Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Work-Life "Balance" ~ David Kleisch, DVM, MBA

Shiloh Animal Hospital started this blog several months ago to share experiences and information to our clients and to anyone else interested in reading. The staff at Shiloh are rotating topics and posts, and I am excited to have my first post be one that is personal. While we have been growing here at the practice over the past year, my family has also been growing.
As many of you know, Margaret Ann and I recently welcomed into the world our first child, a beautiful girl named Anderson. This month will mark nine months of parenthood, and like any family bringing home a new child, changes were all around us.

When we brought Anderson home, there were changes in our daily routine, changes in our relationships, and changes in our lifestyle. Initially, like any family, we thought one of those changes would be the work-life balance. As both Margaret Ann and I learned how to go back to work doing what we love, we did not struggle with finding time at home and also with the ones we love. While this wasn’t concerning, it was weird. “Why did all my friends struggle with work-life balance, but I'm not?” Then, somewhere between three and five weeks back at the office, I was able to see that my work wasn’t work…it was a lifestyle.
Every profession has to identify the work-life balance. Many companies promote their work-life balance as they interview new candidates for available positions. This theme is commonly heard on the news, seen in our culture, and it was no surprise to me this was on my mind as I started a family.  However, it was surprising that this wasn’t a problem for me. What I realized is that I not only chose a career doing what I love to do, but I chose a career that is a lifestyle. What many of you might not know is that, like Anderson, I too am a child of a veterinarian. Growing up a son of a veterinarian, I was privy to all the aspects of this lifestyle. I saw the long hours, the personal stress, and the emotions of the profession. What I didn’t know is that the life that I grew up living prepared me for my life now and the life my family is starting to live.

Being a veterinarian is a unique profession in that you don’t leave your work at work. Yes, as in life, there is “a time” for everything; in my life there is a time for family and work.  I came back to work I anticipated having to absolutely separate the two, like how it is seen in the movies and on the news. But, fortunately, I never had to separate the two. I didn’t have to find a work-life balance because it was already in place. It was actually in place before we had Anderson, it was in place before I became a veterinarian, and it was in place long before I was thinking about work-life balance. I just needed three to five weeks to identify that being a veterinarian wasn’t work--it is a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that involves my patients, my clients, my coworkers, my colleagues, my friends, and my family. It is a lifestyle that involves conversations with strangers. It is a lifestyle that not only I live, but my family lives. And it will be a lifestyle that I am excited to share with my daughter, Anderson.

See, I am fortunate…really fortunate. Going to the physical office isn’t going “to the office”. It is the brick and mortar where we as veterinarians successfully carry out the actions of our job. So yes, I am a veterinarian at the office, but I am also a veterinarian at home, on the phone, or on email. I am a veterinarian standing in line to purchase groceries, on the weekends, and on vacation. I was a veterinarian before Margaret Ann and I were married and a veterinarian before Anderson was born. And now I will be a veterinarian at Anderson’s school events, dance recitals, first day of school, and graduations. I will be a veterinarian at her wedding and as a grandfather. See, I am fortunate. I have not chosen a job--I have chosen a lifestyle. I have chosen a lifestyle that provides for my family but also for my community. I have chosen a profession that is my life.  

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Separation Anxiety ~ Heather, Technician & Blog Editor

As a technician and a canine foster parent, one of the subjects that I deal with most often is separation anxiety in dogs. While this issue is extremely common and often fixable, it definitely doesn't feel like it when that dog is your responsibility. If you're currently struggling with an anxious pup, take a deep breath, and keep reading.

Separation anxiety can present itself in multiple ways and range widely in degree of severity. While some dogs might just whine and pace, others develop tendencies toward self mutilation or destruction of property.

The first thing to examine is your own behavior. Dogs feed off of their humans, and they are excellent at reading our emotions and anxiety levels, even if you think that you appear perfectly normal.

  • When leaving the house, DO NOT make a production out of it. Unlike humans, dogs don't need a lengthy goodbye and a slow exit, and this can add to their stress. Instead, put them in their designated area with a long-lasting treat such as a frozen peanut butter filled Kong, and leave without speaking. 
  • You can ease into an exit strategy by leaving for varying amounts of time and providing a reward upon your return. Walk out the door for only a few seconds, then come right back in and provide a treat or affection. Gradually increase this to a few minutes, then a few hours. With consistent positive reinforcement, your dog will begin to understand that you will come back, and that great things happen when you do. 
Next, be sure that you are providing your dog with enough stimulation, both physical and mental. Not unlike humans, dogs that sit around and do nothing have a whole lot of pent-up energy, and they get BORED! That energy and boredom is then channeled into destroying your couch cushions.
  • Walk or run your dog regularly. Most dogs don't get anywhere close to the amount of physical exercise that they need. Every breed and age group is slightly different in their requirements, so be sure to ask your veterinarian what your dog's individual needs might be. 
  • If your dog gets along well with other dogs, consider the possibility of providing them with a playmate. Some dogs just don't like being alone, and having a partner can ease their worry. (Before committing to a new canine companion, however, you can test this theory with a friend's dog or a temporary foster.) If adding another pet to your pack is not an option, doggie daycare is a fantastic alternative! We recommend Suite Paws Pet Resort
  • Provide mental stimulation for your dog. At most pet stores and online, you can find a variety of puzzle toys and treats that are capable of providing hours of entertainment for your canine companions.

For mildly anxious dogs (pacing, whining, barking, drooling, shaking, etc.), we typically recommend using a chewable supplement called Composure that contains L-Theanine, Thiamine, and Colostrum. For many dogs, including multiple fosters that I've had, these chews have been the key. It's a great place to start prior to jumping into stronger medications, since there are typically no associated side-effects. Chinese Herbs might also be recommended and can be used in combination with Composure Chews if needed.

For some dogs, particularly those with more severe anxiety, chews and herbal formulas might not be enough. For those dogs, there are multiple medications that can be prescribed to help provide relief, and in the most severe cases, certified behaviorists can help to identify and correct specific problems. Often, owners will be hesitant to medicate their dogs, thinking that this will diminish their quality of life. In reality, the exact opposite is often true. Living with anxiety is NO fun, especially with the dogs that get stressed out enough to injure themselves. Start with the basics, and be sure to discuss your dog's individual case with your veterinarian. We know that this is stressful for both you and your pet, and we are here to help you!

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