How to Find a Veterinary Surgeon for your Pet (part 2)

As promised last time  (How to Find a Veterinary Surgeon Part 1), we share 5 more ways to find a surgeon for your cat or your dog.

6. Visit the clinic’s web site

The web site of the clinic where your prospective surgeon works will also give you some valuable information. You can get a feel for the clinic in general and the surgery service in particular.

7. Visit the surgeon’s page

Within the clinic website, there should be a page or a section dedicated to your surgeon. You can look at their biography and learn more. You can verify the surgeon’s credentials (do they have the letter DACVS after their name?). You can tell where your surgeon studied, where he or she specialized and how long they have been in practice. You can read about professional and personal accomplishments.

8. Does the surgeon understand your needs?

When you talk to the surgeon, feel free to explain your particular situation. Do you have any special requirements? Does your surgeon understand your goals with your pet? Do you and your surgeon have the same expectations? Expectations may or may not be realistic, but can always be discussed.

9. Does the surgeon answer the tough questions?

Ask about your surgeon’s success, failure and complication rates. Nobody likes to talk about failure or complications, but it should be discussed honestly. Do you truly understand exactly what your pet will go through? Do you understand what you will need to do after surgery? How generous is your surgeon with pain medications? Who will monitor your pet during and after anesthesia?

10. Trust your intuition

During the consultation, ask questions, and decide if you feel comfortable with the surgeon. Did the surgeon explain things well? Did the surgeon use simple words? Has the surgeon performed the surgery your pet needs multiple times before?

Keep in mind that some conditions are rare, and therefore that particular surgery may be performed rarely.

11. Bonus: a traveling surgeon

There is one more solution you may find convenient. Your family vet may work with a traveling surgeon. In this case, the surgeon comes to your vet’s hospital to perform specialty surgery. You don’t need to travel anywhere. This instantly fulfills several of the criteria above. Clearly, your vet would trust the surgeon they work with!

Called me biased since I am a traveling surgeon, but there are many benefits to staying local.

Ultimately, your choice of surgeon has a lot to do with trust. You need to find a surgeon you trust to operate on your beloved pet. Once that happens, you can in turn help other pet owners and their pets by referring them to someone you trust.

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

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

I am happy to say that I have a lot to be thankful for…

In fact, most pet lovers can hopefully be grateful as well. We all should be thankful for our pets. A happy furry face after a long day, a wagging tail every time we come home, or a purring, warm body next to us on the couch… pets make us smile and help us close the door on life’s problems for a while. These are little gems pet lovers simply cannot live without. Unconditional love is getting hard to find these days!

There may have been times over the years when you may have lacked the companionship of an animal friend. And it usually feels like there is a small hole in our lives. Hopefully, you currently have at least one pet who, no matter how your day went, is happy to see you and ready to play or cuddle.

Although I’m sure pets (and non-pet lovers) think playing is mostly for their benefit, it is cathartic for us. They help us take our minds off the stresses of life and focus instead on the simplicity of watching a furry ball of energy chase a toy across the room, chomping and squeaking happily on their way back to us, before tirelessly repeating the cycle over and over again. Like it’s the first time ever.

As a surgeon, I’m thankful for being able to fix the various problems my patients have. I’m thankful for the many pet lovers who trust me with the lives of their beloved pets after only talking to me during a consultation. When I perform surgery on a patient, I am thankful that I can improve that life and, indirectly, the lives of their owner and their family.

On a broader scale, I’m thankful for all of the colleagues who refer patients to me and trust me with their care. They trust that I will be able to help them live happy and healthy lives.

In addition, I am thankful for all of the support staff for helping me on a daily basis. Technicians, assistants, receptionists and my wonderful traveling nurses all make my job immensely easier.

I’d be willing to bet that if you polled most people in the animal healthcare field, anyone from veterinarians to technicians, from kennel personnel and rescue groups, would all say that the main reason they do their “job” is for the love of animals. We love what we do.

It’s unfortunately becoming less and less common that someone can truly say they love what they do.

So as the holiday season gets closer, and the pressure of gift-giving, party-planning, and family gatherings rises, remember to take the time to step back and be thankful for that wagging tail or purring whiskery face. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to thank those who help keep them healthy and happy by your side – yet rarely get the recognition they deserve.

Sure, there are good and bad days in the field of veterinary medicine, but the occasional bad day is far outweighed by the good days. The thank-yous received after a successful surgery, the gift baskets, the thank you cards, a happy dog or cat leaving the clinic after being given a clean bill of health, or the smile on an owner’s face when the life of their beloved pet was saved, all serve as reminders that we have the greatest jobs in the world.

Enjoy your family and your pets, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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

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