Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lumps & Bumps ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

As a veterinary professional, one of the most frustrating things to see on social media is a person seeking medical advice for their pets from people who are not veterinarians. While these people often mean well, they are in many cases doing far more harm than good. This is especially true when it comes to growths. 

Abnormal growths on animals are very common, but there are innumerable different types, and recommended treatment varies greatly between them. Lipomas, for instance, are benign fatty tumors that are typically not removed unless they grow large enough to begin impacting an animal's quality of life. By sharp contrast, malignant growths can appear and spread very quickly, and often complete excision is recommended as soon as possible upon identification. Nobody can tell you conclusively what a growth is based on a photo

The only way to determine the nature of a growth is to aspirate it (insert a small needle, withdrawing cells) and examine the cells under a microscope. Even this technique is sometimes inconclusive, then requiring a biopsy (removal of a small portion of the growth or the entire growth) and microscopic examination by a pathologist. 

Very small MCT pictured, center
Yesterday, my Clementine was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor. These can be particularly scary, since they can appear like many other growths and are somewhat unpredictable. Mast cell tumors are made up of mast cells, which are granulocyte white blood cells that play a large roll in the immune system and contain large quantities of histamine, heparin, and proteolytic enzymes. When irritated or removed, mast cell tumors can release these contents into other parts of the body, causing significant side effects. Notice how small and insignificant the growth (pictured left) on Clementine appears. Had I ignored this or gotten advice online suggesting that it was anything other than a mast cell tumor, we might not have diagnosed it quickly enough to make a difference.

Complete excision can be curative, but extremely wide margins (removal of healthy tissue around the mass) are necessary to accomplish this. In her case, the tumor is very small and was found quickly, so we have high hopes for a good overall prognosis.

When you find a new growth on your dog, it's always a good idea to call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment for an examination and potential fine needle aspirate and cytology. Be sure to note when you first noticed the growth, and monitor it for any changes in size, shape, color, or texture. Be careful not to irritate the growth by touching it excessively, and never attempt to drain or remove a growth at home. 

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What is a Vet Tech? ~ Trisha, Technician

Particularly when at networking events or anytime outside of the field, people tend to ask, “What do you do?” and I get to talk about being a Veterinary Technician and the Office Manager at Shiloh Animal Hospital. If the person I’m talking to is an animal person, then they probably have a vague idea what the former involves. However, I also get some people who are not, and they often ask what the job entails. Within the same conversation, I have gotten “it must be awesome to play with puppies and kittens all day” as well as “it would be so hard to have put the animals down,” but there’s a lot more than just those two extremes.

There are movements right now to standardize the title of Veterinary Technician to Veterinary Nurse across various accreditation programs and states. Both are actually the same and are the supporting role to the doctor/veterinarian. Some people choose to attend school for a two-year associate’s degree for this job, while others learn all their skills on the job. 

Either way, some of the actual skills that we have include proper restraint of animals for physical exams or procedures, radiography or x-rays, obtaining lab samples (ear swabs, fecal samples, and urine), drawing blood, placing IV catheters, running labs (CBCs, urinalyses, and cytology), monitoring patients while under anesthesia, filling prescriptions, educating and communicating with clients, dietary consulting, grief support, upkeep of medical records, obtaining patient histories, scheduling appointments, administering medications (orally, rectally, intravenously, intramuscularly, subcutaneously), performing sedated dental scaling and polishing, walking dogs and clean kennels, administering vaccines, and probably more that I just can’t come up with right now. And all of these also tend to be at various levels of cooperation from the cats and dogs who might not understand what we’re trying to do – skill, strength, and stamina end up being key. If you translated all the various roles we serve the animals and converted them into the human health field, we would have an insane amount of schooling behind us, since everything in human medicine is so specialized, but we do it all – on multiple species.

At Shiloh Animal Hospital, the vet techs are typically the first face (and the last) you’ll see in the exam room. We develop and foster relationships with both the pets and owners. Combined with the rest of the team (doctors, assistants, receptionist, managers, etc.), we strive to partner with you to provide long and healthy lives for your cats and dogs. Our goal is to hear your concerns and develop a treatment plan that is individualized to the needs of you and your pet. If you don’t like a plan or need to be more cost conscious, we do what we can to offer alternatives that might better suit your needs. But we advocate for the best health of your pet and attempt to do so with as little stress as possible while keeping you a part of the decision making process.

I love the job since my duties vary every day, and it comes with a variety of challenges as well as rewards. We try hard to leave “on-time”, but sometimes things happen that require staying late or an extra shift. And even though we all love animals, having good people skills is a must. I love seeing the healthy pets for their preventative visits as well as seeing pets overcome their injuries and sickness. But you’ll also be there when it’s time to say good-bye. This job is not for the faint of heart but is truly where I have found my calling at this point in my life.

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