Dog Days of Summer


I love summer, I really do.  What I don’t like about summer is having to leave Drago at home sometimes because it is too hot outside for him.  Drago lives for the outdoors.  He loves car rides too, and appears to enjoy people-watching from the car while I grocery shop.  Today, in Pennsylvania it was over 90 degrees farenheit.  Drago wanted so badly to be outside but I only let him outside for about 15 minutes at a time.  He seemed disappointed when I ran an errand  and didn’t take him with me.

However, maybe he doesn’t mind not being outside too much.  As I type this post, he’s laying upside down on the love-seat in front of the airconditioner.  Every now and then his toes and tail twitch as if he’s dreaming about chasing a squirrel.  Maybe he’s outside in his dreams. 🙂  We’ll have to take a nice walk in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow before it gets hot again.  There are always lots of squirrels out at that time too…


Mystery Dinner

Dogs, and cats for that matter, eat all kinds of weird things.   Some eat foods, some eat toys, some eat poop (ew!)…the list goes on and on.  Being a veterinarian, we get to see some really intresting cases of weird things eaten.  In my post  Pet Poison Hotline I mentioned what happens when pets eat toxins but what about when a dog eats inanimate objects? Toys? Strings? Bones?  This condition is known as dietary indescretion.

When your pet eats an inanimate object only three things can happen:

  1. Nothing – it passes.  You may or may not see it pass as a present in the yard.  If you don’t find it eventually you begin to wonder if he ever actually ate it.  OR, you consider the possibility that it may still be inside.
  2. She makes a mess – by vomiting it back up, along with the rest of the contents of the stomach.  Then, to make matters worse, diarrhea develops too.
  3. Bad news bears – it gets stuck.  This also can cause vomiting or diarrhea or worse if not dealt with in a timely manner. 

Our physical examination and diagnostics like blood work and x-rays can help us determine if something is stuck.   Sometimes on x-ray you can see a stuck object.  Other times, you see large dilated airfilled intestines and stomach as gas backs up from the obstruction.

Check out the following x-ray for a dog presenting for vomiting and diarrhea with straining.  He has a history of getting into the trash can and did so a few days ago before all this started.  Do you see anything?

     Do you known what his diagnosis is? It’s a foreign body…in the stomach.  If you don’t see it, the following reproduction of the image with overlays points out the foreign body/bodies (green circle) in the stomach and a small amount of gas (blue arrow) in the intestine.  In this case, the gas amount is normal, it’s just the foreign body that showed up on x-rays that is abnormal.

 Okay, hopefully you see it now.  Now the fun part comes…what is it?  This pup had surgery and we pulled the foreign body out of his stomach.  When we went in, we were thinking we would be retrieving some rib-bones that had been in the trash can and were still stuck together.  However, this was not the case, and I should have known seeing as these two things look so identical in shape and length.   Do you know what it is yet?

Pacifiers!  Crazy right? Surgery went well and he recovered uneventfully.  The owners, when shown what was collected from his stomach were astounded.  Apparently, these pacifiers were missing for a full week!

It can sometimes be fun to try to guess what may be the culprit of an obstruction.  However, it is much more fun to see you smiling and not worrying over your pet as they undergo surgery to relieve an obstruction.  Be mindful of what your pet’s habits are.  Some pets will eat these things, others could care less.  Learn to know your pet and what objects or foods need to be kept away…this way, I won’t have to open up their gi tract to find out just what mystery dinner Fido had a few days ago.

A renewed energy

I started this blog site a few years ago and did not regulary maintain my posting content.  I have recently been feeling that I should try again, with more focus on my daily activities of life as a veterinarian.  SO…here goes.  Let me know what types of posts you most enjoy and I’ll try to keep up on them.

Ever wonder if your dog has the best life of any dog you know?  I don’t know if my dog Drago does, but he certainly is living the good life.  This week alone has been a whirlwind for him.  Let me share with you the schedule and activities we shared this past week:

Saturday – Drago “helped” me spring-clean my car.  Then we both travelled  to watch my sister play tennis.  He loves these trips because he gets to see my family but also he gets a frozen treat while we’re there to help keep his mind occupied.

Sunday – We went for a family hike in Gifford Pinchot State Park in Lewisburg PA.  If you’ve never been, you should definitely go.  There are miles and miles of trails amongst beautiful scenery.  Following our hike, we stoped at Reesor’s Icecream and had peanut-butter flavored soft icecream.  This was a nice refreshing snack after a warm afternoon hike!

Monday – Memorial Day brought about a trip to my parents farm to pick strawberries as it was the first day of strawberry season.  A trip to my parents house entails playing with their 3 labs, but mostly their 2 year old chocolate lab Cooper.  My my are the two of them trouble together.

Tuesday – Rest day.  I had to work and had a group meeting after work so Tueday was a much needed rest day.

Wednesday – During the day, we again went to my parents to pick strawberries so he was able to play with Cooper, Kuzco, and Rupert once again.  The bonus was chasing a bunny rabbitt through the fields too!  Wednesday nights currently Drago is in a nose-work class.  If ever you have an interest in nose-work, I would highly recommend you take a course with your dog.  This class is a highlight of my week.  It is so fun to see him work and to sniff out the scent tin each time!

Thursday – Another rest day.  I had to go to work early to perform a urinary ultrasound on a patient so Drago got to have an extra long nap.

Friday – Daycare Day!  Drago attends doggie daycare at Playful Pups Retreat in Elizabethtown, PA (the same place he does his nose-work course).  Here, he gets to run around and play with various other pets all day long.  Playful Pups posts photos on their Facebook page too so I get to peek at how much fun he may be having.  Incidentally, I pay attention to how many phots are posted in which he is laying down…I’m not paying for him to sleep somewhere else all day!  He’s a good boy and an energetic boy so there are few pictures of him staying still.

That, in my mind, was a busy week for Drago.  However, he somehow still manages to wake me up each morning by 6am to let me know he would like his breakfast.  But, I love him dearly, so I throw on some clothes and flip-flops and we wonder outside for the morning routine before breakfast.

What constitues a busy and tiring week for your pet? 


Drago mid-hike with my two sisters – @giffordpinchotstatepark

Top 10 Reasons VET TECHS are AWESOME!

It’s National Veterinary Technician Recognition Week.  Just thought you’d like to know why veterinary technicians are a much needed and important member of the veterinary team:


1. Getting bit, scratched, peed on, or pooped on is just a routine hazard of the job.

While getting bit doesn’t happen THAT often since technicians are trained in proper restraint techniques, it still occurs.  However, getting peed on and pooped on is a regular occurrence.  Sometimes when Fido is super-nervous he piddles and it’s likely on the arm or leg of the tech helping to hold and calm said fearful Fido.  Anal glands are a real treat and an unforgettable smell…watch a vet and a vet tech work together and you’ll know which vets have a history of a wide splash zone with such smelly procedures such as anal gland expression!

2. Techs are experts with venipuncture.

kittenHave you seen kitten veins?  They are almost invisible! On top of that, have you ever seen a kitten sit still for a needle poke? My poor husband has notoriously bad veins for blood draws or catheter placement – I always joke with him that our technicians could hit his vein on the first try with their eyes closed.  Okay, okay, maybe not quite with their eyes closed but it’s be pretty easy after trying to draw blood from the minuscule vein of a 1 pound wiggly kitten.  The general population thinks that blood draws are the job of the veterinarian or that the veterinarian may be more skilled than the tech at blood draws but quite frankly, the techs have us beat on this one 9 times out of 10.  Only every now and then do you get a vet who started out as a technician and might still retain his venipuncture expertise!

3.  Hospitalized pets receive most of their care at the hands of the tech

Again, probably thought to be the job of the veterinarian, but the tech is the person who is likely to carry out the treatments that are “ordered” by the vet.  When a pet patient is admitted to the hospital, the veterinarian examines the pet and decides necessary treatments – be it anything from IV fluids to oral medications.  The tech then has to carry out these treatments and the monitoring schedule set up by the vet.  If anything changes the tech is likely to be the one to alert the doctor who then again re-evaluates and re-plans for further diagnostics or treatments.  I’ve seen many a tech also spending that extra time to tuck hospitalized patients into a warm bed or to hand feed sick pets who would otherwise not be eating.  They truly care and go the extra mile without much recognition.

4. Techs educate pet owners on an daily basis – every time they step in an exam room

What diets should I feed and how much? What is heartworm? How do I get rid of fleas? Does Fluffy need every vaccine available?   This is one task that is different in every veterinary hospital, however, in ours, our techs get the conversation started.  Some techs even have special interest areas in which they have attended advanced learning seminars – such as on nutrition and diets or pet behavior.  Again, in our practice, our techs are educated on what vaccines we require and those we recommend depending on the pet’s lifestyle.  This not only helps keep us veterinarians on time but allows us to focus on the more advanced medical discussions with pet owners.

5. The job is physically challenging

Imagine this scenario – a 130 pound English Mastiff needs abdominal xrays to look for the possible corn-cob he swallowed whole that is now suspected to be in his intestines causing an obstruction.  How do you get a dog this big on an xray table that is 3 feet off the ground?  Make him jump? No, not likely – dangerous to pet and the xray machine parts! english mastiffNot to mention probably impossible with Kujo not feeling so well. So, you lift with all your might and with as many people as able.  Okay, now Kujo is on the table but how do you get him to lay on his back for the standard ventral-dorsal view?  Roll-over Kujo!  Not likely  – unless he’s the world’s best behaved and well trained English Mastiff.  You each grab a hold and slowly lay him on his side and then roll him up onto his back.  The next precious moments are filled with activity in which the xray beam is centered and the picture taken while your muscles are still available to help restrain Kujo in the correct position.  Oh, and did I mention that most of this is occurring with the heavy lead xray gowns on to protect you from the radiation?  Oh, and by “you” above, I mean the technicians.  The vet is likely onto her next appointment playing with a cute and cuddly beagle puppy whilst the techs obtain this important image.


6. Techs sacrifice their skin to save the vet

Even today during appointments I attempted to vaccinate a semi-unruly cat named Rambo.  Rambo wanted nothing to do with being at the vet’s office and certainly absolutely NOTHING to do with her rabies booster.  Our tech was holding Rambo for her vaccination when she suddenly made an attempt at revenge.  The first thing the tech said to me when Rambo got away from her was “step back” and “watch out”.   This concern for my health and safety happens on a regular basis.  Then, on top of all of this, the techs might get scratched but won’t draw attention to it out of respect for the owners.  Nobody wants to know when their four-legged furry child has misbehaved or injured a person!  If possible, the techs will stay quiet about it and not ever let on that they’ve been injured until the task at hand is complete and they step out of the exam room.  I’m willing to bet almost every technician could point at a scar and say how it happened when a vet was poking a pet with a needle.

7.  Anesthesia monitoring and recovery can be complicated and nerve-wracking

There are so many things to monitor when your pet is undergoing a surgical procedure.  At the start, as the veterinarian administers the induction medications, and the pet slowly slips into an anesthetic state, the vet and the techs mind are now a blur.  The tech is Veterinarian doctor and a beagle puppythinking about everything from monitoring the heart rate, breathing rate, level of anesthesia, fluid rate, pulse oximeter, pet temperature, comfort and much more while the vet is now reviewing in her mind the surgical procedure ahead such as what size and type of suture to use, any nuances that might need to be addressed during surgery, and also level of anesthesia and possible further medications that may be necessary.  We veterinarians rely heavily on our trained technicians to keep an eye on the patient as a whole while we have our eye on the surgery site.  If anesthesia concerns arise, the tech brings them to the surgeon’s attention and the anesthesia is adjusted accordingly as per vet instructions.  This can be a very nerve-wracking time for technicians – not normally in routine procedures such as spays and neuters, but in an aged pet needing a lump removal you can bet that there are some heightened nerves until the procedure is complete.

8.  Medicine refills can pile up fast  – and counting 36, 60, and 112 pills of three different medications can take a bit of time!

Your child’s doctor doesn’t normally carry many medications in-house.  So when your son is diagnosed with an infection, you are likely sent with a prescription to the nearest pharmacy.  Many veterinary offices need specific animal medications which are not always available at a human pharmacy.  Therefore, we act as a pharmacy on a regular basis in the midst of all the other goings-on in the hospital.   So, in between educating clients, collecting lab samples, caring for hospitalized pets, assisting veterinarians, and taking xrays, the techs are usually responsible for being a pharmacy technician too in filling prescriptions.  This involves counting out the pills or measuring out the liquid medication, printing out a prescription label, and sometimes calling the pet owner to inform them that the medication is ready.  This can be quite the daunting task to complete when you’re filling 50+ prescriptions a day!

9.  Doctors can be pushy

I struggled to figure out what adjective to use above.  Pushy works but bossy, irritable, impatient, demanding, and others would work as well.  Now, that’s not to say we’re ALWAYS like this, but when we get stressed out about a couple of tough cases or maybe we’re running behind, we can, at times, take it out on our technicians.  (I’m guilty of this on occasion.)  We can also be cheerful and we like to think we’re fun at times too!  In most practices, the doctors are the authority figure so technicians usually just have to put up with an irritable veterinarian without getting irritable back.  This can be challenging and mentally exhausting.  Our techs do a great job of remaining chipper and overcoming these periods.  (Now as a disclaimer I want you all to know that I feel these irritable veterinarian times are not frequent occurrences and most vets will accept a gentle reminder to regroup and return to a normal cheerful doctor.)

10.  They love pets more than they love people

Last year during national vet tech week, I asked each of our techs to explain why they became a veterinary technician to use as a post to honor each of them for their hard work.  It was so “cliche” in that they all said something to the effect of loving animals. Well of course they love animals! But if you actually look at many of their pets, quite a few of them have pets that were “rescued” or “homeless” because a previous owner ran into a situation where they couldn’t care for or keep a pet.  Of our technicians, I can think of at least three who have at least one pet which fits this “needed a home” criteria.  The hearts of our technicians go out to each and every pet going through a difficult time, they shed a tear for the elderly pets who go to the rainbow bridge,  and they are delighted when a hospitalized pet is discharged from the hospital as a healthy pet on the road to recovery.  Many remember the names of each of the pets and how they best tolerate their nails being trimmed – if cookies are needed for distraction or belly rubs work best.  They talk to your pet in that silly voice we all use at one time or another, you know the one I’m referring to…the octave-higher-silly-words-all-strung-together-excited talk that you know makes your pet just wiggle with joy.  The bottom line is, of all the other 9 things on this list, the most important is how much they love Princess when she’s in for her regular check-up and nail trim. And that’s why we love technicians and couldn’t run as successful veterinary practice without them.

vet tech cat

Next time you’re in the vet’s office – take a moment to thank the technicians for all they do…it’s really quite impressive!  And if you’re a vet like me – don’t forget to also thank your techs as you know you’d be lost without them.  A little bit of thanks is nothing compared to what they deserve, but it does go a long way.  To all the techs out there – Happy Veterinary Technician Week!

Are you listening to me?

Has your pet ever told you something? I mean, chances are she didn’t speak it to you in the English language, but she let you know something was awry in her own way?  I had such an experience recently…

Earlier this week I was walking my dog on our usual loop when he started acting strange.  He’s just a puppy so most of the things he does I chalk up to puppy behavior; therefore, I usually correct the behavior and move on.  Well on this particular day, we rounded the corner of our walk where there is no sidewalk so we walk in a grassy area until we can catch the sidewalk again in about 100 yards. 

All of a sudden, I feel a tug on the leash behind me.  He had stopped.

He was licking and biting his back left paw.  “Come on boy, let’s go,” I say. 

We start walking again. 


He’s licking his right front leg just above the paw.  “What has gotten into you?  Let’s go, we’re only halfway through!”

We start walking again. 


He’s back to licking his back leg again.  Okay, okay, this is a persistent behavior.  I decided I should take a look at him…maybe he walked through a spider web, maybe there are some thorns from the rose bush he decided to plow through earlier in our walk, maybe he managed to scratch himself on something…

I look and what do I see but a nasty little deer tick climbing up his back left leg.  And another deer tick on his front right leg!  Instantly I felt like a bad mother for tugging him along as he tried to get the little parasites off of himself.  I pulled these ticks off, smashed them with a stone on the nearby sidewalk and then sat in the middle of the sidewalk giving my dog a full massage not once but twice searching for any other little tag-alongs.  Once I was somewhat satisfied, we resumed our walk and we were back to our usual peaceful walk.

Sometimes our pets are trying to send us a message and we silly humans miss it altogether.  Then, be it persistence on the pet’s part or the old “light-bulb going on” in our head, we realize what they are trying to tell us.  This happens with sickness, with bugs crawling or bug bites, potty times, and much much more.  Pay close attention to your pet…and the things she’s telling you.  What has your pet tried to tell you lately?