Category: Personal Pets (page 3 of 4)

Thankfulness for a Cat and a Veterinarian

Thankfulness for a Cat and a Veterinarian

At this time of year, I wanted to reflect something I’m thankful for.  During my time in practice in both Florida and Kingston, a question I’ve been asked a lot is “why did you become a veterinarian?”  Whether it is because a kid is curious how they can be a vet, somebody wants to know how I can do certain parts of my job (typically euthanasia), or if I’m being accused of being in it for the money, during this time of year I wanted to share my story about why I’m thankful for a veterinarian and a cat.

Zorro settling in

Zorro settling in

April 1986 – My dad arrives home with a new “dependent” for mom to declare during tax season.  A small kitten was found playing with a plastic bag in the middle of the street and he was scooped up by my dad.  We named him Zorro, an amazing tuxedo cat who found his way into our home and my heart.  Mom had given me the responsibility of caring for Zorro and he & I bonded.  I was especially fond of his crooked tail (shaped like a “Z”) that had been previously broken and the strong headbutts he would give to show that he cared.  In 1995 around American Thanksgiving-time, he became acutely ill…or so we thought.  Zorro had been showing all the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis except my mom & I had no clue what the signs were at the time or even knew that cats could even become diabetic.  We arrived home one Sunday from a weekend campout and found Zorro in a semi-comatose state on the floor but with 2 other cats we hadn’t noticed any changes in drinking, urination, or appetite.

First thing Monday morning, we took him to our regular vet who diagnosed him then advised us he would need ICU care so we took him to Hollywood Animal Hospital where received a more thorough explanation off the diagnosis and a guarded prognosis for the return to good health of a cat who was “mine.”  The veterinarian who took on Zorro’s case explained everything to us and she was very honest about the difficult road ahead.  He was admitted to the clinic and each day he got progressively better.

On Thanksgiving night, we had our dinner and prepared some turkey to take to Zorro in the hospital when we were going to pick him up.  While we were waiting in the room to see him again and go over the discharge instructions, the veterinarian came in and told us he had unexpectedly passed away.  I had known death before but not one that affected me so greatly.  Even though he was gone, our veterinarian still took the time to answer any questions we had and assured us that we hadn’t done anything wrong.  We simply had been uninformed to be able to recognize the problem and get him help sooner but as he had improved, his passing was not fully explainable.

Zorro, an educated cat

The light bulb clicked on…I made the decision to pursue a career as a veterinarian.  Sure I loved animals all along.  It wasn’t because of the money (because honestly, veterinarians don’t get paid as much as people think).  It wasn’t because of the high ratios of women to men in the profession (as my grandfather kidded me).  It was simply a chance to be able to help both people and animals at the same time.  I had always been community service oriented and enjoyed helping others but until this moment it hadn’t clicked.

I investigated what I needed to do and pursued my goal of becoming a veterinarian.  After graduating from the University of Illinois, I returned to Hollywood Animal Hospital as an intern and later an associate.  To this day, I make a point to return the kindness and compassion to my patients and their families especially when facing a potential end of life scenario.  It’s also the reason I do this blog to help others have a reliable source of information so that they don’t have the same experience.

Shutterbug shortly after diabetes diagnosis

Shutterbug shortly after diabetes diagnosis

I regret not knowing back then what we should have been looking for.  Our veterinarian didn’t have to take the time explain things to us, but she did, and ultimately we were able to recognize the signs later on in our other cat Shutterbug who also became diabetic.  Because of our experience with Zorro, Shutterbug was able to have a great long life with controlled diabetes for many years.  Yes, it was sad that we lost our cat Zorro but I’m thankful for the compassion of a veterinarian who made it easier to accept the experience and set me on the road to paying it forward.

Acknowledgements: Dad, thanks for picking up the little guy all those years ago.  Now you know the truth, it wasn’t the baby opossums.  Mom, thank you for not writing Zorro off all those years ago and finding a way to try and help him.  I love you guys!

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest to see more events in my day & more shared info!  And on the right side of my blog you can now subscribe so you can always get the updates when a new post is published!

How a Cat Picked a Veterinarian

How a Cat Picked a Veterinarian

 

I want to tell you a story.  The story of how a cat found a soul mate and her own veterinarian.  It’s also a reminder of why you should spay or neuter your pets because there is just no way we can find homes for them all.  You see, sometimes at a veterinary clinic, animals are left on our doorsteps.  No, this doesn’t happen everyday but it’s less common now because there are more shelters that people can abandon, errr surrender, their pets.  Then there was this one time I was happy to know that one cat probably got away from her family.

 

First days at home

First days at home

In the summer of 2001, I was working at Shores Animal Hospital in Gainesville, Florida.  I had been there for a little over a year and was waiting to hear about veterinary school applications.  We had arrived at the clinic in the morning to find a box…with a kitten in it…and a note.  The note said, “We found it in the bathtub of our construction site.”  The kitten was a small, scrawny, brown tabby.  We took her into the clinic and she was fed, cleaned up, and monitored for the day.  My boss and his technician examined her and gave her a presumptive diagnosis of ringworm.  Ringworm is not an actual worm but a fungus.  Being the compassionate people that veterinary professionals are, they couldn’t do anything but get this kitty some help.

 

Not so innocent but irresistibly cute

Not so innocent but irresistibly cute

As ringworm, or properly called dermatophytosis, can be a highly contagious skin infection, it was decided that she should be sent home with someone who didn’t have any pets so she could be treated and then we could adopt her out to a client.  And then John, our licensed technician, came and found me quietly doing my work.  I had been chosen to care for this little kitten as I was an eager pre-veterinary student and I was without any pets.  I was given a bottle of shampoo, cat litter, a bag of kitten food, and a little bundle of fur.

 

When I arrived home, I set her up in my bathroom as I had not kitten proofed the bedroom.  I went to check on her and she had vanished!  A frantic search ensued thinking I had lost my hospital’s cat and in a call to my mother I was greeted with her telling me, “congrats, you have a cat!”  It came to pass that she had wedged herself behind the bathroom vanity in her frightened state and only reaching into the dark hole was she able to be removed.  Later that night, she got her first bath and the screams were horribly saddening.  I could only relate the sound to that from a classic 1984 film….then I welcomed Gremlin to my family. Gremlins-Poster

 

Gremlin grew up and a year later we had moved to Illinois for veterinary school.  She became my own personal physical exam practice cat during first year and dutifully, though sometimes very wiggly, gave in to weekly abdominal palpations and thoracic auscultations.  Gremlin would sleep at my side at night and sit on my desk while I studied.  During my third year of school, a heart murmur was discovered and she was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (more on this later). 

Living in Illinois 2004

Living in Illinois 2004

 

The years came and went.  We’ve gotten her heart issues under control.  She’s survived multiple moves across states & countries and finally to our home in Kingston, Ontario.  I even had a couple more scares with her getting lost when she just really had good hiding spaces including under a gas stove and behind a desk.  She even approved of my wife…true story but before Jennifer, any time a girlfriend came over or was mentioned, Gremlin would vomit.  She’s truly warmed up to Jennifer, though it may be the bribery Jennifer would offer her with treats or maybe she just gave up and accepted that she wouldn’t be the only girl in my life.

 

Admittedly, Gremlin is daddy’s little girl and is a spoiled cat…and she deserves it.  She was one of the first our pets to come and see what was going on with Charlie after his surgery.  She also gives the greatest snuggles since our previous family cat Zorro which helps me unwind and have a good sleep at night so I can rest up for helping more patients the next day.  Gremlin knows when Jennifer or I have had a bad day and comes to comfort us.  So I guess these things makes her a caretaker.  I’m extremely grateful to have her in my life just like all our pets (another cat of ours, Louie, was also brought into the clinic & surrendered).  But we can’t take them all and it’s not right to dump them on a doorstep, so we’re serious when we talk about spaying & neutering.  Sometimes the pieces just fall into place and we welcome them into our home.  So in case you’ve ever wondered how veterinarians pick a pet, just remember that it’s usually the pet that picks us, usually by a stroke of fate.  

Snuggling on the couch with her dad

Snuggling on the couch with her dad

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest to see more events in my day & more shared info!  And on the right side of my blog you can now subscribe so you can always get the updates when a new post is published!

Lessons Learned

This is part 3 of 3.  For part 1, click here.  For part 2, click here.

 

Lessons Learned

 

The first 48 hours was challenging.  I hadn’t slept that first night as I was constantly checking on Charlie to make sure he was comfortable and that his IV fluids were running.  Multiple times I found myself giving him small pep talks.  I just had to make sure he knew how special he was – to me, to Jennifer, our other pets & family, and all the dogs he had helped save over the years.  They were all pulling for him.  I was even more touched when we noticed our cats had taken up a bedside vigil with Charlie for a short while.

Our oldest cat Gremlin providing moral support

Our oldest cat Gremlin providing moral support

 

The next morning I had to go into Kingston for work at the clinic.  It was never a decision that required any contemplation; Charlie was going to travel with me.  My boss understood and my co-workers were amazing with the nursing care they helped provide during the day.  Charlie had not yet started to eat and even more concerning was the fact that he had not urinated.  We passed a urinary catheter and he seemed to be a lot more comfortable once his very full bladder had been emptied.  It was later in that day that Charlie stood up on his own for the first time since surgery and I was beaming like a proud parent whose baby had just taken its’ first step!

 

It was time to go home that first day and fortunately when I arrived home, my neighbor was kind enough to help me get Charlie in the house.  We had been keeping Charlie’s pain under control with plenty of pain medications and it would have made walking very difficult, especially with stairs.  Once Jennifer arrived home, we tried to coax Charlie to eat but to no avail he continued his 48 hour fast but on the plus side he gave us a tail wag!

Jennifer & Louie helping to cheer Charlie up

Jennifer & Louie helping to cheer Charlie up

We still had to pass a urinary catheter to relieve his bladder and ultimately the next day we found out this had created an unusually bad urinary tract infection.  Upon getting some antibiotics on board, Charlie began taking an immense liking to one of our technicians and he began to eat for her.  Again, I felt the joy of optimism that everything might turn out well.

 

The next couple of days passed quickly as we saw Charlie regain his appetite and his personality.  My most joyous moment was when I went in to the kitchen where he followed me and then proceeded to beg for treats.  It was also that night that I received the pathology report with the findings of really what we had removed.  It wasn’t very clear as it only said “probable hemangiosarcoma” of the spleen so there were no definitive cancer cells seen.  Good news arrived in that it had not spread to the liver as the nodules seen in surgery were normal liver cell regeneration.  We took this as a small victory and hoped that it meant he was going to be okay.  On the advice of some colleagues, I got the slides sent off to a second pathologist who was considered to be “the authority” on such matters in her field.  Roughly one week later, I received the news I had hope to hear – benign hemangioma!

 

"I'm ready for a walk!"

“I’m ready for a walk!”

My two weeks of fear were instantly erased.  Charlie was a cancer survivor!  We had taken the skin staples out, he was eating, walking around on his own, and taking in all the comforts of our couch.  I had my senior dog back who was again acting like a puppy.

 

Jennifer & I are very lucky.  Charlie beat the odds and is healthy again.  Most dogs who present to the clinic with a splenic tumor never get to go home and share more time with their families.  Charlie has saved countless lives as a blood donor and provided lots of emotional support to help me get through school.  Now he has worked his charm again and taught us how to use the greatest gift for a veterinarian – compassion, understanding, empathy – whichever term you prefer, these are things no professor in school can teach.

 

The profession of veterinary medicine has a gravitational pull for people who have a natural tendency for caring, compassion, and service to people & animals.  There are days when everything goes right; and days where everything seems to go wrong no matter how hard we try.  This is part of the the heart of the term “compassion fatigue.”  We, as veterinarians, care so much but sometimes in the field many of my colleagues have experienced a burn out and lose the soul of what led us to this profession in the first place.   Charlie has once again kept me on the path to bettering myself as a compassionate veterinarian as I have now been in the shoes of many of the pet owners I have worked with.  It’s amazing what four furry paws, big brown eyes, a wet tongue, and wagging tail can teach us.  Thank you, Charlie.

Charlie & I two weeks post-op (our photo from the clinic webpage)

Charlie & I two weeks post-op (our photo from the clinic webpage)

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