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This is a special week here at Paws and Effect. We had a chance to interview our veterinarian, the famous and wonderful Doctor Sarah, about her job. We know the trip to the vet isn’t exactly a highlight of our lives, but having a kind, caring vet like Doctor Sarah takes the edge off the experience just a little bit. The vet is the other most important person on our lives, so we sure do appreciate the importance of good vets and good relationships with the vet.

So, without further ado, let’s get on with it!

Siouxsie: Why did you decide to become a veterinarian?

Dr. Sarah: I am one of those people who always knew they wanted to be a vet. There wasn’t any other career I could imagine myself enjoying. And I always thought I “owed” it to my pets to learn every thing I could to help them.

Thomas: What kind of education is required for veterinarians in terms of school, residency, time commitment, etc.?

Dr. Sarah: Four years of undergraduate school to fulfill pre-vet requirements, 4 years of veterinary school is the minimum. You can choose to do a residency in any specialty, (cardiology, oncology, orthopedic surgery, etc), after you complete the four years or you can go right into general practice. Truly, you need to commit yourself 110% to the learning process during these years.

Dahlia: What do you like the most about being a veterinarian?

Dr. Sarah: Going home after an exhausting day and realizing how many animals and humans I was able to help … whether it was just educating a new owner in the best preventative care for their kitten or helping someone say goodbye to a loyal friend.

Siouxsie: What’s the hardest thing for you to deal with in your work as a veterinarian?

Dr. Sarah: People who have plenty of money and/or time but do not want to spend it on the best care for their animal family members.

Siouxsie: Yeah, we understand that. We try to educate people that it’s part of their responsibility as their pet’s caretaker to provide appropriate and necessary vet care to their pets. We do understand that many people have limited resources, but it really makes us want to hiss when people who can afford the care, just won’t. Why even have an animal companion in the first place?

Thomas: What are the most important qualities for a veterinarian to have, in order to do their job well and have a good relationship with pets and their caretakers?

Dr. Sarah: Being able to communicate well with an amazingly variable group of pet owners. We really need to work hard to be certain the owner understands a diagnosis and the treatment options available to them. And we need to work even harder to be sure they realize the extremely important role they will play in their animal’s ongoing treatment and care at home.

Dahlia: Why is it important for animals to get regular preventive care (checkups, vaccinations, etc.)? It’s not much fun for us cats! I mean, I was just there a few days ago and you poked me in places that really only needed petting! I cried and cried and cried…

Dr. Sarah: I’m sorry. It’s hard to make vaccinations pleasant for kitties, but you were really brave. You know you get shots because your mama loves you and cares about you, and she wants you to be healthy.

Dahlia: I know, but I still don’t like it. *sniffle*

Dr. Sarah: There are many reasons for regular checkups, but a few of the most important follow:

  • Yearly physical exams allow us to detect early warning signs for numerous health problems such as heart murmurs which may lead to heart failure or be a symptom of an underlying thyroid condition; or dental disease which can be painful and lead to a loss of appetite or even kidney infections.
  • Vaccinations prevent death from diseases such as rabies, parvovirus (dogs), or leukemia (cats). Each veterinarian works with the pet owner to tailor a vaccine plan to each pet’s unique life-style. We don’t want to vaccinate more than necessary but we also want to be certain we never see an animal that died of a preventable disease because it did not receive the needed vaccine protection.
  • One of the best reasons to bring your pet for a yearly exam is so that we may get to know both the owner and the pet. It is always amazing to me how much I can learn from knowing a particular pet’s weight, coat condition, and personality. That knowledge has been invaluable when a pet returns because they are “just not acting right.” Since our patients cannot tell us why they don’t feel well, we need to use these small changes in personality or grooming habits as clues to help us find the cause of their illness.
  • A final reason for a yearly visit is so that caretakers can feel comfortable with their veterinarian. People need to have complete trust in their vet’s skills and abilities. It can be very, very stressful if a pet is ill and this stress often leads people to doubt themselves or their pet’s caregiver. Build a trust in your veterinarian when your pet is happy and healthy and it will go a long way toward helping you cope if your pet is ever in need of critical or emergency care.

Siouxsie: What’s the most important thing a pet caretaker can do in order to have a good relationship with a veterinarian?

Dr. Sarah: Ask questions! If you don’t understand the recommendations of you pet’s doctor, then ask. It’s all about open communication!

Thomas: What are some of the misconceptions you’ve heard about veterinarians and vet care, and how would you respond to those?

Dr. Sarah: Everyone seems to think veterinarians make tons of money, which is just not true. I wish people would stop to consider everything that goes into the fees we charge and the level of care that we are able to provide their furry family members. We have amazing technicians who are trained to monitor anesthesia and keep your pet comfortable under anesthesia and extremely knowledgeable receptionists who can guide you through home care questions. Many treatments for pets are equivalent to those a human patient would receive at a fraction of the cost: for example, a kidney transplant for a cat may cost $10,000 but the same procedure in a human would be hundreds of thousands.

Dahlia: What common veterinary care protocols have changed since you started practicing?

Dr. Sarah: Vaccination protocols have changed almost yearly. As a profession we try very hard to continually review the most recent information and adjust our recommendations accordingly.

Siouxsie: Many people are realizing that holistic health care can help animals as it has helped people. Have you found that this developing interest in holistic pet care has had an effect on animals’ health?

Dr. Sarah: It’s very exciting that there are so many alternative treatments available but I find it most useful to be open to both western and eastern treatment modalities. Too many people become closed-minded toward the benefits of one method or the other when often the two can complement each other.

Siouxsie: We feel the same way. There’s no point in refusing western medical treatment when it can have a great benefit for your cat’s health. Like Mama says, “If I broke my leg, I wouldn’t take a homeopathic remedy and hope it got better; I’d get msyelf to the ER and have a doctor set the fracture and put a cast on it!”

Thomas: Likewise, we’ve seen the benefits of holistic treatment, too. We think wise caretakers avail themselves of any appropriate treatments, western or holistic. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Doctor Sarah.

Dahlia: Yes, thanks! Talking is much nicer than poking and prodding!

Siouxsie: As a senior kitty (I’ll be 12 in May), I certainly appreciate having a human who’s aware of my health and special needs and a vet like Doctor Sarah, who can help Mama help me stay healthy for many years to come. After all, I’m not finished giving Thomas and Dahlia all the swats they need!

Thomas: In other news, look for our newly redesigned website, coming very soon. It’s going to be much easier for our readers to ask questions, comment on articles, look up information, and have their regular Paws and Effect news feed.

Dahlia: There may be a few moments when the site is disrupted or unavailable as we put all the new stuff online, but we promise, you’ll like Paws and Effect more than ever!