Vet Talk

Veterinary musings

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When I was just 8 years old I went to see Born Free at the drive in. I was very impressed with the film and the message that it carried.  It was worth the risk, the effort and the time to ensure the lions were able to live freely.  Could anything be more important?  Not in my young mind.

My mother was soon very sorry that she had taken me.  Anyone who has had a hamster knows that they seem to spend their entire time trying to break free; from chewing the bars, climbing the walls and forever running that wheel in an effort to get somewhere.  After having watched the movie I found it hard to watch the efforts.  I decided that my hamster needed to be “Free”.  I would close my bedroom door and open the cage.  Seemed very innocent until we discovered that Peanuts had chewed through the bottom of my dresser and climbed up into my drawers, making a nest of my lovely lambs wool sweater.  My mother was not impressed.

Before long a room did not seem to be enough.  I let him come with me into other areas of the house.  Unfortunately, I lost him for a few days.  My mother was much less than impressed to realize that he had chewed his way into the couch and was living in the cushions.  I needed to think of something else.

Surely hamsters were entitled to experience the natural world!  Fortunately even I knew that hamsters are fast movers and couldn’t just be let go.  I fashioned a leash for him and took him outside, into the grass and the sun.  I felt good being able to offer him the experience.  Soon he was going many different places with me.  I took him to the mall and have photo booth pictures with him and a good friend.  Remember, I was just 9 years old and it didn’t seem unusual.  You know there had to be a climax to these events.

I took music lessons.  It required a bus ride, with a connection.  Why did I honestly think I should take Peanuts with me?  My mother never got a good answer to that question.  I carried him in my coat pocket.  All went well until I was nearly home.  I put my hand into my pocket and found a chewed hole through the lining – Peanuts was missing!!!  I was extremely distraught.  My long suffering mother called the bus station and was happy to report that he had been found.  The driver was very surprised to find a hamster on his bus, but impressed with how easily he could handle him, how social he was.  He said that he was glad that he could go back to his owner, but was disappointed that he couldn’t keep him.  Peanuts was quite the character.

Mom drove to the bus driver’s house to collect him. I was very disappointed not to go, but it was time to get ready for bed.  In her urgency she didn’t think to bring a carrier cage.  Where to put him to bring him home?  Obviously a pocket was not the best idea.  She put him in the glove compartment.  Imagine her surprise to find him gone when she got home.  It was very late so she locked the doors and hoped he would reappear by morning.

No such luck. Come morning, on further investigation, it was determined that there was an opening in the glove box that allowed him to climb under the dash.  You could hear the rustle as he moved around.  I was terrified that if the car were started he might be hurt.  Fortunately, my brothers were mechanically inclined and we were able to get Peanuts back.

At that point, under unquestionable reason, my hamster’s freedom was curtailed and I began to learn the concept of reasonable compromise.


Cathy Seguin, DVM

Why we recommend pet insurance

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There are a lot of stories in our world.  Most of them very happy, some are sad.  We had one recently that could have gone either way.  Libby, an adorable little shih tsu, was presented with a urinary infection.  The antibiotics cleared the infection, but there was still blood in her urine.  An X-ray showed the stones that were causing the problem. She needed surgery to remove them, but it was beyond the budget of her owner.  Even the offer of a payment plan would not make enough difference.  The single mom simply could not afford to spend that much money on her beloved dog.  Libby would have to be euthanized, as chronic pain and infection were not a reasonable option.

I think the hardest thing I have to deal with in my work is financial euthanasia. To know that I could help an animal, and the only thing standing in the way is the cost, is devastating. Veterinary medicine is more and more expensive, as is human medicine. We have the ability to do some pretty amazing things, but they come with a price. The minute I use the word “refer” I know that we are talking well over $1,000.00 to start. Bills exceeding $5,000.00 are not uncommon. The average person just doesn’t have that kind of money readily available.

People don’t take the option of pet insurance seriously until they are wishing that they had some. It seems like such a lot of money that you may never benefit from.  Would you think of driving your car without insurance?  Would you risk your home?  The insurance companies count on you paying more than you collect, but when you need help, it is such a relief to have choices.

The good news is that we did manage to work things out for Libby. We just couldn’t euthanize such a sweet, happy young dog.  With the stones gone she is doing very well.

Just last month I had another young dog come in – a 10 month old Visla that had been vomiting everything he ate for several days. I don’t think I’ve ever palpated an abdomen that empty. I knew that all of the possibilities would involve some expensive tests and procedures. The owners were a young couple and I was trying to choose my words carefully, when she told me that he was insured. My relief was immense.  I told her that fortunately we would be able to avoid “the talk”. It was such a relief to be able to do what I needed to do to help this puppy, without having to worry about costs every inch of the way.  That turned out to be a very good thing, as nothing about this case went routinely and even after surgery, it took medication, special diet and several months for him to recover.  I know that without insurance his survival would have been in question.

More and more, as medical costs increase, pet insurance saves lives.  It protects owner’s financial stability and, more importantly, their ability to keep their beloved pets in their family for as long as possible.  No one wants to think anything could go wrong when they have a happy young animal.  But both of these dogs were under five, Vinny not even a year old.  Pet insurance needs to start with a new pet, to protect their health, but also because once a pet has an identified problem, it will become excluded from coverage as a pre-existing condition. For the price of a cup of coffee a day, you could prevent a lot of grief.

Save yourself and your pet from having to hear “the talk”.

Why you should learn about Leptospirosis

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by Dr. Cathy Seguin

Spring is here.  Finally!! We were beginning to wonder if it ever would.  But now we know that even if there is more snow, it is not here to stay.  Unfortunately, spring means April showers.  Having a large dog, I really don’t appreciate muddy season – not on the walks, or in the house.

There is another thing to consider when the weather gets damp.  I spent an evening in London recently getting the update on Leptospirosis.  What’s that you ask?  It’s a bacterial infection that is spread in the urine of wildlife.  We think we are seeing more of it in the suburbs with the increase of raccoons and skunks in suburban areas.  It requires a moist area to reproduce, which is why it becomes more of an issue in the spring and the fall.  When we think of a moist area, we think of anywhere that stays squishy after a rain, or where puddles accumulate.

If your dog were to become infected, the most commonly targeted organs are kidneys and liver. It is a bacterial infection, which means that it can be treated with antibiotics.  However, it can hit hard and fast, and getting an early diagnosis can be critical. Treatment requires hospitalization with intravenous fluids, antibiotics and other supportive medications.

There is a vaccine available to protect our dogs.  We used to screen dogs that needed vaccination by their outdoor activities – going on the rail trail, down by the river, dog parks, etc., but there is a newer trend presenting itself. We are seeing an increase in little, urban dogs.  You know the ones – their feet rarely touch the ground, and they certainly never get wet.  They never leave their own back yards.  We’re still not sure how these little ones are getting infected, but it is a concern.  Do we simply vaccinate everyone? This vaccine tends to be more reactive than some of the others, though some dispute this.  Well worth it, in my opinion, if your dog is at risk.

I think education is paramount. Being aware of a risk, knowing what to look for, and early intervention will make the ultimate difference. If people know that the disease exists, what the risks and symptoms are, then they can make an educated decision for their own pet. I don’t believe every dog needs to be vaccinated – yet. But I do believe that every owner needs to know of the risks.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please feel free to contact us.

30 years of veterinary medicine…

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It’s hard to believe that it’s 30 years since I first stepped into the exam room as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  I decided to become a veterinarian when I was 8 years old.  I had a hamster that wasn’t well and I had no idea what to do for it.  I promised that one day I would know what to do to help, or at least be able to end the suffering peacefully.  My resolve never waivered.  Strange that at the time people told me that I couldn’t be a vet as it was a man’s job (thankfully my mother supported me) and now the classes are well over half female.

We had always had pets growing up but when I went in to my first appointment I felt so inexperienced and remember looking forward to having a year under my belt.  After the first year, I was looking forward to having 10 years experience.  There was so much to know, so many things that weren’t in the text books.

After 30 years, you would think that I would have pretty much seen all of it by now, but Mother Nature keeps throwing new curves at me.  I’m grateful that I can’t say “I’ve never seen anything like it” very often anymore, but it still happens.

Even if I had seen it all, with the fast pace that new technology and medications are changing the way we practice, there is still more to learn continually.  It certainly never gets dull.  So much has changed in the past 30 years.  When I went to school we were not taught dentistry.  We simply removed teeth that became too diseased.  We also believed that some degree of liver, kidney and heart disease were normal in pets over 10 years of age.  We now know the impact of disease in the mouth throughout the body.  We take a preventive approach and know that a healthy mouth means a healthy pet.  We now know that no amount of liver, kidney or heart disease is normal and our pets are living much longer and healthier lives.

The information on heart disease has also progressed incredibly, as have the medications we have to treat it.  A heart disease of cats was discovered to be nutritional and now that cat foods are supplemented we rarely see it anymore.  Blocked cats needing surgery were common every spring and fall but with the new nutritional adjustments to the diets, it is now thankfully uncommon.

Heartworm medication had to be given every day and if you missed a day you risked an infection breaking through.  Also, if you gave the medication to an animal that had heartworm, it could result in an instant reaction that could be fatal.  Now we can use one of the medications to help control the disease.

I could go on but I would like to get this posted while it is still 30 years of practise.  Perhaps others will be addressed in coming blogs.

I feel very blessed that I can spend my days doing something that I enjoy so much.  Having grown up with many different animals, I recognize the importance of even the smallest to its caretaker.  It is a very good feeling to help a sick creature feel well again.

It has also been a privilege to come to know my clients and their families.  To see them come with a new pet, after having weathered the loss of an old friend.  To see their children grow and eventually come in with pets of their own.  I had no idea, 30 years ago, how very rich and rewarding a career this would be and I thank you all for the honor of caring for the furry members of your family.