Thursday, June 14, 2018

Caring for an Older Dog ~ Fonda, RVT

It is amazing how fast time goes by! Our third black labrador, Sam, is eleven and a half years old, and he has been a wonderful addition to our family. He is Mr. Easygoing--a laid back (almost to a fault) gentle giant of a dog. Not to mention he is so very handsome. 

Our daughter, Hannah, has had a black lab in her life since she was born twenty-nine years ago. After our second lab, Molly, passed away, we were so lost without her. It was only a few months before we were driving to Charleston, SC, to pick up this cute lug of a puppy. Hannah was just finishing her junior year in high school.

Now we are sharing Sam with our grandbabies! Little did we know at the time that Sam came into our lives that he would be loved by Sadie and Briggs as well.


Caring for an aging dog has once again become part of our lives. These dogs have brought so much joy with them; their unconditional love and devotion is unlike any other, and now Sam deserves the care he needs to make life more enjoyable for him.

Sam has developed arthritis in his joints over the last year as well as a heart murmur of unknown origin. Dr. Alley and Dr. Kleisch have helped me to navigate through this with suggestions on medication and with regular examinations to check his progress. As with any aging dog, in the day to day care, it is important to limit activity that can cause pain or more joint injury. We only take short trips outside now that the weather is warmer, and he gets lots of fresh cool water to drink. Good nutrition also plays an important role in keeping him healthy in addition to giving medication as prescribed by his vets. 

This big black bear of a dog gets lots of time with us, lying at our feet during dinner or while we play cards. Sam is the first thing that Sadie asks for when she comes to our house. He is part of our family. It is always my prayer that I have the wisdom to know when he is no longer comfortable and life has become to hard for him to endure. Until then, we will cherish every moment of our time together. 

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Vet School Experience ~ Sage, Assistant

There’s a common myth that veterinary school is harder to get into than medical school, but in reality, the percent of applicants that end up matriculating is comparable for both. 

There are 30 accredited vet schools in the US, with several others overseas that offer the same accreditation. With a rough class size of about 100 students at each school and 29,805 total applicants in 2014, it’s certainly a competitive process. In addition to a strong academic resume, the average applicant has 1000-2000 hours of “veterinary experience,” which is different from “animal experience” in that it has to be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Therefore, volunteering at shelters, showing horses, animal husbandry, etc. does not count towards veterinary hours. I know that 1000-2000 hours may seem preposterous, and believe me, I wholly agreed at the time that I decided to pursue vet school during my junior year of college, when I had accumulated a staggering 9 and 1/2 hours and felt fully ready to apply. But, alas, I knew my chances of getting in were slim to none, which brings me to Shiloh where I have spent my gap year.

            My first summer working at Shiloh, I was also working on my applications. As the weeks went by, I would slowly add new skills under the “experience” section. First came restraint, then subcutaneous injections, in-house lab work, monitoring anesthesia, drawing blood, and so on. I remember the first time I answered the phone and encountered a pet owner who was understandably very upset because her dog was hurt. I quickly put her on a brief hold and ran to ask one of the doctors all of her questions. After work, I timidly added “client communication” to the list. That summer I watched the list grow with pride, but looking back now, the importance of getting experience in the field far exceeds the concrete skills that can be boiled down to a bulleted list.

            Although I had an idea of it before, Shiloh is where I truly saw that working with animals means working with people. I can’t lie and say that this was an epiphany I came up with on my own, as Shiloh’s mission statement is printed in large font on the wall of the treatment area for everyone to see. “Partnering with people to provide long and healthy lives for their pets.” I see every day the importance of open, honest communication between the veterinarians, the staff, and the owners in providing the best care for the animal.

            This past year has also shown me how tough this career can be. I’ve seen the delivery of difficult news and the anguish of heartbreaking goodbyes. I’ve seen notes from the doctors sent at midnight, or even 5 o’clock in the morning, because they do not really leave work when they walk out of the building. But I have also been lucky enough to be surrounded by three doctors and the rest of the staff who have families and lives outside of work, and I understand the importance of finding balance between the two.

            But I think that the most important thing that I have gained this past year is confidence in myself. Not only just confidence in those concrete technical skills, but confidence that this is what I am meant to do – and the confidence that I have the ability to do it. And, of course, I have the incredible staff at Shiloh to thank for this. But I also would like to thank all of you for welcoming me in, allowing me to partake in your pets’ care, and for teaching me so much along the way.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Reducing Vet Visit Stress ~ Alison, RVT

Maintaining great veterinary care for my pets is very important to me. However, having an overly excitable and dog-aggressive dog can make a trip to the vet a stressful experience for both parties. 

Before I started my career in the veterinary field, our “routine” veterinary visits were exhausting for the both of us. My 75 pound pit bull, Dexter, would become over-stimulated and unresponsive to commands as soon as we would enter the lobby; even weighing him was out of the question. We would immediately be ushered into an exam room where he would continuously bark until the veterinary technician or veterinarian entered the room. I would have to help restrain Dexter for his exam, and services were usually done as quickly as possible. By the end of these visits, I was usually sweating and visibly embarrassed. 

Since entering the veterinary field and becoming a veterinary technician at Shiloh, I have learned many different techniques to help make our visits to the vet a much less stressful experience for everyone involved.

The first tool that I use to make our trip less stressful starts before we even get into the car. I give Dexter a prescribed dose of a pre-visit pharmaceutical called Trazodone, which has a mild sedative effect but does not knock him out. I give this an hour before we leave so that the medication will have taken effect before we reach the vet. 

Once we have arrived, I call the front desk to let them know that we are there, and they let me know if the lobby is clear to minimize stimulating interactions. For Dexter, being seen in the treatment area during low-traffic times as opposed to being seen in an enclosed exam room is a better option. 

During the exam and other services, I feed him peanut butter, which is a welcomed distraction. Our veterinary visits have become considerably less stressful, and it makes me a happy dog mom to see his tail wagging in place of his previous signs of fear and stress.

Working with many different clients and pets has shown me that this can be a familiar scenario for many pet owners, but it does not have to be a permanent one. There are many approaches and techniques that can be used to minimize and reduce stress. Different examples are medications, pheromones, treats, and low-traffic appointment times. Start a conversation with your veterinarian to identify the specific tools that will best suit your pet. For Dexter and me, a little pre-planning and communication with the veterinary staff has turned a stressful situation into an enjoyable experience. 

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Toddler Diet ~ Meredith, Technician

"Breeze wants a bite!" Kenleigh says.

There's not a meal that goes by that we don't hear that.
Having a toddler can be challenging in and of itself, but adding a dog to the mix can make it even more fun. Teaching a toddler what "people foods" are OK for a dog is very important, and allowing your toddler give your dog a snack occasionally can be a good lesson in proper pet interaction. However, there are certain foods that can be toxic or otherwise dangerous or upsetting to dogs and should be avoided.

Among these foods are chocolate, coffee, caffeine, alcohol, avocados, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, yeast dough, xylitol, onions, garlic, milk, and salt.

Excess human food can cause gastrointestinal upset and warrant an otherwise unnecessary trip to the vet. We experienced that not too long ago when "somehow" Breeze got a little too much pork roast and ended up with diarrhea. Dr. Alley prescribed a gentle antibiotic for a few days along with a bland diet, and then she was back to normal.

Encourage your toddler to feed dog treats with adult supervision, and make sure that they always ask if certain foods are OK when feeding anything else.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Meet the "New" Doctor ~ Shana Silverstein, DVM

I joined Shiloh Animal Hospital this October, and I wanted my first blog to be a piece in which readers could get to know “the new doctor.” 

I was always attracted to a clinical career in veterinary medicine, starting in grade school. From an early age, I recognized that a strong clinician enjoys not only the intellectual challenge of medicine and surgery, but the interpersonal daily interactions that allow me to educate my clients on everything from preventative medicine to discussing options for diagnostics and treatment during times of illness.

I was raised in northern NJ, though you'd never know it since I have worked so hard to lose that accent! I attended Cornell University where I got a BS in Biology, and I remained there to complete my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. While a veterinary student, I was a student housing supervisor as well a Big Sister and one of the original group of students to create and receive training for the Cornell Pet Loss Support Hotline.

I always had an interest in alternative medicine. My "senior seminar" case was a research project about a resuscitation acupuncture point. After practicing traditional medicine in Massachusetts and Arizona, I moved to NC and began practicing in the Triangle in 2008. It was then that I met Dr. Alley and was inspired by her integrative approach to veterinary medicine. It spoke to the balance of the strengths of traditional Western medicine while complimenting with Eastern medicine.

In 2012, I pursued veterinary acupuncture training at the Chi Institute. I also have a passion for behavior, dentistry, and preventative medicine. My daily goal is to empower owners to take part in their pets' care, from puppies and kittens to geriatrics.  I enjoy educating staff and clients alike, as well as preschool groups, scout troops, etc. Most of all, I love building long term relationships with my clients and their pets.

I have been blessed to be married to my husband, Tom, for 16 years. We have a son in 8th grade, a daughter in 5th grade, one rambunctious pittie, and two tolerant cats. There is also a tarantula in the house that I prefer not to think about. I enjoy singing in a local chorale and am active in my synagogue.

I am thrilled to be joining the Shiloh family and to be working with such a talented staff, and I look forward to meeting many of you in the months to come!

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Daisy & Her Treasure ~ Maria, Lead Receptionist

Jingle, jingle jangle! What’s that movement I see? 
It’s Daisy, our sweet Havanese, snooping under our tree. 
As she pokes her head out and starts to prance around, 
It’s clear to see there’s something stuck between her tail and the ground. 
Is it a string, a ribbon, a piece of garland? Oh, no. She’s a pup with much more class. 
It’s a sharp silver hook with a hot pink ornament made of glass. 

Whew! It was actually quite funny looking. However, 'tis the season for lots of hidden dangers and new and exciting objects. There are hooks and glass balls, bells, yummy smelling pine cones, ribbons, and of course, candy canes wrapped in cellophane. Each intriguing item carries its own threat. 

But what about when company comes a-knocking? Let the hunt begin! For more hidden dangers, that is! There are pill boxes, hearing aid batteries, inhalers, and wallets to be eaten! Boxes of chocolates from Grandmas and Grandpas who need to spoil us, and don’t forget about the ½ full cups of caffeine laying around. 

This is my favorite time of year! There are so many warm and fuzzy memories to be made with family and friends. Let’s just all remember to take the time to comb your home of hidden dangers so that your fuzzy Fido or feline stays safe. 

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Part One: What it Means to Responsibly Care for a Dog ~ Samantha Moynan, Guest Blogger

This week on the Shiloh Speaks Blog, we've decided to feature a blogging client of ours, Samantha Moynan, who recently wrote a post on animal behavior and what it means to be a "good" dog owner. Read on below, and visit Samatha's blog here
I have, extremely recently, been faced with the overwhelming lesson of what it means to responsibly care for a dog. I made the decision to have my veterinarian euthanize the love of my life, my best friend, and my spirit animal – Johnny. What may come as a shock to some, is that I had to make this decision when Johnny was five and a half years old, due to increasing aggression.
I rescued Johnny when he was seven months old. He was scrawny, his nails were too long, he was shedding too much, his eyes were on the sides of his head (hammerhead dog), and he looked defeated in a crate where he hung out on the weekends waiting for the love of a home. He looked at me with piercing green eyes as he layed there, unmoving, and I was instantly attached. As soon as I got him out of the crate, he was a new dog – super excited, jumping around, ready to go. I told the lady who ran the rescue that I wanted him, but she said I could not take him until I had a note from my apartment complex saying they allowed the breed on his paperwork – an American Staffordshire Terrier mix, Amstaff for short. If you have experienced the world of bully breeds, an Amstaff is never allowed to live anywhere. I went home and got angry with anyone who told me I would just have to find another dog that I liked. Silly giver uppers. When you know something in your soul, you have to go for it. Giving up on little hammerhead green eyes was not an option. I formed a plan and decided to call the rescue woman back, pitching my idea. She agreed and with overwhelming joy I showed up to meet her in the middle of nowhere to get my very specific buddy.

I worked at a dog daycare at the time and was friends with two certified dog trainers as well as being surrounded by co-workers who knew and understood dogs. I was ready for this. I was going to do this the right way. Step one – socialize. So, I started bringing Johnny to work with me. What a dream. Wasn’t I the best dog owner ever? I could bring my new BFF to work with me every day and he got to play with friends and go home exhausted.

Lesson learned: Not every dog can mentally handle the stimulation of a yard full of dogs. Johnny was fine for months but eventually, it was too much for him. He started acting out and his anxiety manifested in aggression. Although, an overall minor aggression in the big picture of Johnny’s life, it was painful and upsetting. Johnny could not play in a big group of dogs anymore and I was saddened that I would have to leave him at home while I worked all day in a place that had a ‘bring your dog to work day’ every day. Once this happened, I jumped right on the dog training* bus and was ready to face this new issue head on.
After working with a trainer, and now a person very dear to my heart, Johnny had a few really good, incident free, years. For a while, I took him everywhere with me – we road tripped together, we went to dog friendly breweries or shops together, we visited friends together. Anywhere he was allowed to go, he went with me and I often chose to stay home with him rather than go somewhere he could not.
Lesson learned: Positive Reinforcement training builds confidence in your dog and deepens your relationship. The trust that Johnny had for me began from the start but strengthened tremendously during the training techniques and years to follow. Johnny felt like more of a person than a dog to me. We understood each other. He trusted me with every piece of himself. It was up to me to always do what was best for him, no matter what.

Then, within the past year, signs started showing up again. Some were subtle. A great infographic to refer to for some insight is below.
But shortly after, some of the signs were more obvious – growling, snapping, hunting, biting. He was becoming anxious, but this time it was worse. The training was not working anymore. Removing triggers did not work. Removing stimulation was not working. Something had changed in his brain and it was out of my control. This is the part I have the most difficult time grasping. I have never accepted anything as out of my control in my entire life. Until now. And that left me with both the biggest choice and no choice at all.
All I’m going to say is, within a week of each other, Johnny got in two dog fights very different from each other. Both unpredictable and unique to what I had ever seen him do before and both with dogs he had a history of friendship with. After incident one of that week, I had an instant gut feeling that I would have to put Johnny down. I had NEVER even considered that before, yet all I could hear in my head was “Oh my God, am I going to have to put Johnny down?” so I finally said it out loud. My partner was shocked to hear those words come out of my mouth and even curious as to why THAT was the incident, of all the questionable actions, that changed everything in my mind. My answer is that I don’t have much of an answer other than a deep, gut instinct and the sudden awareness that he was no longer as predictable as he used to be to the person that knew him best – me. This all happened so fast that I was simply devastated and at a complete loss with this thought weighing on me night and day. I had zero acceptance of a life without Johnny and I think that is why incident two rolled around six days later and sealed the deal. There was no denying it after incident two. There was a brutal understanding of what love, safety, and surrender meant. Every reason I had to keep Johnny alive, was a selfish one.
The thing is, with Johnny, I never gave up. Johnny had a history of dog aggression that was managed quickly at a young age. Even when it seemed to start showing up again in the last year of his life, I swooped in and got into management mode immediately. Even after he had bitten a person and gotten in a minor dog fight, I still did not consider euthanasia. I researched the exact scenarios, I called my dog trainer, I contacted another dog trainer I knew and trusted, and I set up a plan to manage this with my knowledge of the exact triggers and a responsible approach. The hope in dog aggression cases, is that if it is predictable, there is a potential that you can safely manage it so long as the dog and the owner’s quality of life is considered. I never, ever gave up on him. But, I did surrender when it was the responsible, selfless, and loving choice to make.

I knew Johnny like you know a piece of yourself. I spent the past five years knowing him, snuggling with him, observing him, training him, playing with him, adventuring with him, testing what worked and what did not with him, and dedicating my life to making sure he was taken care of. But at the end of the day, Johnny was an animal – a topic I will cover more next week.
Johnny pulled me through some massive years of heartache. He gave me a reason to get out of bed some days when I may not have otherwise because I knew I had to feed him and let him out, no matter what I was going through. He licked away countless, countless tears. He was the perfect snuggler, especially when I needed it most. He was hilarious and holds the title of Number One Bootscooter in the World. He was my first priority, always, and love of my life. I did the absolute best I could have possibly done.
Of all the losses I have suffered in my life, this one has by far been the most painful. Yet, it has also been the most powerful lesson in both trusting myself and surrendering.
None of this was Johnny’s fault, or mine.

*Side note about dog training: I am huge advocate for Positive Reinforcement Training and for a lot of informational links on that you can click here. Had I taken an alternate approach in training, such as treating aggression with aggression or dominance training, I wholeheartedly believe Johnny would have gone downhill fast, rather than giving me five full, beautiful years.

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