General Interest

On The Go

posted January 25th, 2015 by
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On the Go

On The Go

 

Dr. Sharon Marshall’s Riverbend Mobile Vet Service brings medical services to pets in the comfort of their homes.

 

By Kayte Spillman

 

 

It all started out of necessity.

When Dr. Sharon Marshall finished veterinary school, she opened a mobile vet business. She drove to clients’ homes to care for their dogs, cats and horses to save on the overhead cost associated with opening a vet clinic of her own. But it was more than that.

“I didn’t want to look at the same four walls every day,” Marshall says. “I wanted to be out where the animals and my clients were.”

Twenty-one years later, Marshall’s frugal business savvy has grown into a successful veterinary practice. Her mobile vet business, Riverbend Mobile Vet Service, drives directly to the clients in a 40-mile or more radius around Lexington, Okla., while clients can also come to her five days a week at the brick-and-mortar office she’s operated for the last 10 years.

“It’s really for the pet’s comfort and the client’s ease,” Marshall says. “You know, we have many clients who are elderly or homebound, and for them a mobile vet is really a necessity.

“But we also have so many clients who have multiple pets and multiple children, and it is just so much easier for everyone to have me come to them. We’ve had the family with the two toddlers and the dog and the cat trying to get down our hallway, and the kids are crying, and the dog’s peeing all the way down the hall, and the cat’s stressed out. It’s not a good situation for anyone!”

Marshall says the animals are significantly more relaxed and less stressed when she can see them in their home environment than when they come into the office.

“It removes the fear factor that often comes with bringing a pet into a vet’s office,” she says. “I can go where they feel safe and at ease, and a lot of times help them before they even know I’m there. They don’t have time to ramp up.”

She also says visiting in the home allows her to spend more quality time with both the clients and the animals. In a typical vet office visit, a vet may be able to stay with the client for about 15 minutes, Marshall says. However, when Marshall is in a client’s home, she says she gets to know each client and each animal so much better.

“It’s a much more close and personal experience for the client,” Marshall says. “I’m not on that tight schedule that you have to be on if you are in the office. I enjoy slowing down and talking to my clients.”

Sky Lindsay has been a mobile client of Dr. Marshall’s for almost 15 years. She says with six animals roaming around her house, it is very helpful to have a house call to avoid the hassle of getting her four cats and two dogs out of the house and to the vet.

“I love having Dr. Marshall come to us,” Lindsay says. “Cats don’t travel well… well, at least mine don’t! And our dogs absolutely love when she comes to visit.”

Lindsay says Dr. Marshall usually comes out once a year for a checkup on all her animals, she takes her time letting everyone get settled and used to her before she treats them. She said she doesn’t even think her cats realize they are having a checkup from a vet, and it takes a lot of the stress of the typical visit away from her pets.

“She comes in and sits and talks, and then once everyone calms down, she’ll just grab whichever one is walking by,” Lindsay says. “She’s a straight shooter, and I love working with her. The animals love her too.”

Marshall makes about six to seven home visits every day, making sure her office is staffed with a vet tech in her absence to care for anyone stopping in for basic needs. She travels about a 40-mile radius from her base in Lexington to see patients. On a mobile visit, she performs basic veterinary services, but has a full lab and radiology capabilities at her physical office in Lexington.

“We are a full-service vet office, which many people don’t know,” Marshall says. “We do boarding; we do internal medicine, ultrasounds, radiology—whatever is needed. We literally do everything.”

Well, not literally everything… Staying true to her roots, she’s strictly a dog, cat or equine veterinarian.

“If you eat it,” Marshall says. “I don’t do it!”

Tucker’s Story

posted November 18th, 2014 by
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In the rubble of his Earthly possessions, John Salazar found what matters most.

Tucker

By Anna Holton-Dean

 

 

 

May 20, 2013, started out like any other day for John Salazar, a Moore, Okla., resident. He knew there was a chance of severe weather, but nothing like the day would turn out to be.

He went about his morning as usual, taking his chocolate Lab, Tucker, out to do his business before putting him back in his room, closing the baby gate behind him.

John, and Tucker, lived with his then-girlfriend—now fiancé—Amy Boyer, and her cat, Casper.

Business as usual, the couple headed off to work—Amy to downtown and John to CarMax in Edmond where he had been employed for six years.

Later in the day, as weather reports became serious and news of tornadoes spread, John and Amy discussed by phone what they should do about their animals.

Between the phone calls and the time John made it home, the now infamous EF5 tornado struck Moore and leveled his home with Tucker and the cat inside. It was part of a larger weather system that produced other tornadoes as well.

Peak winds reached an estimated 210 mph, killing 24 people and injuring 377 others. The tornado touched down at 2:56 p.m., staying on the ground for 39 minutes over a 17-mile path, crossing through a heavily-populated section of Moore. John’s home was directly in the path of the tornado, which was 1.3 miles wide at its peak.

“At 3 p.m., I realized it was getting close to where we lived,” John says. “Amy got home shortly after it hit. I got there an hour after it hit. Neither of us could drive into the neighborhood, which was less than a mile from the elementary school that was leveled.

“I parked as close as I could get, ran three to four miles to get to the house, and I didn’t even recognize the neighborhood. Signs were gone; most houses were leveled. It didn’t give me a lot of hope of finding Tucker. I couldn’t even tell what street I was on.”

John guessed at which direction his house would be and headed there on foot. He hadn’t talked to Amy since their last phone call before leaving work. When he finally located his house, 90 percent of it was gone.

“Very little was left,” he says. “I finally saw Amy and asked where the animals were. She was in tears and said, ‘Tucker’s gone, the cat too.’”

Tucker’s room was destroyed—the window, roof, Tucker’s bed and the baby gate were all gone. Everything was the opposite of where it should have been, John says.

“My room that I kept all of my clothes in was leaning over, and two walls were missing,” he says. “All of my stuff was gone or strewn around. I lost everything. I thought for sure Tucker was gone.”

He remembers people searching for their animals, and dogs running everywhere through the remains of the neighborhood. People and neighbors were asking one another if their animals had been seen.

By 7 p.m., the police wanted everyone gone from the area in order to search for survivors. “At that point, I was leaving, and I hadn’t found my dog,” John says.

“We heard they were taking dogs to Home Depot and here and there. Several friends were trying to help us find him. It was pretty hard.”

But they had no luck or any leads in finding Tucker.

“We went to bed that night and woke up bright and early to go to the house about 7 a.m. We thought there would be lots of people there; there was talk of looters. My boss, fiancé and I sifted through what we could find,” John says.

As they walked through what had been the entryway of the house, they noticed something sticking out of the rubble. It was Tucker’s nose. He was buried underneath the house, and John quickly dug through the mess to pick him up. Amazingly, he was unharmed.

“Best we can tell,” John says, “he was probably thrown under there. The kitchen, living room and garage were a giant pile; Tucker was in about where the kitchen should be—a good 50 feet from where his room was. It was a very interesting route how he got there.”

In the end, Casper, the cat, was also found alive.

Amidst losing most of his physical possessions, John could have been understandably devastated. But finding Tucker alive and well brought out the positive in a life-altering circumstance, what mattered most.

“When I found him, it felt like nothing else mattered,” John says. “It really put things into perspective on what can be replaced and what can’t. I had come to grips with not finding him, or if we do find him, it won’t be good. It was very challenging because I’ve never lost something that close to me. It was tough.”

It would be impossible to go through such an event, and not have the effects change a person in some ways… or even a dog. John says the ordeal has changed Tucker in that he is more timid than he used to be.

“The biggest thing is at the groomer, she cannot put a blow dryer on him,” John says. “He is scared of the air blowing on him.”

But that hasn’t stopped Tucker from visiting his groomer, Emily Cefalo, at Mia & Company Pet Salon & Spa. John says she has been great with Tucker’s uncertainty after such a traumatic event.

Emily noticed his anxiety during his first grooming last year, but didn’t know about his ordeal. “He was great during his bath,” she says. “Blow drying dogs is not always easy due to noise. The majority of the time, I hand dry as much as possible.

“The minute I turned on the dryer, Tucker got extremely nervous. Not a typical response from a Labrador Retriever. I finished drying him by hand. I wanted Tucker to trust me. That’s my goal with every dog that comes to Mia & Company.”

Tucker’s story is a reminder of that day and the many stories that unfolded, some with happy, and some with sad, endings.

“Like humans, every dog has a story,” Emily says. “Some we know about, and others we may not. I knew he had been through something. When John picked up Tucker, I asked him if he was afraid of noises. He explained Tucker has survived the Moore tornado. I cried after he left that day.

“Reflecting back and remembering lives that were suddenly taken. Tucker is my hero—I have extra space in my heart for him.”

Training 911

posted November 11th, 2014 by
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Training

by Khara Criswell, MA, CPDT-KSA, CNWI

 

Aroo, woof, woof, yelp, yelp… Oh my, you’re home!  Why won’t you feed me dinner now?

I don’t like that dog! Did you hear that sound? Stay away from my owner!

This is our house!  Every time the doorbell rings, I must tell my owner.

 

Aroo… when are you coming back?

This might be an interpretation of what your dog is saying when he barks. Did you know there are five different types of barking: 1) excitement barking, 2) frustration barking, 3) watchful barking, 4) learned barking, 5) separation anxiety barking. Telling the difference might take some record keeping, such as a barking chart.

In the barking chart, you can track: where you are and the date, time barking starts, time barking stops, how long it lasts, how the barking sounds, where the dog is located, what the dog is barking at, and what the dog is doing (movements, etc.) Once you get this data, you can interpret the type of bark and what your dog is trying to communicate.

Solving the barking can take different avenues. For the excitement barking and frustration barking, you will want to stay calm and not yell at the dog. When you raise your voice, the dog might think you are barking with them, so keep your voice a neutral tone or whisper.

Teach your dog to go to a place (go to a mat), to sit, fetch or play the “find-it” game. When the dog does another behavior, remember to mark it “good dog” with a reward, toy, praise, treat or anything else your dog finds fun.

Watchful barking can be solved by using your dog’s kibble or a high value reward, such as a treat or toy to come with the trigger. Scenario: I walk my dog on leash and another dog or skateboard is coming the other way. My dog is going nuts on leash. I would keep walking and say “good boy” and feed my dog treats as we walk by the other dog or skateboard.

During this scenario, I would give some distance between my dog and the other dog or skateboard. Eventually, I would pair this with a “watch me” or “touch,” then “good boy” and a treat. I’m teaching the dog that the thing is not that scary, and he does not need to be watchful for me.

Learned barking is something us humans have conditioned the dogs to do. Doorbells seem to be the best learned barking we teach our dogs. Solving the doorbell can be two-fold.

One way to solve it would be to desensitize your dog to the doorbell by going to your local hardware store and picking up a doorbell with two push buttons. Put one of them on your front door and the other one in the house with you. You will randomly hit the house button.

You have options: 1) do nothing while your dog is barking, and when the dog takes a breath say “good dog” and reward, using treats, toys, or your dog’s kibble; 2) you can say “thank you,” “who wants hot dogs?” or any other phrase and walk over to the back window or kitchen and give out treats; 3) you can say “go to your spot,” and when the dog goes to the spot, say “good dog” and reward on the spot, not from your hand.

Be consistent and your dog will learn that the doorbell means good things will come. You will eventually wean off the treats, but you will never wean off the marker “good boy” or reward of toy or praise.

Separation anxiety barking is when you leave the home or come home, and the dog starts talking. You should make a list of triggers, such as putting on shoes, getting the keys, etc.

As you put on the shoes, or grab the leash, just have a seat and do nothing. You are trying to teach the dog that just because things are occurring doesn’t mean you are always leaving.

Keep it up, and you will be on track to a quieter household!

Spay FIRST!

posted November 4th, 2014 by
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Spay FIRST

by Ruth Steinberger

 

 

Pet overpopulation is a serious problem in most communities, but in small towns and rural areas where people have little or no access to veterinary care, the costs can be staggering. Unsterilized pets are not only predisposed to health problems, taxpayers also bear the burden due to the large number of unwanted pets that find their way into shelters.

 

But long-time animal activist Ruth Steinberger is addressing this growing problem head on through her organization SpayFIRST!

Steinberger founded Spay FIRST! in November 2010 to reach out directly to those on the forefront of controlling the pet population, including pet owners, communities and veterinarians. Through education and coordinated efforts that enable communities to provide sterilization services, Steinberger hopes to lessen the burden of unwanted animals.

The statistics are staggering. According to Steinberger, approximately $2 billion is spent annually in the U.S. just to shelter unwanted dogs, yet less than 3 percent of that amount is spent on prevention.

Steinberger brings years of experience and firsthand knowledge of the cost these unwanted litters heap onto communities, and she is making strides by teaching pet owners the importance of sterilization by working with communities and animal professionals.

Below, Steinberger explains to OKC Pets Magazine the importance of pet sterilization and how SpayFIRST! is making a difference.

You have a long history of involvement in animal advocacy. What led you to become so active in this area and start your organization Spay FIRST?

About 30 years ago, my home became an “accidental rescue,” as happens to others. You know, people realize that you care  about animals, they bring them to you, and suddenly you’re a safety net for unwanted animals.

Through my mentor, activist and artist Carol Hoge, I came to realize that not only could we prevent litters, but that the threat of litters was why many people “get rid of” female pets. Being spayed or neutered is a huge factor in keeping pets in their homes. In rural areas, that security means life and death.

Why is spaying and neutering pets so important, not only for the animals, but for communities?

People and the animals that live with them are not separate; we affect each other. If animals “mark” their adoptive homes, get into fights, roam or have litters, they will not remain welcome. Dog bites, maulings and characteristic male dog behaviors overwhelmingly come from intact male dogs.

These disproportionately affect low-income communities where access to spay/ neuter is limited. When we talk about the importance of compassion instead of killing, spay/neuter is absolutely at the center of that discussion. A litter of puppies may be cute, but many children realize that the puppies were eventually abandoned, otherwise killed, or they simply die from disease and neglect. Is this good? Witnessing neglect does not teach compassion.

A lot of pet owners say they want their dog or cat to have a litter before they are spayed or neutered, or they would like their children to experience the birth process with their pet. Explain why letting a dog or cat become sexually mature before spaying or neutering is harmful to their health.

First, there are significant health benefits to avoiding a first estrus or “heat” cycle. Research shows that preventing the hormonal changes during even one heat cycle has a tremendous impact on reducing incidents of mammary cancer in dogs. That’s no small thing.

Dogs are nine times more likely than people to get mammary cancer, and the preventive value is lost with successive heat cycles. Characteristic male dog behavior, like marking furniture, is much easier to prevent than to stop later on.

There is no “miracle” to the birth of surplus pets. It teaches kids that it’s OK to produce surplus animals on a self-centered whim. It teaches irresponsibility.

Historically, veterinarians recommended pets be sterilized at about 6 months of age, but that is changing. Pets can now be sterilized much earlier. At what age is this safe?

The age approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is             8 weeks or two pounds, and in a shelter setting, all pets should be spayed or neutered before release. Many private clinics recommend that kittens or puppies finish their juvenile wellness vaccinations and be altered shortly thereafter. Some offer kitten or puppy wellness packages that facilitate that timeline.

There is some controversy about the impact of early sterilization on giant breeds, and there is controversy about the quality of the studies that supposedly support that controversy. However, the fact remains that the single leading cause of death of dogs and cats in the U.S. is euthanization in shelters… because an unwanted litter is born in the U.S. every 20 seconds.

Is surgery the only option?

No. There are other options and more are being explored by both public agencies and private entities. And we need all of the tools available to stop litters.

Worldwide, 75 percent of dogs, and about the same percentage of cats, are unwanted. That is over 600 million animals! Knocking the numbers down humanely is the first step to stopping suffering, and it cannot be done without non-surgical methods.

In many places across the globe, basic medical care for people is a luxury; children still get polio, and tens of thousands of people die of rabies from dog bites in developing nations. Sadly, in these circumstances, the resources needed to provide surgery is decades away from being available for millions of street animals.

Because of the potential to work in the poorest of regions, our most important work is in the field of non-surgical sterilization. Spay FIRST! has partnered with Pueblo Animal Health Services,   Native American Veterinary Services and an organization in Lahore, Pakistan, called Vets Care Organization, to promote the use of a non-surgical option for neutering male dogs and cats.

We are working with two Oklahoma veterinarians to closely monitor colony cats on a feed-through contraceptive and under the leadership of SpayFIRST! founding board member Dr. Charles Helwig and our advisory board member Dr. Billy Clay, we have partnered with the USDA on research of an injectable contraceptive that will hopefully be proven effective in dogs.

Your organization focuses a lot of its outreach in poor or underserved com-munities, especially those with little or no access to veterinary services, with your MASH unit. Can you explain what this is?

MASH, or Mobile Animal Surgical Hospital, refers to programs in which surgical equipment is brought onsite to a remote location in order to set up temporary spay/neuter services.

This is a program often used to provide services on Native American lands. It is a labor intensive program, but it’s a great way to get a lot done. It is the most cost-effective model there is.

If someone said to you they don’t think it matters if their pet is sterilized, what would be the most important thing they need to know about their decision?

They need to know that their decision does not support the best care for their own pet, and if unwanted litters are born, they are contributing to the world in a terribly negative way. I’ve heard people say they found good homes for the offspring. If indeed they did, some other kitten or puppy died.

One way or the other, for better or for worse, the decision that each one of us makes has an impact. According to American Pet Products Manufacturers, 38 percent of dogs and 75 percent of cats are obtained from family, friends or other incidental sources. That’s how many incidental, unplanned animals are never even counted in the shelter numbers… Staggering.

For more information about Spay FIRST! or to donate, visit spayfirst.org. Follow Spay FIRST! on Facebook and Twitter or follow Steinberger’s blog at huffingtonpost.com.

Project Breathe

posted October 28th, 2014 by
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Invisible Fence Brand providing pets a breath of fresh air.

Invisible Fence

By Anna Holton-Dean

 

An estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year in fires, according to industry sources, most succumbing to smoke inhalation. In many states, emergency responders are unequipped to deal with the crisis. The loss is devastating for families and heart-wrenching for firefighters also.  Because human oxygen masks do not fit pets, there’s not much first responders can do to reverse the effects of smoke inhalation.

But thanks to Invisible Fence Brand, providers of the original electronic pet containment system, 120 pets have been saved as of February 2014, through their Project Breathe campaign. Because the pet oxygen mask kits fit just right, animals can take advantage of oxygen flow, saving their lives.

Invisible Fence Brand has donated over 10,000 pet oxygen masks to fire stations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Locally, Invisible Fence of Oklahoma has donated animal oxygen masks to fire stations in Moore, Nichols Hill and The Village. They are now in the process of obtaining a kit for Mustang with Edmond as their next target area. And many of the masks given have already saved local pets’ lives.

Emily Shanbour, manager/operator of Invisible Fence of Oklahoma, says the Project Breathe campaign is a logical way for the company to help the local community.

“Invisible Fence’s motto is ‘keeping dogs safe at home.’ This takes what we are already doing one step further,” she says. “Anything that any corporation can do for a local community at no additional cost to that community is a good thing.”

The program not only saves the lives of pets, but eases the overall painful experience for their owners as well. “When a family suffers the tragedy of a fire, lives are turned upside down,” Albert Lee, director of Invisible Fence Brand, says. “Pets are valued family members, so we want families to know that their pets can be cared for if tragedy strikes.

“We realize that humans are the first priority, but in many cases, pets can be saved if firefighters have the right equipment. Our Project Breathe program is simply a way of giving firefighters the tools necessary to save pets’ lives, and we celebrate with the families and the emergency personnel each and every time a pet is rescued and saved.”

For more information on the Invisible Fence Brand Project Breathe donation program, visit www.invisiblefence.com/O2 or check out www.oklahomacity.invisiblefence.com  .

Training 911

posted October 27th, 2014 by
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Training

by Khara Criswell

There is puppy breath in the air as spring arrives.

Tiny, wet noses and little tails come bounding through the grass. Trying to decide which one of these bright-eyed doggies you want to take home, you are overjoyed with the noises each puppy makes. At OKC Pets, we always advocate “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” But if you are set on a certain puppy, breed and have determined to buy, please ask yourself some important questions first.

What do you know about the breeder? Have you met the parents of the puppy? How old are the puppy’s parents? Are there any health issues? Good breeders would not sell to pet stores or have a variety of dogs available. They would only allow breeding from dogs in good health and in a reasonable age range for producing healthy offspring.

How were the puppies whelped (inside/outside)? If exposed to inside whelping, the puppy will most likely be familiar with sounds around a house. If the dog has been kept outside, the puppy will need training to overcome common household sounds.

How old will the puppy be before you can take it home? There seems to be a trend to release puppies to their new owners at 5 weeks old. This is unacceptable according to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB). Puppies start the weaning process around 4 weeks. Giving the puppy extra time to wean off the mother boosts the puppy’s immune system. 

During the 4- to 8-week period, the puppies are learning socialization skills with their mother and siblings. The puppies develop bite inhibition, learn how to play with other puppies, begin housetraining and learning how to settle. If you take a puppy at 5 weeks of age from its mother, the puppy is at a greater risk for anxiety, chewing, barking and housetraining issues.

What is your lifestyle? Are you an outdoor or indoor person? Do you prefer quiet evenings, or does some activity excite you? If you choose a puppy that is shy or quiet and place him or her in a household that is on the go, the puppy will experience some anxiety from all of the constant commotion.

If you take a Labrador puppy and place it in the home that is quiet, the puppy might end up in a crate most of the day from being too overzealous. It doesn’t mean the Lab puppy won’t eventually calm down, but for the first three years you will have some training issues. The purpose of getting a puppy is for companionship, so why put stress on the relationship?

Can you provide proper socialization and stimulation? When you bring home your new puppy, you want to have enrichment activities for the puppy, such as interactive toys with a variety of textures. You also want to create a space for your puppy. Early socialization is important for the development of the dog. 

You want every interaction to be positive with the puppy. This can be provided by positive experiences like setting up puppy parties, where you gather your friends around for food and games.  People come into the home and interact with your new pet. You can go for happy visits to the veterinarian and groomer. You carry your puppy into these places and feed your puppy its meal there.

Let him experience the sight, sounds and smells of these places. And start looking for puppy classes. You want to find classes that offer a full range of socialization skills, including meeting new people, places, sounds, etc.

To learn more, the ASPCA website offers an informative article on socialization and advice for when puppies should head off to classes. (Search keywords “Socializing Your Puppy.”) With a little work, your new puppy will be ahead of the curve.