Thursday, March 28, 2013

A day in the life of the Russell Vale Vet.

A day in the life of veterinarian..... the humble local vet at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.
This is me, Dr Liz.

When I was growing up, I used to read alot... and most of the books I read were about vets and their lives (oh, and about horses, dogs, ghost stories...any normal teenager read).   A vet's life sounded exciting.... happy puppies, lovely owners, and a happy life.  It was a promise of happiness.

They don't write about the cruelty cases (the obvious as well as the subtle cruelty), the convenience euthenasias (this is those based on finances or convenience), the "it's only a dog" attitude, and the compassion fatigue and physical exhaustion that caring vets often suffer from.

I wonder if I had known what my veterinary life would be really like, and understood what I would be sacrificing to be a vet, whether I would still have chosen this career choice.  Well, that thought is academic, because I am what I am. 

I am a humble, local vet, who, most days, can honestly say "I love the difference I make in the lives of my animals and their families."  And I should add, "I can't imagine myself doing anything else or be anywhere else" (although lying on the soft sands on a beautiful tropical beach somewhere sounds nice too).

Please remember as you read this that Russell Vale Animal Clinic is open Mondays to Fridays, from 9 am to 6 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am to 12 noon - ish, and the only vet there is me. 

So that is 48 hours a week alone, assuming I arrive and leave on time.  And no, I don't get a regular lunch break either.

Well the day begins early in the morning.  in our family home, where we check any hospitalised
patients which we brought home with us for monitoring or extra care.  If, as happens sometimes, the pet cannot be moved, then I usually stay over at the vet hospital to monitor them as needed. Even though I get to miss getting my own children ready for school,  I hate the thought of a pet, alone in a cage, in a strange place.   Being sick, well, it isn't pleasant, and we try to minimise the stress of it as much as we can.

Then comes the drive in to work.  We live in Dapto, which, on a good day is a 20 minute drive, and on a bad day, one hour.  We used to live in the flat at the back of the vet hospital, when we had two children, as it is  a 3 bedroom flat.  But when the younger two arrived, we needed a bit of space.  And, we couldn't afford to buy in the northern suburbs, so we looked to Dapto. 

9 -am ish - I arrive - there could be 2-3 people waiting with their sick pets, or I could be lucky, and get a chance for a quick coffee before the morning appointments.  Some days, the waiting room can look the proverbial picture photo of a range of animals, with alot of owners attached to them.

During this time, our patients which have been admitted for "Day Surgery", have their blood tests done, and their pre-anaesthetic check ups performed, before they are receive their pre-anaesthetic sedation.  By the time the morning appointments are over, we grab a quick mouthful of coffee, and get everything set up for the day's surgeries.

Now, we aren't a production-line practice, nor are we, what is called, a highly leveraged practice (this is one where the vet nurse does 90% of the work load)  and my goal in my veterinary life, is not to have so many animals in hospital, that I can't think!  Each pet deserves my individual time, and attention, and this is what we give them.  So we schedule accordingly.

All of the equipment is checked, and the surgeries are started.  As a fully operational veterinary hospital, we are licenced to perform all sorts of major surgeries.  And then it comes down to the fact that I do alot of soft tissue surgeries, and buckets and buckets of oral dental work (due to our ability and training in dental radiographs and advanced procedures).

A mouthful of food between procedures usually is our "lunch time".  And then, comes 3 oclock, when we start our afternoon consultations.  Between these appointments are our check ups of the patients who have had surgery, just to check that they are OK to go home.  No one is allowed home until that happens.

And then it is six oclock -- our door says that it is close up time, and really, I wish that was the case.  Sometimes I sneak away early (naughty me), but most times, as my neighbours will testify to, I am not home before 7 pm.  And some nights, we stay back to perform emergency surgery, or stitch ups, or look after sick pets, and I never make it home! 

What about the after hours?  Well, we do have a mobile number which clients do call when their pet is unwell, and we try to help where we can.  But sometimes we can't, especially if we are already tired and exhausted from working during the day, so please don't get upset with me if I deem myself too tired to look after your pet properly out of normal hours. I am not slacking off my responsibility - I am probably just too tired.   As I wouldn't want a tired human  doctor to look after my sick child, nor should you accept a tired vet looking after your best mate.

My veterinary life is a life I chose, in as much as I chose a veterinary career, but it is not a life I would've chosen if I had been given a crystal ball which showed my life from day to day, especially the impact that has had on my family life and my personal interests.  I blame those romantic books I used to read.

But then, when all of the dust settles, I still couldn't imagine myself doing anything else, and so, I don't stress about the things I cannot change, but enjoy doing the things that make my pets feel better, safer, healthier and happier. 

As for my family, well they get the joy of having a new pet most nights when the patients come home, and they can see that the work their mum and dad does, well, it has made a difference in the lives of many pets and their loving pet owners.

I don't doubt they wished their mum could do canteen more often, or be home for them when they come home from school, or perhaps watch their Saturday morning soccer game. 

We haven't signed World Peace treaties,  nor found a cure for Cancer, but we feel grateful to be Australian, grateful that we are able to dream about big things and achieve them.... well we are grateful to all our loving pet owners who have chosen Russell Vale Animal Clinic as the best vet for their pet.   As pets need vets, so do vets need pets!  As I said, I am a humble, grateful local vet, who just cares for pets.

So thank you for making this vets life a special one. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The History of Cat and Dog

It starts in October, 1995.  I (Dr Liz) was a young vet, with a young family, in Wollongong, trying to understand why the veterinary profession couldn't get itself up to date on family friendly work environments. 

(In case you are wondering, this is not the history of the Domestic dog or Domestic Cat, but the history of My Dog and My Cat.... the two figure heads for Russell Vale Animal Clinic.)

Like any other young, dedicated, passionate person, I started Vets on the Move, a mobile veterinary practice, which was the first one for the Illawarra.   This was very family friendly, as I could work hours that suited my family and me... I could be there for school drop off and pick up, be there for the sports events, and still work in the evenings and early mornings when clients needed me... I was not restricted by  9 to 6 in a bricks and mortar business. 

But, Vets on the Move (or VOTM - pronounced VOT - M), as we would affectionally name it, needed an image, a brand.  And, so I asked a guy I knew, who I shall call Alex,  to come up with a funky logo.... and it was a cat and dog sitting in a car, waving, smiling (like I am always smiling and waving!)
 c 1995.

As time goes on, business grew, and Russell Vale Animal Clinic was developed.  Which meant a dog and cat sitting in a car was not much use for a bricks and mortar fully fledged fully operational veterinary hospital.  So, Dog and Cat were transformed into a slightly different shape.
c. 1998

And then they were in colour.  You can't be black and white stars forever!

But, as I don't do things half baked, I didn't like Dog and Cat continuing a public life without full body shots, so I had Alex again, finish their bodies off.  As you can see, they do pose quite well - very happy, dressed like the consummate professionals they are.

So, time went on, and the logo was used on all things that needed to be branded - the letterhead, the building, the clothes. They had their own web page too.  And so it went on from 1998.... all a very happy animalclinic family.  Now Dog and Cat are just their stage names - they do have proper names, but we felt that being famous does have its drawbacks, and I wanted to respect their private lives.

Fast forward to 2013. This is where the story gets sad for me.   A few weeks ago, Dog tapped his nose on my elbow, nudged his head under my arm, and said he wanted to have a quiet word with me. Cat was slinking around behind him, as if to agree with him....  a discussion was necessary between the three of us.

The short version is - they wanted to retire.  They had been the face of Russell Vale Animal Clinic for over 15 years now, helping us look after other dogs and cats.  Now, after the tears streamed down my face, with the  thought of losing Cat and Dog, they re-assured me that they were not gone forever...  they put their paws on my heart.... and promised that it would be all OK.   

And so, was the birth of  our current logo, which I fondly call Paws.  Now, the paw prints belong to Dog (not Cat, as she wouldn't stay still long enough to allow her feet to be drawn, and well, she doesn't like her feet being touched, even to trace or copy. We can honestly say, Dog and Cat have left their permanent mark on Russell Vale Animal Clinic.

Happy Retirement, Dog and Cat.  We love you, we will miss you... and we hope that you enjoy retirement. 

 But your paws will always be in my heart....

 And so, let us hope for another 15 years (and more) of Russell Vale Animal Clinic, a family based veterinary hospital in the northern suburbs of Wollongong (with Dr Liz, who just loves her dogs and cats).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Astonishing Secrets: A Lost Pet

This "astonishing secrets" series is all about things that go wrong with your pet, and to give you tips and hints on how to help them, till you can seek veterinary help. Because when your pet is sick or lost (or you have found a lost pet) who are ya gonna call?  Your vet, of course!

"I'm lost, and I want my Mummy. Can you help me?" asks Charlie,
trying not to cry!
From a pet's perspective, being lost or stolen, is horrible, and that is as distressing to them as any illness.  And from the pet owner's perspective, the gut wrenching feeling of a missing child.... well, that is undescribable.

Just a wee bit of history before I get to the useful stuff...In 2003 our dog, Sugar went missing.... and to this day, we never knew, one way or another, what happened to her. As a vet and as a pet owner, I do feel the excruciating pain of a missing pet.

But, it was a shock to me, that
  1. Many vets did not scan new pets to check their microchips (I knew that we, at Russell Vale Animal Clinic did scan microchips, but at that time we had no way of checking any microchip registries...thankfully,  things have changed now.).  But in 2003, most vets did not scan and record the pet's microchip numbers on their computer systems, simply because most vets in Wollongong at the time, were not computerised.
  2. Councils did not scan dead pets, nor inform the owners that their pet had turned up. (my local council advised me this was the case on multiple occasions.)
  3. Councils did not keep a record of any dead pets that they picked up.... so there was no way to check.
Notwithstanding the knowledge that Sugar was a lovable Maltese Terrier, and that more likely than not, (or we hoped), that some well intentioned person, decided to keep her as a pet, her loss still hurts, ten years later. 

We would never know if her new carers did take her to a vet, as we live 30 minutes away from our vet hospital, which means that it was unlikely that the new owner of Sugar would come in to see us.  Thanks to Sugar and her houdini act (and the things we now knew about how the system can fail), we now scan and check all pets... and with that we have found stolen pets, pets with outdated details, and even pets who are not on any database registry in Australia.

And it is in memory of our lovable Houdini, Sugar that we started our scan and check.

Get Vets Scanning - all vets should scan and check
all pets when they come in for their twice a year
vet check.

Now, this Astonishing Secrets is all about how you can best help your pet. 

And it begins in the beginning... before your pet even goes missing, or stolen ....  can you prevent this from happening? 

Well, all you can do is the best that you can do.  But you can make it less traumatic when your pet does go missing.  Unfortunately, I can't prevent theft. My suggestion though is to make your pet less attractive to being stolen, which is getting them desexed -  as thieves like to steal dogs, especially staffies, for fighting and breeding, and cute dogs for breeding.

So, what can you do?

Stop pet theft
Our Scan & Check service is free

Every type of pet can be microchipped and placed onto a National (An Australia wide) registry.
  1. Keep a record of your pet's microchip.
  2. Get your pet scanned and checked EVERY year at your vet.    
  3. Ask your vet to check the registry databases for the contact details to make sure they are up to date.
  4. Keep your pet's microchip details in one, easy to find place (not a safe place, as if you are like me, everything gets lost in the safe place).
  5. And if your pet is not microchipped, get it done. Now.
  6. Follow your local governments laws on pet registration - in NSW all pets must be microchipped and registered by six months of age.

And then ask your vet to scan and check your pet at every single vet visit.

In 2012, over 16 stray pets were brought into Russell Vale Animal Clinic that were unmicrochipped.  That is a remarkable number given the fact that in NSW, microchipping your pet is a legal requirement for dogs and cats.

And I am only a solo vet, in a small suburb of Wollongong.  What would the numbers be if  other vets kept tabs like us?  That is an awful number of unmicrochipped stray pets, getting lost, and most likely euthenased, all because someone didn't take the first, most important step!
Microchip Implantation of Pets protects them
and you. 
The really first step? It is to microchip their pet with an Australian Veterinary Association Accredited Microchip Implant Centre. An Accredited Microchip Implant centre will take steps to ensure that your pet will get home, no matter where, in Australasia, they may happen to be found.

In NSW, most implanters just place them onto the NSW registry only, and really, this is so 1800's.... our pets don't know boundaries, and we are now supposed to be in a Commonwealth. 

An AVA Accredited microchip implanter is the way to go.

Now, I don't like our local authority or government in general, as they prefer to work against vets, rather than for them, but, the law is clear... all dogs and cats should be microchipped, and registered.

But they don't really care if the details are current or not after you have paid them the registration fee.  In NSW, the government takes no active steps to ask you to check your contact details, rather than placing the onus on you to do so when you move.... as if you don't have enough to do when you change houses.

But  your pet is missing, what do you do!

Teddy, our dog (RIP November 2011) is the face our
Facebook page for Lost & Found Pets in the Illawarra
Well... take big breaths, go inside, and do this....

1. Collect all of your pet's paperwork

2. Find their microchip number and a photo of them

3. Take another breath, and make yourself a cup of tea.

4. Call your local vet - they will be willing to take your pet's details, and give you advice on what you need to do.

5. Now you need to stretch your net - and I wish it could be a simple process, but it isn't.

Now the following is for NSW, so please ask your local vet as to what applies in your area....

Pet theft is a real concern in our area, but we need to remain positive and hoepful that our pet is just having a scenic tour of the neighbourhood, and will be home soon!

What next to do in NSW?

  1. Contact your local council pound and inform them... this is a legal requirement if your pet has been missing for more than 2 days. And the sooner your do it, the better.
  2. Check for the online missing pets register... in Wollongong, there is ours on facebook - which links to several others in NSW.
  3. And then take big breaths... remember that many people will take the stray to the nearest vet they know and trust, which may not be the nearest vet to where the pet went missing... we have had pets found in Nowra brought in to us!  So spread your net.
Now I am going to be assuming that you, or your family team are out and about scouring the neighbourhood, and knocking doors, asking if anyone has seen your baby.

Don't do what I have seen happen... the owner rings all of their friends and relatives, the radio stations, and posts on their facebook page, but fails to ring the actual people who care and look after pets.. such as their local vet, and all other animal care professionals in the area.

Your local vet is your pet's best friend... when they are healthy, sad, or lost. 

Now, I hope you never need to read this, and need our help. If your pet is missing,  we do feel your pain.  As pet owners ourselves, we are there to support you...  if you need a friendly ear, then you can email me anytime at

It will be one of those situations where I hope to never need to hear from you.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pets, Babies and changing priorities

Aka How to blend the “fur-st”  kid with the first kid!

Let me take you back to when your  family first began... there were the two of you, and then you got your place that you called your own. Exciting times.
Your "fur-st" child in your first home with your only spouse.

You are both young, working, and miss your own family pet... the one whom you grew up with, or even better, the one you got as a young adult, but now you have to leave at home with your parents, as your pet now loves them a pinch more than they love you.

So, you and your beloved decide to get your “fur-st” child.   Your new puppy or kitten arrives, you are taking photos, long walks on the beach or the mountains... overall you now feel like you are a family.

And life is great!

But time passes, whatever clock ticks along, and, guess what,  a new baby is on the horizon. 

Life just gets better.... and different.... and busier, and priorities change. 

So how can you make your “fur-st “cope with the arrival of your “first” kid?

It really is a combination of your pet’s temperament, their training, their relationship with you, and their experiences in the past, that is going to play a big part, on how well the fur- kid adjusts to the first kid.

It all starts with the basics of a relationship with your pet that is based on trust, respect, tolerance and understanding.  Balance that with positive reinforcement training, and reasonable ground rules, then you have set your fur-kid up to success.

When you are looking at your "ground rules" think about your fur-child
with your first child.
So what do “reasonable ground rules” mean?   Well, it means, “start as you mean to continue”.  The rules apply whether your kids have two legs or four.  If you set reasonable rules on when it is meal time, play time, toilet time, walk time.... that is a schedule, as best as you can keep a schedule, then your pet will respect the times when it is just you-and-hubby-time, or you-and-you-time.

Positive reinforcement means what it means... you are just rewarding the behaviours that you would like to see repeated each and every time... which is really, basic manners..... please and thank you. 

These are important steps that each new pet owner must take (for any pet dog or cat) if they are anticipating that they are likely to have children in the next 15 years.  It is the least you can do for your first fur-kid.

·         Routine is important – they need to know that there will be set times for meals, play, toileting, exercise, training.  It doesn’t have to be down to the second, but it does have to be consistent in the context of the day.  

o   Example –  Mornings – quick walk around the block followed by at home 5 minute training

o   Lunch time – play with a frozen Kong treat.

o   Dinner time – 5 min basic training, 5 min new commands, rewarded with yummy dinner.

o   Rest

o   Recap day’s training  - 1 minute- then bed.

Are they allowed inside or not?   It is common for pets who would normally be allowed inside, to be suddenly evicted when bubs arrives.  How about dropping the sudden-ness bit, and just not allowing them inside at all, if that is your intention when the new one arrives?

I know they say that pets are unpredictable (they are), and you can’t trust them (this is true for most family members anyway).... but it is not fair to evict them from something that they were originally told was OK... all because a new tenant is in the building. 

If there is a relationship with your pet based on trust, respect, love.... then re-adjusting them to a different routine to what they have had previously, is understandable, and accepted by most pets. After all, they really just want to make us happy...pets, at an essential level, are not jealous, greedy, or self centred. 

As soon as you are aware you are expecting..

·         Look at your pet’s routine

·         Look at your expected baby routine (most first time mothers know in their brains what they expect the routine to be, as it usually until the third or fourth child, when you realise a set schedule is bordering on impossible...doable in fantasy land.)

·         How can you merge the two to help your pet cope

Now that you know what  the expected daily pet/baby routine is hoping to turn out like, let us look at the other things about babies which are unique, and that affect our pets.

And lets face it, for our pets, it is all about smell and sound.

How many times have you heard the story of the pet distraught at the sound of a baby’s cry.  Or seen video of pet’s sniffing a baby, with a bizarre look on its face, trying to figure out what this unusual object is in the house.

The next steps for helping your pet cope is to...

·         Stay calm when you hear babies crying.  Our pets are intuitive, and if we are anxious about the noise, then they will be to.  And, let’s face it,  as a mother of four, I know that our babies also sense our anxiety, and they are more likely to cry if we are anxious.   Learning how to stay calm is a good first lesson, for everyone. It is easy enough these days to download the sounds of babies crying... play it in the house and just watch how your pet reacts. 

The response you want is a pet who acts normal.

·          Invest in a fake baby doll.... wash its clothing, and then place that clothing in your own bed for a few nights.... dress the doll, and then , give it the attention that it would receive if were the real thing.   After a few days,  allow your pet to come near this doll, with you acting as if it was the real thing.  

You need to be aware, that each pet will view this doll differently... some will see it as real, some know it isn’t real, and some, don’t care either way.  The behaviour you want is curiosity, but a “ meh” attitude. But, if your pet is likely to attack a baby, wouldn’t you rather know with a plastic doll, than the real thing, with the baby doll, dressed in clothes you have washed, and placed with your clothes, so it smells like you.

Then play dolls every day... enjoy reliving your childhood...By the time the baby comes home, your pet smells them, and smells home!  And we all love home.

Need more information, or a helping hand?  Vets have children too, and we understand that priorities change.  Have a chat with your pet’s vet.

What vets do see, and what makes us all sad, is that when the first kid arrives,  the walks, the play sessions and any preventative care for the “fur-st kid” just is no longer the priority it used to be.  It doesn’t need to be so.  Let your vet join the extended family, and let us support you.

As vets have children too (I have 4 kids, and 6 fur kids), we do know how to combine the two to make everyone happy.  

Call your vet, and say “help”, and we will.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Astonishing Secrets : Animal Eyes First Aid

"You're poking my eye out, Charlie" cries out the Town Crier

You wake up in the morning, roll out of bed, say hallo to your best mate (your pet)  (after you kiss your loved one (your wife/husband/spouse/partner), and find that one or both of their eyes (of your pet, that is)  are glued together with this yellow goo.

Or how about another scenario... your pet has been run over, and if that stress wasn't enough, your pet's eye doesn't look right.

And another scenario... one which someone had emailed me about asking for advice.... they were playing cricket, and the dog got hit in the eye with a tennis ball, and was now keeping it shut.

What do you do?

The Astonishing Secrets series is all about healthy tips to help you and your pet until you can get to see a vet.

General Tips:
'Here's looking at you kid!"
  • Make sure your pet's first aid kit is current and ready to go - make it well stocked with eye flush solutions, ice packs, and muzzles (in case eye is painful).
  • Warm compresses work well for cases of mild conjuncitivitis
  • Always flush eyes out with saline eye drops after a trip to the beach
  • All pets with exposed eyes (like pugs, chihuahuas), or that are in high risk groups of dry eye (like shih tzu, cocker spaniels), or those with a lot of hair on the face (such as poodles) should get daily tear drops for extra protection.
Need help to make up a First Aid Kit?  We can help with that too.

First Aid for Eyes
What to do:
  • If the eye has been dislocated from the socket (proptosis) or if the lids cannot close over the eyeball, you need to keep the eyeball moist with eye wash solution, saline, or even water if necessary
  • If the eye was injured by a chemical or other irritant, flush the eye with eye wash solution, saline, or water for a minimum of 15 minutes
  • If the eye has been hit, ice packs or cold cloths applied immediately will help reduce bruising and damage.
What NOT to do:
  • Do not attempt to treat the eyes, or remove any foreign objects yourself - you could cause more damage
  • Do not try to push a proptosed eye back into its socket, this needs to be done under anesthesia to prevent causing damage to the interior of the eyeball
  • Don't put anything into your pets eye that you would not be happy to have in your own eye (such as home made salty water solutions).

We hope this helps.  Don't forget to subscribe, and hope that your pet stays happy and healthy, always.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Veterinary Disconnect - Reality and Owner's expectations.

I think you will agree that vets are special people - strange, but special.

Dr Liz with Tinka, with Nurse Tegan looking on at Russell
Vale Animal Clinic.
And if you are a loving pet owner - you are also very special - in fact, us vets adore you - Loving Pet Owners.

So, now picture a consultation room in a veterinary hospital.  I don't necessarily mean my own veterinary hospital, at Russell Vale Animal Clinic, but the general veterinary hospital that may exist  anywhere in the world.

Now, the scenarios I am going to go through, well,  they  don't always  play out with every single consultation, but the emotions and thoughts occur often enough, to make me want to write about it.

That is,   the disconnect between the reality of the medical condition of the pet, and the owner's expectations (of what a vet is capable of doing, of the outcome of the medical procedures or the outcome from the disease itself).

It is an unspoken expectation of many Loving Pet Owners that all diseases can be cured or fixed, and an unspoken accusation that the vet must've done something wrong if treatment doesn't work or further signs develop.

Now, in today's post, I am going to play both roles - adorable, Loving Pet Owner, and the Super Special you-beaut Veterinarian.  Perhaps you are wondering why am I doing this?

Because these two pets that I am going to write about  highlight the disconnect between the (possible) expectations of a Loving Pet Owner, and the reality of the medical situation the pet is in from the point of view of the veterinarian.

What's more, it highlights the importance of the relationship between the Loving Pet Owner, and the Veterinarian, in ensuring a great outcome for the most important thing in the room - which is the pet.

Pandora, the boss.... Really!
Oh, I forgot to mention - the reason why I will be playing both roles, as I will be talking about two of my own pets - our dog Teddy, and the boss of Russell Vale Animal Clinic, Pandora.    These cases are real, the people are real, the situation is real..... (sorry to quote Judge Judy here).    I am choosing my own pets, as I really don't like writing negatively about my own Loving Pet Owners, as they are all, well, loving and awesome (albeit human, like me)

And, no. I do not have a split personality, or some psycho disorder, I don't smoke, and I am sober writing this.... but yes, I am a wee bit mad!

Teddy.... what can I say about our Teddy.  He was an amazing dog, but he passed away, after succumbing to Canine Lymphoma in 2011.  He was diagnosed in 2009, and underwent Chemotherapy, under the care of Dr Angela Frimberger at the Animal Referral Hospital.  Teddy was (and will always be), a very special dog. His photo hangs on my filing cabinet near my desk at work, and he is the face on my Facebook page, and my Lost and Found Pets Facebook page.

Teddy as a puppy.... wasn't he cute?
Well, he got Lymphoma, and the knowledge of that, as a pet owner was devastating.  I searched the internet, and joined a support group.  I didn't let on that I was a vet, but joined as a loving pet owner.  Which I realised shortly after joining, was a wise thing to do, as some of the comments there about vets was not too pretty.... unfair, and not nice.

Teddy, my daughter Tegan, and I drove to the Animal Referral Hospital, weekly initially, then as needed for his chemotherapy.  The blood tests were done at my own vet hospital, at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.   As a loving pet owner, I wanted the best care for my Teddy, which is what he received.

But let me go back a few steps -  to the time just before his diagnosis.  As a vet, and loving pet owner, my pets receive a full check up each six months,  which included full blood work (full blood count, biochemistry profile), urinalysis, as well as Chest and abdominal radiographs once a year - really, the basic screening that all pets should have.   And Teddy's last lot of tests were done about 3 months before his diagnosis, and they were all normal. Chest radiographs were clear, spleen was normal.  (remember this point for later).

Now, think about how the Loving Pet Owner feels when she hears the diagnosis of cancer, or, even before you know, the sinking feeling that your pet is "not well"   What is one of the first questions you ask yourself?   .... how long has he had this disease? (in other words, was he sick, and I missed it? or was he sick at his last check up a year ago, and you (the vet) missed it?)

Well, the vet hat goes on, and I say " I can honestly say, that three months earlier, everything was as normal as normal can be."

Teddy our dog... photo taken in 2009
Loving Pet Owner  - " What caused the disease? Where did it come from?"  Now I will take some artistic licence, and go through some of the causes that people sprout on the Lymphoma forums - all of which are not true, and some are really hurtful, as they implied that vets would deliberately harm animals, which, well, is not true.  Such as flea control, worming tablets - these poison the pet (no, they don't), the food they feed (all of the additives),  the vaccinations the pets receives (these don't cause it either).

Now the vet hat on me says "Cancer sucks. Pure and simple. Lymphoma isn't caused by any of these things, as I see alot of pets who get lymphoma, who are on raw diet, no worming, no flea control to speak off (other than garlic) as well as alot who are on quality preventative care.  Lymphoma doesn't discriminate. It just sucks... like any cancer diagnosis. "

AS I've mentioned, this is all about disconnect.... there is the Loving Pet Owner's, almost unspoken expectation, that there must be a "cause" or "it is someone's fault" for their pet having a sucky disease.  Also.... that every sucky disease has a easy, cheap treatment that causes no effort or work on the owners part.

And the disconnect?  Well, veterinarians know that life sucks sometimes.... bad things happen to good people, and it is no ones fault.  Pets (and people) get cancer, and that just, well,  sucks.  And we all know, that there are no free lunches in life.

As a Loving Pet Owner, I listened to the recommendations of my  gorgeous vet (which was me), and Teddy underwent the full series of tests required - even if it meant repeating the tests done not less than 3 months earlier.
Our dog Teddy .... a few weeks before he had to go to Heaven.

Can you think of any other possible reaction to the news that tests need to be repeated?  The Loving Pet Owner could question why they need to be repeated, as after all, they were done recently (I have had some owners want me to rely on tests done 4 years previously to diagnose their pets current medical condition...really!), but the Really Loving Pet Owner goes ahead... trusting her vet to do the right thing by her.

Now I (and most vets I know)  would never recommend a test or a procedure performed on any pet if we didn't think it needed to be done.  Owners are allowed to query what the desired outcome of the test is hoping to be, but I don't understand the need to doubt the necessity of it.

You'll remember I mentioned earlier about the treks to Animal Referral Hospital for Teddy's chemotherapy treatment?

Well, at each visit, he would receive a full check up.  And (almost) every visit, we would be given the thumbs up.   Awesome!  And then, one visit, no thumbs up.  Teddy was diagnosed with a heart murmur. It wasn't there in the weeks before this visit, and no changes ever noted on his radio-graphs to indicate a heart problem.  And, he needed a chest ultrasound (an echocardiograph) to assess his heart properly.

Now here is the disconnect again.... what do you think a Pet Owner would say or think? Well, I will tell you, as I have been at the receiving end of these comments
"Dr ABC diagnosed a heart murmur in my dog, and you missed it.  What kind of vet are you? "
"How could this have been missed earlier?  What else are you doing wrong? "

and then... "How much is this going to cost extra? " with the silent thought that the vet is probably trying to puff out the vet bill to make more money.

Well, I am paraphrasing,  and some haven't been said that to me at all... but they are reasonable things to feel, not always to say though!   And, mostly, unfair to the vet.

As a vet though, I knew that pets can be normal one day, and then the next day not be normal. I knew that Teddy's heart murmur was not caused by the vet doing anything wrong.  I also knew that the vet didn't  "miss" the heart murmur the week before .... it just didn't exist.  But as a pet owner, you would say "well, my last vet didn't pick that up."

Frankly, whenever I read comments on other posts about vets being money hungry, filthy rich scum bags, because they charge pet owners for their services and knowledge, I just shake my head, and go "Wow! Really? Do you treat the local supermarket, or the car yard where you bought your BMW in that way too?  "

As you can see, Teddy, even after he is gone, highlights the areas of disconnect between the expectations of a Loving Pet Owner, and the reality of the veterinary condition.  How did I go at playing both roles?

Now, I wonder if you were Teddy's owner through all of these situations, how you would've reacted? What would you have said or done?

Pandora (the boss) with Pandora's Box!
Now, onto Pandora..... well, anyone who comes in to see us at Russell Vale vets, knows Pandora... the boss - she spends her time either under the building, or folding towels (sleeping on them I mean), flattening out the bed (sleeping on that too), or just trying to turn our computers off by walking over our keyboards (or write letters to clients which can't be understood).

In 2012, she developed a small sore on her head - it was about 2 mm wide, red, and she was obviously agitated, and itchy with it.  Now, Pandora isn't the best patient to deal with, she is a boss, not a patient... so we clipped it up, and it looked, well, like a small red blimp. Like she had donked her head on something!

Now, within a few days, it got bigger.... not because it did it on its own, by Pandora's back foot was working overtime, scratching, and rubbing, clawing and clawing, until you could see streaks of red where her claws had been.... And so, we had to do some serious investigations.  We gave her an anaesthetic, did some skin scrapings, fungal culture, cleaned it, and administered medications.  And then, she woke up with an Elizabethan collar on her.... as well as being caged for a few days to see how it would heal.

And, heal it (almost) did.  After a few days, it was looking good, so off comes the collar, out goes Pandora, and we think, as a vet,  "all's right with the world".

Now, as a Loving Pet Owner, how would you feel if the vet had said to you... "this sore isn't healing as well as we expected to based on the treatment we gave for the condition we think it was... (which was we thought she had grazed it, or perhaps a cat scratch from the neighbours cat - they do like to play a bit rough sometimes). "And we need to do further tests to find out what it is"

Well, there are two things the Loving Pet Owner could do - one would be to say "Ok", walk out the door, and go somewhere else for another treatment, without doing any of the tests.

Another, would be "Ok, when can I book her in for the tests", or Loving Pet Owner could say "What other treatments can I try?", and my favourite line that I sometimes hear is ... "Is that really necessary?"

Well, yes, it is.  The best treatment is the right treatment, and this is best done with a diagnosis of a condition, rather than a intelligent guess based on the possibilities of what it could be.

Well, moi, as the Loving Pet Owner allowed moi, the veterinarian, to perform these tests.  I also performed a skin biopsy on her head too.  I wanted to send that away to find out more about this poorly healing, very very itchy sore.

And lucky I did.  It came back as a severe intense allergic reaction to an insect bite with a secondary infection.   So we blamed the local white tip spider, that most houses in this area play host too... and Pandora does like to go underneath the building.

And the best treatment for that? - time.  And steroids and antibiotics and Elizabethan collar.... but it was really a matter of time.  It took 4 months for that sore to heal up till it didn't bother her any more.  If the Loving Pet Owner wasn't a vet, then they would've, more than likely, visited every vet in town, and then some, for a treatment trial, and the lucky vet that sees the patient 4 months later gets credited with the success, when the real success came with just being patient, and allowing "time to heal all wounds".

 The disconnect?  The pet owners expectation that the first treatment is going to be successful without any diagnostic tests, and in the first week of starting treatment. You'll remember I mentioned earlier about the unspoken expectation of pet owners.

I think you will agree that even vets are Loving Pet Owners too. How do you think you would've acted if you were the Loving Pet Owner of Pandora or Teddy?