Deerfield Blog

Veterinary Technician Specialists – Extraordinary Partners in Your Pet’s Care!

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Like human medicine, veterinary care has made some fantastic strides in both knowledge and technology in the last few decades.  Pet owners and general practice veterinarians increasingly look to specialists, such as veterinary oncologists or veterinary dentists, to help resolve complicated problems.

Veterinarians who specialize undergo a multi-year process of work ending in a board exam and what is known as “board certification”. In many cases, it is the equivalent to another doctor’s degree.  Working alongside these specialists are growing numbers of Veterinary Technician Specialists who carry the designation: VTS.

Most people are aware that veterinarians need a knowledgeable and helpful staff for the day to day running of the hospital, but many don’t know that some team members are actually credentialed professionals – usually identified as a CVT, or certified veterinary technician.   Beyond that, some techs have taken additional time to advance their knowledge and skills and have been awarded certification in one of several areas of technician specialization.

In 1994, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) granted their first provisional specialty to the newly formed Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians.  In this case, the term “academy” designates an organization that administers a formal process of education, training and testing prior to awarding recognition to individuals as “specialists”.   Only registered, licensed or certified veterinary technicians can be part of any academy.

Credentialed technicians can now choose from 11 different academies of specialization.  These range from anesthesia to dentistry and internal medicine to behavior, equine care and even zoo animal medicine.   A complete list of approved academies can be found at the NAVTA website (www.navta.net).

Technician monitoring patient Veterinary News NetworkTo accomplish this, veterinary technicians will need to work thousands of hours in their chosen area and log dozens of cases for review.  In the case of Veterinary Technician Specialists in Anesthesia (VTSA), these individuals must work at least three years as a veterinary technician and submit more than 4500 hours of work with anesthesia.  During the calendar year of application, the technician must also submit 50-75 case logs, including at least four cases submitted in full detail to highlight the applicant’s knowledge and skills.

Even after all of this, extensive continuing education credits must be proven along with two letters of recommendation and the completion of the certification exam.  Some academies also call for annual examinations to insure that their specialist technicians are staying up to date with the changes in veterinary medicine.  Although each academy has slightly differing requirements for their applicants, the Anesthesia Academy’s example details just how challenging this career path can be!

Whatever specialty they choose, VTSs are crucial in helping the veterinarian specialist provide the highest level of care to patients.  As a case in point, veterinary emergency and critical care technicians (VECCT) will function to triage animals coming into the hospital as well as manage the patients present in the ICU ward.  These highly organized individuals function well under the pressure of a chaotic emergency room atmosphere and can be an island of calm when owners are frantic and worried about their pets.

Technician explaining heartworm prevention to client Veterinary News NetworkClient interaction and education is another important task for veterinary technician specialists.  Often, the patient’s condition is complex and serious and worried owners may not remember all of their questions or concerns while speaking with the veterinarian.  By being available and knowledgeable enough to handle these situations, technician specialists will help lessen client’s fears, provide a higher level of patient care and increase their veterinarian’s efficiency.

Beyond specialty hospitals, veterinary technician specialists can also be found at general practice veterinary clinics, helping to educate staff members and increase the hospital’s expertise.

There’s no doubt that everyone who works in any veterinary practice, from the smallest country clinic to the largest specialty hospital, has a passion for helping pets.  But, when your regular veterinarian talks about the need for a beloved fur-friend to see a specialist, it can be unnerving and stressful.  Rest easy and know that dedicated doctors, along with compassionate and knowledgeable technician specialists, will do all that they can to ease your pet’s ills and send him back home to you.

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Are Our Cats Plotting Against Us?

Some people and societies throughout history have simply not appreciated cats.  Black cats are considered unlucky or linked to evil witches.  Other people look at cats as sneaky or as serial killers of defenseless wildlife.  But, if you read some current headlines, you might think that our feline friends are a real serious threat!

The main threat in these news articles is not our cats, but rather, an extremely small protozoan parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii.  The threat occurs because this particular intestinal bug only reproduces in domestic and wild cats.  So, when the sensational headline reads “Study Links Cat Litter Box to Increased Suicide Risk”, many readers frankly scared and soon began to worry about the risks of owning a cat.

So here are the real facts you can count on.  The uproar can be traced back to a pair of scientific articles.  As far back as 2000, scientists have understood that this particular parasite has a peculiar effect on some rodents, actually making rats less fearful of their natural predators, the cats.  More recently, a study of 45,000 women in Denmark concluded that infection with Toxoplasma gondii (Toxo, for short) increased the risk of suicide attempts.  So, it appears that this parasite may alter something in brain chemistries or behavior. But, does that mean our cats are to blame?

The emphatic answer: absolutely not. The key here lies in understanding the life cycle of the parasite, the cat’s role in that life cycle and the simple, easy steps to minimize your potential risk.  All cats, domestic and wild, are a natural host for Toxo.  Our feline friends pick up the parasite from hunting rodents and birds or eating raw meat.  Once in the cat’s intestine, the organism starts reproducing, creating millions of oocytes (essentially eggs) that will pass o into the environment.  Interestingly, cats will shed the parasite for about two or three weeks and then rarely ever pass any more after that.

Once outside, these eggs will mature over one to five days and become infective parasites.  It is at this time that any warm blooded animal can become infected by ingesting contaminated soil, water or plant material.  Since most animals aren’t the natural host for Toxo, the parasite localizes in various muscle or nervous tissue and becomes a cyst.  The cycle completes (as most parasite life cycles do) allowing the parasite to once again start to multiply and spread.

For most animals, and people, the parasite is not a problem – remember that.  Some people will experience flu like symptoms but then recover without a problem.  However, immunosuppressed individuals can experience much more severe symptoms, including fevers, confusion, headaches, seizures and poor coordination.  Pregnant woman who have no immunity to Toxo can actually pass the infection to the unborn child causing a miscarriage, stillbirth or serious mental disabilities in the newborn.  So it is true, this parasite is not without it dangers.

The CDC estimates show that about 20% of the US population has antibodies to this parasite.  In addition, the CDC’s website shows that Toxoplasma infections occur by eating undercooked, contaminated meats (especially pork and lamb), accidental ingestion of contaminated meats after handling and failure to wash hands, contamination of foods from utensils used to work with other contaminated foods, drinking water tainted with the parasite and, as mentioned above, accidental ingestion of the parasite through contact with cat feces.

Keeping yourself safe from Toxo is actually pretty easy.  Fully cook all meats, wash your hands and cooking utensils after contact with raw meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables and wear gloves while gardening.   Cat litter boxes should be scooped daily as the parasite does not become infectious for at least 24 hours.  Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should completely avoid changing the litter.

Ask your veterinarian about specific recommendations for lowering your risk for toxoplasmosis.  He or she is well schooled in understanding this parasite.

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Holiday Safety Tips for Pet Owners

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Every holiday season, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center fields calls dealing with several common holiday situations that put pets at risk.

Wrapped Presents
Gifts are a surprising source of toxicities during the holidays. If you are going to wrap any food (especially chocolate), dog treats, or dog toys, keep the items in a safe place and well out of your pet’s reach until they are ready to be opened. Pets have a keen sense of smell and will often unwrap presents early and eat all of the contents.

Snow Globes
Some snow globes contain ethylene glycol, a highly toxic substance to all pets. If a snow globe is broken, either by a person or a pet, the sweet smell can attract a pet to lick it up, leading to a potentially fatal intoxication. Snow globes should be kept out of reach of pets.

Holiday Food
Pets are often not shy about taking food that is left sitting out on counters or tables. Pets should be kept away from food preparation areas or places where food will be left out. A few of the more concerning common food exposures during the holidays are chocolate, bread dough, fruitcake and alcohol.

Medication
There are often a large number of visitors during the holiday season, and pets often get into medications that friends or family have brought with them. These exposures can be prevented with a little advance planning. People who are not used to having pets in the house can often be unaware of how curious they can be. Pets will often investigate suitcases and can get into pill vials or weekly pill minders. It is safer to have the visitors put their medication in a closed cabinet that is not accessible to pets. Be sure that when they take their medications that they do so behind a closed door, such as the bathroom, so that a dropped pill can be found before the pet has a chance to eat it. A prewritten list of the names, milligram strength, and number of pills that visitors have brought is very useful in an emergency situation as well.

Salt
Ice melt, homemade play dough, and salt-dough ornaments (even when dry) can all be a tempting salty treat for pets, but can cause life-threatening imbalances in the electrolytes.

Pet owners should, of course, contact their local veterinary professional or the Animal Poison Control Center if their pets get into any of these substances.

Blog post, picture and safety tips provided by the ASPCA.

Also check out our other blog article on how to protect your pets from holiday hazards.

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Bordetella…The Misunderstood Vaccine

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It’s a common comment heard in many veterinary hospitals…”we don’t need the kennel cough vaccination…we never board or kennel our dog”.  Despite the owner’s insistence that their pet isn’t at risk, most people would be surprised to find out that this disease can be found in a wide variety of places.

Infectious tracheobronchitis, more commonly known as “kennel cough”, is a communicable bronchitis in dogs that is often found anywhere dogs congregate.  Naturally, boarding kennels come to mind, but quite often, people will forget that grooming salons, dog parks, pet superstores or even their favorite veterinary hospital can also be potential sources of infection.

Dogs who contract tracheobronchitis will produce a rough, hacking cough that many owners will describe as the pet trying to cough something up or even retch.  Spasms, or coughing fits, are not uncommon and some people relate that their pets seem worse at night.

Kennel cough can be caused by a wide variety of organisms, including canine adenoviruses, canine distemper virus and a bacterial species that goes by the name of Bordetella bronchiseptica.  Other viruses, such as canine herpesviruses or reoviruses are also thought to contribute to the disease and it is not uncommon to see more than one pathogen involved.

Infected dogs will spread viruses or bacteria through airborne particles where healthy dogs can inhale them.  In some cases, the germs can also spread via toys or food dishes.  Dogs that are exposed will generally show signs of illness within two to fourteen days and may act sick for an additional two weeks.  In many cases, the disease is very mild and your pup may never run a fever or act as if anything is wrong.  However, this is a disease that can progress to pneumonia and be life-threatening.

What’s even worse is that a pet who has recovered from this illness could potentially infect other dogs for up to two or three months!  So, that normal looking dog at the busy city dog park could, in fact, be sharing some nasty germs as he plays with his doggie pals!

Like many diseases we see in pets, proactive prevention is the key to stopping kennel cough.  Most dogs will receive vaccinations against canine adenoviruses and parainfluenza when they receive their canine distemper and canine parvovirus vaccines.  In addition, Bordetella vaccination is available and can help limit the severity of the illness if your pet is ever exposed to this bacterium.

The Bordetella vaccine is considered to be a “non-core” vaccine by the American Animal Hospital Association.  This means that not all pets need this vaccination, but the choice to vaccinate should be based on the pet’s risk factors.  As mentioned above, if your pet is routinely groomed, enjoys trips to the local dog park or even gets to go shopping with you at the big box pet food store, he is likely being exposed to the agents that cause kennel cough.

Vaccination against the Bordetella bacterium will generally provide immunity for about one year.  So, pets at risk will need annual boosters and some pets who board frequently or visit grooming salons regularly may actually benefit from re-vaccination every 6 months.  Experts also recommend getting your pet a booster vaccination five days or more prior to possible exposure, if more than six months have passed since the last vaccination.

If your pet is dealing with any sort of cough, the best advice on treatment will come from your veterinarian.  Although antibiotics may or may not be prescribed, your pet could receive a cough suppressant or even a recommendation to let the dog stand in the bathroom while you shower!  Just like with kids, the warm, humid air in the bathroom can loosen congestion and help your pet to breath more easily.

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Veterinary Medicine Online – Calling Dr. Google?

From new toys and comfy beds for your pets to medications, designer sweaters and even recommendations for “pet friendly” vacation destinations, animal lovers can find just about anything for their four legged furry family online.  Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to find a lot of mis-information and even potentially dangerous advice when it comes to your pet’s health care.

Since the very first website was created, anyone with the time, creativity and access to a web hosting service can post their opinions about almost any subject.  This has led to a wide variety of non-veterinarians who claim to be “experts” in pets providing advice and recommendations.  Sadly, pets have been harmed or even died when owners followed the counsel provided by these individuals.

When searching for helpful information about animal health, you should trust sites that have a veterinarian who either writes or oversees the content.  HealthyPet.com from the American Animal Hospital Association is a great place to start.  You can also look at your state’s veterinary medical association website or even their Facebook page for pet owner resources.

A new organization, the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, has been created to help both the media and the public find trustworthy professionals providing advice through any sort of media.  Look for the Seal of Approval from ASVJ.

The popularity of veterinary blogs is hard to ignore and bloggers like Pawcurious.com or Pet Health Care Gazette.com can provide general suggestions and opinions about veterinary care.  The added bonus to following these well-liked sites is that they are often a lot of fun and give the reader a personal viewpoint that is lacking from other sites.  Just remember, none of these bloggers can diagnose or treat your pet’s specific problem.

Another fashionable trend is the use of review sites to find service providers, restaurants or almost any other type of retail outlet.  The question here is, should you rely on these review sites when you are looking for a veterinarian?

According to SearchEngineLand.com, almost 80% of online users say they trust online reviews as much as personnel recommendations. There is no doubt that sites like Yelp, YP.com and Angie’s List can have a significant impact on a person’s decision to use a specific provider.  These experts do recommend that you follow some easy guidelines when reading online reviews.

First, find sites that present a balanced set of reviews and look for at least ten to twelve postings before you can say you spot a trend for that particular business.

Next, look beyond the reviewer’s words.  Is there a genuine concern over poor service or are emotions and a focus on money obscuring the real issue?  Let’s face it…some people are very hard to please or are often simply grumpy.

Conversely, avoid relying on reviews that are excessively positive and seem too good to be true.  While there are people who are always happy and never have a bad word to say, companies do exist that pay individuals to write positive reviews for a wide variety of organizations.

Finally, look at the reviewer’s profile.  Has this person reviewed other businesses?  Do they seem to be objective or are they using the same “cut and paste” language on all their reviews?  If their evaluations seem too similar, they may be working for one of the review writing companies.  Another red flag is to watch out for reviewers who constantly try to send you to look at their own profile…odds are, they are trying to sell something and they are using the review sites as marketing opportunities.

It’s been said before, but your veterinarian (www.deerfieldvet.com) will always offer you the best and most trusted source of information.  With a good relationship, you can have confidence that your veterinary professionals are eager to help and offer the correct advice!

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