like any other pet, small mammals have specific housing, feeding and care needs. Not all of them may be appropriate for young children.  The small size of many pocket pets makes them fragile and particularly susceptible to injury if dropped or handled roughly.  Others, although cute to look at,  require much more detailed care than others.

One final reminder; just like your dogs and cats, pockets pets need to checked annually for parasites. It is also a good idea to bring them in yearly for an overall health check.  Since most exotic pets mask illness, this is one way to help us diagnose any medical problems early enough to treat them. Our aim is to keep them healthier and you happier.

Remember, this is just a quick overview of the world of pocket pets. If you are considering adding one of these charmers to your home, please do your research first.  Shelters are already seeing an increase in the number of little critters that are thoughtlessly acquired then just as thoughtlessly discarded.  Please don’t add to the problem.

We will take a closer look at each of the individual pocket pets in upcoming blogs.  So, be sure to check back in.