I remember the first time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said veterinarian…. and a wild life rescuer. My mom always wanted to be a Vet as well and I think I definitely get my love for animals from her. She gave up her dream of becoming one to have me. My mom was all lined up to go to a vet school and then found out she was pregnant and decided she wouldn’t go to raise me. Eventually in her late 40’s she made the jump to do online school and become a veterinary assistant. I was and am so proud of her for going after her dream, so I feel like I need to go after mine for her.
As I grew up my ambitions changed and when asked again in high school what I wanted to do I said: teacher. I loved (still love) helping people learn about subjects I’m passionate about. Teachers shape the minds of the futures and I really wanted to be apart of that. Originally I thought my subject would be history, but after taking a few art classes I decided I wanted to be an art teacher.
Fast forward to the summer going into my sophomore year of college I started working at the same place as my mom. It was my best option because I didn’t have my license yet and so I was just put on a similar schedule as her. I enjoyed working with the animals more than I imagined. Three years of art education training later and I finally concluded it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I wanted to continue working with animals.
I changed my major to a Bachelor of Art so I could still graduate on time and abandoned any teaching dreams I used to have. It sucks that I didn’t figure this all out sooner, but I don’t regret my time here because of all the wonderful people I met and the incredible experiences I had. I don’t know what specific field I want to go in with animals because I really want to be involved with wild life and traditional veterinary medicine.
My passion for animals has always been there, but I second guessed myself and strayed away from it. I am excited for the future and can’t wait to see what’s thrown at me.
Thank you Mom.
Elective pet surgeries are commonly done on specific breeds of dogs to achieve a certain look or on cats to stop clawing. Personally I find these procedures very unnecessary and it puts the animals through so much pain for almost no reason.
When you see an animal with a docked tail it doesn’t always mean it was done for elective reasons. Some animals are born with them already like that and some tails are docked for medical reasons. However it can cause communication and behavioral issues. Dogs talk with their tails and ears and a nub doesn’t say the same thing as a full tail can. It can lead to the dog being more aggressive and not as friendly to new people as an unaltered version of the same breed would be. Also because of the muscles that are connected to tails it can effect their digestion and how they defecate.
Ear cropping is basically making floppy ears stand straight up to a point. The dogs ears are cut and then bound with medical wrap to uphold their new shape. Usually it happens when the dog is still young so they grow with it, but the process takes quite a long time (4-8 weeks) and if not done right can have some serious complications such as infection and phantom pain. It has similar behavioral effects as tail docking with how dogs communicate and how their temperament can change. People also will preform this themselves for dog fighting which is easy to spot because of how botched it is.
Declawing a cat is when you remove their nails from their paws. This surgery is super painful for the cat and can cause some behavioral issues. A lot if not all military housing requires if you have a cat is has to be declawed, but most veterinarians refuse to do this procedure anymore. Removing a felines nails is like removing the very top of a persons finger. It can lead to infection, nerve damage, and an abnormal gait (which can cause back pain). Many cats are never the same after; they tend to become aggressive and or more fearful and can also lead to them not wanting to use their box anymore. Since they lose their main source of defense they can start biting more and become not as trusting of people anymore.
When I first started working with dogs I never expected all the humping I would see. I always thought they only humped when they were trying to mate, but I found out quickly they do it for a few different reasons.
I take groups of dogs out all together and a lot of humping attempts to goes on. Dogs will try to hump another to show dominance over each other. A mother and daughter dog duo come in regularly and the mom always humps her child to show her whose boss. However it can lead to fights so when I see it starting I always stop it early on. First sign is usually licking and or sniffing of another dogs genitals with buggy eyes and a tail going a mile a minute then mounting. It happens mostly with the younger dogs because the older ones try to show they are the alpha. Over stimulation can cause a dog to hump as well. Such as if they get too excited and they don’t know how to deal with their energy. That’s more when you see them just humping the air though.
It can be quite funny to witness because it’s not just the males who do it, female also try to hump other dogs. I find it particularly hilarious when a small dog is trying to mount a big dog. We like to say they have big dreams. A lot of the time too it can create humping trains where they are all trying to do it to each other. It is also really funny when the older dogs who can’t actually lift their front legs off the ground try to do it. They just stand next to their victim of choice thrusting the air without a care in the world.
Some do not quit either. They will keep trying no matter how many times I stop them. That is one annoying part because a dog will just be trying to have fun with the others and then this little bugger will not stop trying to hold them back (or by the back end I should say). Dogs can be trained not to do it, but it really has to be done when they’re puppies in order for it to stick. Most people think it’s funny (so they don’t correct it) or don’t even know that their dog does it until they are around another dog. I say keep on humping on dogs.
For this week I wanted to talk about something a little more serious and sad. Dogs who are owned by the state and that could be euthanized are kept where I work until their fate is decided. These are dogs who have had history of violent behavior and the state of Maine decides what to do with them like a trial. We’ve had some pretty nasty dogs in this situation, but we’ve also had some sweet ones with bad owners. I’m going to talk about Sophie’s insane story.
Before she came, we got word that the police were bringing in a dog that attacked someone’s dog. We prepared a kennel for her to keep our workers and the other animals we had safe. Sophie was a big muscular pit bull and she came in with a knife wound on her back that didn’t even effect her. When in her kennel we were unsure of her temperament because she was barking at us through the cage and seemed aggressive. Her actual owner was put in jail so she was now the states dog and she stayed with us for about a week until they decided to euthanized her.
What we learned was Sophie had attacked a few dogs in her past and was definitely dog aggressive. However what we also learned was that one of her attacks her owner let her loose on the beach after already having an incident when he should have had muzzle and kept her on a leash. The attack that sent her to where I work I also blame her owner for. The man’s ex girlfriend had a restraining order against him and he brought Sophie with him to go see her. Sophie attacked the ex girlfriends dog and the woman to protect her animal, tried stabbing Sophie. So the man was arrested and Sophie was brought to us.
We figured out early on that Sophie was only dog aggressive and not people aggressive. The kennel workers earned her trust and we learned she was actually a big love bug. If you went in her cage she just wanted to cuddle and lick you. I felt so bad for her because every time I let her out to use the bathroom she just wanted love. We didn’t know when exactly she was going to be put down, but I was working that day when she was. My coworker grew very attached to Sophie and bought her a big steak for her last meal. I was the only one working that day that Sophie trusted and I had to put a muzzle on her after she was given some sedation to be brought into the hospital area. It was a really terrible feeling because she had no idea what was happening. Since Sophie was so big it took a long time and a lot to actually put her down. I couldn’t stay with her, but I watched another coworker hold her while she passed away.
Sophie could have lived a good loving life with the right care, but because he was an irresponsible owner, she got a record and the state decided she was too dangerous to be alive. Dog aggressive dogs can still live a full life as long as you take precautions. I don’t blame the man for her dog issue’s because I don’t know why Sophie didn’t like other dogs, but I do know he is the reason she is now dead.
We have people come in all the time for appointments asking why their cat no longer or won’t use the box they set up from them. Cats instinctively want to bury their urine and fecal matter so most kittens will use a litter box instantly. They are particular creatures and if they don’t like something they will let you know the best way they can. It is not always a medical or a behavioral reason, but sometimes it is just because they don’t like what you provided for them. If your feline friend is healthy, but is going to the bathroom in weird places I’d suggest looking into some of these points.
Some litters are overly strong in smell to mask the what the cats are producing. Well some felines can be sensitive to this and do not want to use that litter and therefor will seek other places besides the box to do their business. Where I work we use an unscented litter that still has an odor control to accommodate any cat.
The texture of litter on their paws can also deter a cat from using their box. There are many alternatives to litter you can get such as wood pellets or corn, but the clean up can be a little more effort. However the extra effort is worth it if you don’t want to find cat poop and pee somewhere it shouldn’t be like your bed sheets or laundry.
Not The Right Fit
Sometimes it is the box its self. If it is too small, not the right amount of litter, and scary/hard to get in to; can all be reasons a cat doesn’t want to go to the bathroom in it. For most cats you want to get a decent size box, but you may not want something with walls that are too high unless it has an opening. Boxes with covers are good and many cats do like them, however some find them scary enough not to go to the bathroom there. You also don’t want to over fill or under fill with litter. We recommend about two inches and you might think well why not more? Because they only need enough to cover their urine or fecal matter and anymore can be uncomfortable for them.
Other reason can be the box is in a weird spot for the cat, you have multiple cats, the box isn’t being cleaned enough, and just old age. You can try moving their box to different spots of the house to see if that helps with them going outside the box. Sometimes when you introduce another or many other cats to the house hold it can cause some bathroom issues. I’d suggest multiple boxes depending on the number of cats and cleaning them more frequently. If your cat has been loyal to their box, old age can play a big factor because they might not be able to get into the box as well as they use to.
In more southern states there is a real over population of dogs and cats; that is why they have kill shelters. To try and help these animals, the owner of my work started transporting liters of puppies, kittens, and a few adult animals for us to adopt out. We have had many liters come and go and it is a bitter sweet moment for us workers.
We help the little ones grow and its hard not to get attached to our favorites. We’re really happy to see them get a home, but you also miss them once they’re gone. Especially the really sweet adult animals we get sometimes. We had an older German Shepard come once named Chief. He was so thin, but just the best dog and he has an insane backstory. I don’t remember the specific state he lived in, however he lived with a homeless man, who had a bunch of other dogs with him to kind of use as blanket of warmth. I feel for the man, but I am glad they got Chief out of that situation. He always listens, always wants love, and would never hurt anyone. When he went to a home we were all very happy for him and also very sad that we weren’t going to see him everyday. The good thing is though because we are an animal hospital, we do sometimes get to see our adopted friends when they have a check up.
It is incredibly hard though when we have animals stay with us for a long time because no one is interested in them. A lot of people come in with such specific requirements they want in a dog or cat that they pass up on some the sweetest ones. All of them have a unique story just like Chief and all of them deserve a chance at a real life. There’s been so many that have come through that I said to myself “If I had my own house I’d adopt you right now.” We just love them so much and want the best for them so it’s really hard when they go for a long time without someone wanting them. Puppy mills are terrible and I won’t get too into it, but I just hope one day that they don’t exist for the sake of many dogs. That is why though I will always preach “Adopt don’t Shop”.
For this weeks post I’d like to talk about nail trims. I’d like to give a “how to” with some tips and tricks I’ve learned from working at an animal hospital. I’ve done many nail trims on animals with many different temperaments. I am not incredible at it, but I can do it. They may need to be done pretty regularly depending on how active the animal is. Dogs that walk on tar a lot wont need them as much as a dog who is only carried. Waiting too long can result in nails that are painfully growing in their toe pad and very difficult to cut.
A quick is blood vessels and nerves in the nails of most animals. They vary in length and will bleed if the nails are cut too short. In clear nails you can the quick as a pink triangular shape in the nail. Black nails are tricky because you can’t see the quick until you actually start cutting. If you are using clippers you usually stop cutting once you see a black dot in the tip of the nail. An electric filer is an excellent way to avoid hitting the quick and getting the nails very short because of the slower process of having length shaved off until you see the dot. Now if you do hit the quick we use a thing called “quick stop” which a special powder you press into the bleeding nail to congeal and stop the blood, but flour also can work to stop the bleeding.
Easy cats you can just hold the cat and grab each paw and expose the nail and clip it. Almost always cats nails are clear and they have shorter quicks so they are easy to clip. Difficult cats can still be done, if you have someone to help, one person can hold them by the scruff (back of the neck) which basically demobilizes them. A trick we use a lot is wrapping a cat in a towel and sitting with them on your lap and pulling each paw out and doing them. That way they can’t bite or scratch you and you don’t need a another person to help you.
Dog nails vary a lot because they can be clear, black, long quick, short quick, or even having a mix of all four on one dog. Some dogs are super easy and will just sit in your lap while you do it. Others may try to fight and or bite you. We get a lot of wigglers who don’t want their nails done, but also don’t want to try and bite you and in that case it just takes another person to help you. We usually hold dogs close to our bodies with one arm under their belly’s close to the back end and the other arm under and around the neck and head. You could also try to distract the dog with a toy or some treats while you do the nails. Its easiest to fold the paw in the joint so you can see the bottom of the nails better. If the dog has trouble balancing on three dogs you can lean them on you so they can stand while you clip.
It can be stressful situation for both you and the animal. The last thing we one to do when clipping nails is stress the animal out too much especially older ones. That is why we try to make it not such a forced activity and try to use more distraction methods. Its stressful for me because I don’t ever want to quick the animal and hurt them. You want to take as much as you can off, but you also can”t too greedy with the cutting.
Fractious cats are cats that feel threatened by you and may try to attack you. We encounter a lot of this type because we get feral cats brought in by animal control often. Feral cats are born in the wild and do not trust humans the way domestic cats do.
Now we have to take care of these cats, we can’t just let them starve or be in a gross cage forever and it can be a scary task. Most will just try to stay as far from you as possible while you take items out and replace them. Some however go on the offensive and will try to claw you. I have a few ways to avoid injury while dealing with these animals.
One is we have big thick leather gloves that they can’t puncture; therefor keeping the skin safe and sound. Using the gloves can be hard though because they are so bulky it can be a challenge to pick and put down items. However I’ll always get a kick out of the look on the cats face when they try to bite or scratch me and I don’t back away.
Two is if the cage is big enough you can put a carrier or box in facing the opposite direction of the door. Most of the time the cat will go in and stay in there while you try to clean the cage. This is only effective though if the cat does not leave the container to come after you.
Three is if you know the cat likes treats you can try to distract them by throwing some treats somewhere they can’t get you from. With this though, you got to be a little speedy cause they can mow those treats down fast and then attack.
A final way is if you have some type of board that you can hold in front of the cat while you clean. This immobilizes them a little and helps to serve as a block from their attacks. I use this on really difficult cats who get messy very easily.
There is no perfect method to dealing with a fractious cat, but you have to be very careful no matter what. When a cat is in attack mode they could lounge for your face/head and that is not fun. A coworker of mine once was attack from above and she had to get many stitches on her head. They most likely will never be your friend so you just got to make sure they have everything they need to live and not get hurt in the process. Feral cats are usually release back into the wild after they’ve been fixed and we doc their ear so animal control knows.
All pets deserve our love and commitment. No matter what when you start to care for another life you should give them the best you can. Same applies when your animal becomes sick, disabled, and old. These type of animals are overlooked a lot, but they have some of the best spirits.
At work we get the occasional dog or cat with an array of disabilities the animal has no control over. I have such respect for these owners who take care of these pets. Its amazing to see first hand because most animals don’t seem to have any trouble with their physical disabilities.
Pugs come with a number of health concerns and its really common for them to have paralyzed back legs. We have one that comes in and at home she has a little wheel chair, but when she stays with us they leave it at home. Boy does that little girl scoot on the floor. She moves so quick for having to drag her bottom half. It doesn’t stop her, it doesn’t slow her down, and she just needs a little more help going to the bathroom and that’s it.
We had a “kennel cat” for many years who couldn’t be adopted out because of her problems. Her name was Roma and she was hit by a car when she was young and lost all feeling in her butt and tail area. That resulted in her getting most of her tail cut off and she had no control when she went to the bathroom. It’s hard to find a cat a home who will just pee and leave poop random places. So she lived in the kennel and had free rein over her domain. Roma was the best cat though, she was so unique and loved to be loved. I still miss her every time I work now.
I’ve seen a lot where someone gets a pet and they turn out to have something wrong or old comes with a bunch of health problems and they just give up on them. Its heart breaking because your pet loves you so much and they would never do the same to you. Thankfully I see more often than not people who stick by and give their pet the extra attention they need and really do love their furry member just like family.
I love dogs to death, but they are disgusting creatures. Poop gets everywhere, pee gets on you, and throw up gets re-eaten. Be warned if you can’t handle the subject of poop I would not suggest reading forward.
One of my first holidays I worked in the kennel I got a wonderful surprise; a dog had decided to paw print paint his kennel with his poop. The smell was absolutely atrocious and this white lab was now covered in brown patches that I had to bathe off him. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve had to pick poop out of paws and fur. Its especially bad with puppies because they will shamelessly step in their own poop then jump up on you (which is one of my favorite things).
It’s really interesting how dogs react to situations they are stressed about. A good one is when you give a dog a nail trim and it’s like they become a loose noodle and let go of all the bodily fluids inside them, on you of course. One story that makes me laugh is I was giving a huge golden retriever a nail trim once and he was great, he just laid there and let me do it, but after he got up I saw he did a massive poop that was hiding under his body. Its very common for dogs to poop when stressed or scared and that equals lots of clean up.
I am also amazed at how some dogs will eat anything including poop and throw up. I have a dog at home who will actually wait until the other two have gone out, so he can go out and eat their feces. I feel for the puppies who come in skinny so they think they have eat anything they get in their mouth (including rocks), but I do not want their nasty breath or kisses on my face. And for some dogs its not “oh its been there a while I’m gonna go eat it,” it’s a I have to sprint with the poop scoop before they can get it because they are running to eat it.
I could probably go on, but I think you get the picture. My job is a whole lot of poop and dogs who really don’t care about having their own fecal matter on, around, or in them. It really doesn’t bother me much, except there are some smelly days I will never forget.