How to Find a Veterinary Surgeon for your Pet (part 1)

If you are starving for Thai food or tapas, how do you choose a restaurant?

If you are looking for a car with great gas mileage, where do you turn?

If your cat or your dog needs surgery, who should you trust?

You can probably think of a few ways to answer the first two questions. The third question is probably more difficult to answer. Fortunately, this blog can help.

When your pet needs surgery, you have a choice: you can use your family vet, or you can enroll the help of a surgery specialist. If your vet recommends a surgery specialist, how should you decide? You probably shouldn’t pick a surgeon the way you choose a restaurant or a car dealer. After all, we are talking about your beloved pet.

What is a surgeon?

In the US, a surgeon is someone who only performs surgery. Technically, and I realize this is slightly controversial and extremely confusing, the only person who can claim to be a surgeon is somebody who is board-certified in surgery. In the US, a veterinary surgeon has undergone additional training after college (4 years) and vet school (4 years) in order to become a specialist. This training consists of a minimum of a 1-year internship followed by a 3-year residency.

So that’s at least 12 years of training! Then they need to pass the difficult exam of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS).

Here are some suggestions to help you find the right person to perform surgery on your pet.

1. Ask your vet

Can your veterinarian perform the surgery? Or should a surgeon do it? Assuming a surgeon should do it, which surgeons has your vet had a good experience with? What kind of results has your vet heard about? What was their complication rate? Were previous clients happy with their decision? Feel free to ask questions.

2. Ask other pet owners

Your vet should be able to put you in touch with other pet owners who have experience with the prospective surgeon– with their permission of course. They would be an ideal source of information since they have already lived what you will go through.

3. Ask friends and family

Similarly, if you know of friends and family members who have used a surgeon for their pet, ask for feedback.

4. Beware of social media

Don’t trust Yelp and other social media ratings blindly. The Internet can be a great resource for useful information, but it can also be a cesspool of complaints. Remember, far more people will post about negative experiences than positive ones. Also beware of people who have more opinions than experience.

5. Visit www.acvs.org

The American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) offers an online directory that lists all board-certified surgeons. And by the way, this is a great way to make sure that your surgeon truly has the credentials claimed. You can search by location (worldwide) or by name. There is some basic information about each surgeon, and usually a link to the clinic’s web site.

We will go over 5 more ways to find a surgeon next time – plus a bonus 11th way!

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

5 reasons to spay your pet (Part 2)

Non-spayed pets and unplanned pregnancies can lead to life-threatening medial conditions and emergency surgeries that will sure cost much more than a simple spay at the appropriate time.

As promised last time (5 Reasons To Spay Your Pet Part 1), here are another 5 reasons to spay your cat or your dog.

6. False pregnancy

False pregnancy is a strange and stressful condition where a pet is convinced that she’s pregnant… when she’s not!

Females show nesting behavior (i.e. they literally make a nest for her imaginary offspring). Their belly gets bigger. They produce milk.

Spaying can eliminate the possibility of this condition.

7. Eclampsia

Eclampsia is a life-threatening complication of pregnancy. A pregnant female can have calcium levels that are dangerously low (hypocalcamia). This condition can lead to shaking, seizures, or heart complications. This is a major emergency that requires IV calcium and fluids.

8. C-sections

Sometimes, natural delivery just isn’t possible for health or anatomical reasons. Bulldogs, Chihuahuas and Yorkies are some of the breeds with an increased risk of needing a C-section.

A C-section is a wonderful event at a vet clinic when everything goes well. We love helping puppies and kittens come to life. But for the pet owner, it can be a stressful and expensive ordeal.

9. Pyometra

Pyometra is a serious condition where the uterus fills with pus. It is common in non-spayed dogs, and unusual in cats. In turn, pyometra can affect many organs, which can make a pet very sick or even kill her.

One of the organs that classically gets damaged is the kidney. It can get worse: a “mature” pyometra can rupture or break. This leads to having pus all over the belly (septic peritonitis).

Ironically, pyometras often seem to happen after hours (read: at the local emergency clinic on a Sunday), which increases the cost even more.

10. Genetics

There are countless genetic diseases, such as hip dysplasia, heart disease and eye conditions. Spaying a female who carries the bad genes is the easiest way to prevent babies with the same problems. Only through reasoned breeding can a breed improve over time.

Spaying also prevents behavioral problems and several other issues. Pet lovers who don’t have their pet spayed often tell us that they couldn’t afford the procedure at the time.

Please keep in mind that it could cost 5 or 10 times as much to treat mammary tumors or pyometra.

All always, prevention is the best policy…

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

5 reasons to spay your pet (Part 1)

Non-spayed cats and dogs are at a higher risk of developing multiple conditions. Here are 5 reasons to spay your pet:

1. Breast tumors

Over 25% of non-spayed female dogs will develop breast or mammary tumors!

In dogs, approximately 50% of mammary tumors are benign and 50% are cancerous.

In cats, 90% of mammary tumors are cancerous, so spaying is even more important.

2. Ovarian diseases

Sure, diseases of the ovary, such as tumors, are rare. But a real good way of eliminating that risk is spaying.

3. Tumors of the uterus

Likewise, tumors of the uterus are not common, but spaying eliminates this risk.

Along with a higher risk for tumor development, there are other unfortunate complications that can arise when pets aren’t spayed.

4. Heat cycles

As a general rule, most females have their first heat cycle around 6 months of age, which is why we often recommend spaying before that age. A heat cycle causes mood swings, swollen nipples, attraction of males, a swollen vulva and a bloody discharge. It can be quite stressful for everybody involved – including you!

5. Unplanned pregnancies

Letting a non-spayed cat or dog roam is similar to gambling. Chances are, your little female friend will meet Mr. Not-Right.

Now… not only do you have to deal with the pregnancy, but in 2 months, you will need to make sure that the delivery goes well. And hope your pet won’t need an emergency C-section.

Then you will have to take care of the 1, 2, 3… or 10 babies or find them new homes. If mom can’t nurse, guess who needs to get up every 2 hours to bottle-feed the babies?

Multiply that by 10 or 100 or 1,000 pets, and you start to understand the complex problem of pet overpopulation. This leads to millions of abandoned or euthanized pets.

So please do the right thing: spay your cat or your dog.

Next time, we will go over 5 more reasons to spay your pet.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

5 Things I Wish Every Cat Owner Would Know (part 2)

As promised last time ( https://bit.ly/2lvR22t ), here are another 5 topics you should be aware of and pay attention to when caring for your cat(s).

6. Follow discharge instructions

Discharge instructions are made to be followed. This is one of those times where you get to learn from someone else’s challenges. That can save you and your cat from some serious trouble.

We know that wearing a plastic cone for 2 weeks is no fun. We know that being stuck in a crate for 4 to 8 weeks is boring. If there were an easier way to do things, we would tell you!

So please follow discharge instructions – all of them – all the time.

7. Get pet insurance

Pet insurance can make all of the difference in your cat’s life. If you cannot afford thousands of dollars in emergency or medical care, please consider getting pet insurance. And do your homework, as there are some really bad companies and really good companies out there.

8. Know thy enemy

Anesthesia is not the enemy.

Surgery is not the enemy.

Your pet’s condition is the enemy.

We are here to help you choose the best weapon to fight the enemy.

9. Know that prevention is a critical part of pet medicine

Every year, countless cats die because they did not receive basic, effective, affordable preventive care. Yearly exams are crucial to ensure your cat is and remains healthy and happy. Vaccinations should always be kept up to date, even for indoor cats. You never know when one might escape, get lost, or get hospitalized.

That thought applies to heartworm, flea and tick prevention as well. Your cat may not go outside, but you or your other pets who do can bring parasites inside your home. And obviously mosquitoes, who can carry parasites, can fly inside your house and bite an indoor cat.

Keep your kitties protected.

10. Don’t inadvertently starve your cat

When you realize it’s time for your cat to lose weight, be sure to create a feeding plan with your veterinarian. So many make the mistake of unknowingly restricting cats too much by cutting the amount of food down significantly.

This is very dangerous in cats. It can lead to deadly liver complications called hepatic lipidosis. We would rather have you trust your family vet, and feed a diet that was made specifically for weight loss.

These 5 additional tips can truly make a big difference in your cat’s life.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

5 Things I Wish Every Cat Owner Would Know (part 1)

Most cat owners are prepared to do whatever it takes to help their cat. Sadly, too many also rely on misconceptions and erroneous advice that can be misleading at best, and dangerous at worst. Every cat owner should be aware of the following issues:

1. Recognize pain and suffering

Most cats are extraordinarily stoic. It can be extremely difficult, but it is very important to recognize when cats are suffering.

If they are limping, they hurt.

If they are vomiting, something is wrong.

If they skip one or several meals, there is a reason.

If they have difficulty breathing, they may, in fact, be suffocating, and it’s terrifying for them. Seek help immediately.

Procrastination is heartbreaking for us.

2. Denial about weight can be deadly

If you describe your cat with words such as “solid,” “big boned” or “fluffy,” chances are your cat is overweight or obese. We know they love their treats, and that you love giving them, but too much weight is not healthy. Free feeding (i.e., not measuring the daily amount of food) is a recipe for chubbiness.

It takes years off of feline lives, it makes anesthesia riskier, and it makes recovery from surgery more difficult. Love your cats in ways that make them healthy and happy: hugs, petting, playing, snuggling, brushing, and interaction are all calorie-free forms of love and attention your cat craves!

3. Know whom to trust

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” so choosing the correct pet food is a big deal. Please talk to your vet when picking food. Feeding the wrong food to your cat can lead to obesity, bladder stones, urinary blockage and a poor hair coat.

In addition, given the regular pet food recalls, choosing a reputable brand is very important. The composition of pet food should be based on scientific research, not slick marketing.

4. Never assume

We cannot examine or treat your cat over the phone. We sometimes need to run lab work to find out what is going on with your cat. Yes, that cost is going to be in addition to the exam fee, but these tests are best for the health of your cat.

These diagnostic tests are our “X-ray glasses” to understand your cat’s condition. Without them, we might be blind.

This is really no different than in human medicine.

5. Spay or neuter your cat

Spaying a female before the first heat cycle dramatically reduces the risk of breast cancer. Spaying also totally prevents pyometra, a deadly uterine infection.

Neutering prevents testicular cancer and spraying.

Beyond those medical reasons, spayed or neutered pets are less likely to run away and get hit by a car or get into a fight. They also have a lower incidence of behavior problems.

We will go over 5 more tips next time.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified