Friday, November 30, 2018

My World Vets Trip ~ Trisha, Office Manager & Technician

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Peru in September 2018 with a program called World Vets.  The mission is to improve the health and well-being of animals by providing veterinary aid, training, and disaster relief worldwide. With as much as I love to travel, it was something I've had my eyes on for quite some time and finally had the resources to make it happen.

It was a one-week program where we arrived in Cuzco, Peru, after three flights and about twelve hours of travel. The first day was mostly spent acclimating, since it is over 11,000 feet up (quite different than the 300ish feet of the Raleigh-Durham area), as well as waiting for all the team members from various parts of North America to arrive. We had two vet students, two from Canada, two from New York, two from Illinois, one from Oklahoma, one from Nebraska, two from California, one from Florida, and four from North Carolina, plus the extra hands helping from Peru. 

The next day, we had a "group" day, which involved visiting a wildlife sanctuary and rescue for mostly wild animals who could not be re-released. We also visited a open-air market, and I tried Alpaca as an exotic dish! 

The following day was a free day to spend how we desired, but I used it to hike with the group to Lake Humantay (going up to 13,700+ feet). 

It was intense but so very beautiful, and it was a great bonding experience with the group as we encouraged each other to keep breathing. I did make it to Machu Picchu at the end of my stay, which was such an amazing accomplishment as well.

The program included three days as the clinical portion of the trip. Our intent was to help with sterilization of cats and dogs in the Cuzco and suburb areas. This was done in a field setting, which is very different than the pristine hospital setting we practice in here. The first day, we set up in a covered basketball court, and the other two days were under a pop-up tent and unused multi-purpose room. 

The dogs and cats received pre-medication to help make them less anxious, and then we'd handle them to get them shaved and scrubbed for the procedure and to place an IV catheter. Then they'd move over to the surgery table for their spay or neuter; once finished, they would go to the recovery tent for their medications until they were awake enough to go home. It was a bit of a challenge to communicate with the people given the fact that we all spoke English and the predominant language is Spanish, but a few people helped along the way, so I think we mostly got the important information across.

It was the first time I've ever combined work and pleasure. I participate in a lot of community service here in NC, but this was something totally different. By the end of the three days, we fixed 290+ cats and dogs. It was the hardest I've ever worked in this field, and that includes the "crazy" days we have here at the hospital. I literally was sitting in the dirt to place catheters, and we did our absolute best to provide good medicine while other dogs were roaming around leash free under our feet. It was also  very interesting to see the variety of crazy vessels in which pets arrived: lots of backpacks, a few laundry baskets and pillow cases, and even wire baskets.

Something I was not expecting was that almost all the animals were brought in by their owners. I expected the street animals to be feral and untame, but even the animals you saw roaming the sidewalks and pathways almost always have owners. We dealt with the same amount of feisty animals as we would expect here, but it was more due to personality rather than due to being wild. It's more like the "country dog" mindset that you might think of here (where instead of laying in the AC/heat and getting Christmas presents, these animals were fed by a family but left to roam the streets during the day). The mindset of the people was that the animals wouldn't want to be cooped up all day. I see where they're coming from, although my Ruby probably loves her couch an awful lot.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to take part in this amazing experience. The opportunity to travel is always of interest to me, but the combination of providing community service, utilizing my veterinary skill set, and working rather than just enjoying was such a highlight. I would definitely recommend you consider joining on a future trip, as they take both experienced individuals and also animal-lovers who have a passion to do good.  Visit the World Vets Website for more information.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

How to Make Your Own Catnip Toy for Your Kitty ~ Rebecca, Technician

Have you ever been interested in making your own catnip toy but just didn’t know where to start? Have you been interested in crafting but want to minimize the cost? Well here’s a helpful guide to a basic catnip kicker toy that you can use as a baseline to explore some more creative designs, or you can just stick with the good ole’ originals!

The first step is gathering up your supplies, which we have some options for. 

Gather the Supplies!

Sewing needles
Scissors (fabric scissors preferred)
Fabric pieces
Polyester fiber filler (or other filler)
Catnip (or bells, crinkly items, etc.)

I used polyester fiber filler for the inside of my toy, but cotton is an acceptable trade out. You can also experiment with using shredded brown paper (the kind you get in shipping containers) for the stuffing purpose. Find some pretty fabric swatches (like this set I found for less than $5), or recycle an old T-shirt, pillow case, or any fabric you can think of that you want to rehome (just watch out for anything that may hang down and be a chewing/choking hazard). Gather some cutting scissors (fabric scissors preferred but not necessary), a needle, and some thread. Finally, you’ll want to add some surprises in your new toy. Catnip is the original flavor (and luckily, I had some spare bags stocked up from purchasing other toys, or you can grow and dry your own!), but you can also try small bells, some crinkle/noise paper, pipe cleaners, feathers, etc.—get creative! 

Start by cutting your fabric into two rectangles about 5”x12”, or customize the size and shape of your new toy. 

Line the pieces back to back with the design facing inward. Thread your needle, and create a knot on the opposite end. 

Starting in the top corner, hand stitch the pieces together starting down the long side, coming around the bottom, and back up. Remember to keep the top open for now! 

Finish up by tying off the rest of the thread with small stitches, then looping the needle through prior to securing. Repeat several times for a good seal.      

Once you have three of the four edges sewn together, then it’s time to flip the toy inside out. Gently fold and roll back from the open section until the design is fully reversed. Don’t worry if you sewed too close to the edges in some areas; we can go back and repair as needed.   

Once the design of the fabric is on the outside, we will want to begin stuffing it. Here I used a combination of polyester fill and catnip, alternating between the two until almost full. 

Once I got to the top of my toy, I noticed a busted seam on one of the sides. It is recommended to repair any busts prior to fully closing in order to allow the most materials in the toy and to keep it looking full.    

For repairing the bust, I typically start with my knot on the thread on the inside of the toy, then loop up and over tightly until the hole is fully covered. Periodically throughout the looping, be sure to fold in the fabric edges to make a nice, smooth seam. Again, you can tie off the thread the same way you did previously.  

Once any holes or bust are fixed, it’s time to close the toy. Fold the top edges in (pin if desired), add any last-minute stuffing or toys, and begin closing similarly to how we closed the bust. 

Start on the inside of the fabric and loop the thread up and over, pinning the two sides together as you come through. Secure once more with multiple knots, then let your kitties play!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Baking For Dogs ~ Melissa, Receptionist

Not only do I have a love for animals—I have a love for cooking. Specifically baking. I love the fact I can meld the two by making treats for my dogs. And even better, I can use this opportunity to include my toddler and teach him a slew of life skills. Mom win!

I frequently make treats for my four-legged kiddos that include fresh produce from our local farmers market or my garden (my other passion). My dogs love sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, and blueberries, so I incorporate these in their snacks along with other healthy ingredients.

Today I am making apple and carrot biscuits. This recipe is simple and makes a fairly large batch depending on what size cookie cutters you use. You can also roll the dough out and use a knife to cut it into 1 to 2-inch squares instead of using a cookie cutter. My toddler thought it best to use as many cookie cutters as possible…

You will need:
  • A large cookie sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Cooling rack
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cups
  • Cheese grater

  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour (3 ¼ cups for the dough, ¼ cup for dusting)
  •  ½ cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

To begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. I am using all-purpose flour today, but I have also used whole wheat flour and almond flour, and both work well. Measure out 3 ¼ cup of flour and pour into your mixing bowl. Add 1 tsp of cinnamon and stir well. 

Add ¾ cup of unsweetened applesauce, ½ cup of water, and 1 egg. Mix until well incorporated. Grate 1 cup of carrots. This equaled 1 large carrot for us. Add this to your dough, and stir until completely mixed. Dough will be stiff but a bit sticky. 

Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and also your rolling pin. Roll dough out to a ¼ inch thickness. You may need to dust your rolling pin throughout the process. Once you have reached the desired thickness, use your cookie cutter to cut out the treats. Place ½ inch apart on your cookie sheet. You can use any size cookie cutters you like. We used small cutters since my toddler likes to feed our dogs treats throughout the day. (No complaints from the girls about that!)

Once your baking sheet is full, place it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, remove the cookies from the baking sheet and place them on a cooling rack. Let them completely cool before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month, though in our house they are gone in about 2 weeks. You can store extra dough in the freezer for up to 6 months.

I hope your pups love these treats as much as mine do. Next time, I will share some treat recipes for our feline friends.

Thanks for reading!

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Caring for Kayda ~ Kristin, Assistant

My cat, Kayda, has been in my life and heart since the day he was born on April 2, 2006. I spent a lot of time with him and his siblings every day at a friend’s house until he chose me for his own by cuddling under my chin when I came to visit. He has been with me through everything since I was a teen. Through many ups and downs, moves, and boyfriends, he has comforted me in times of sadness and brought me so much joy. He has always been a one-person kind of cat and is a very independent guy. 

Keeping him healthy and happy is very important to me, especially now that he is a senior cat. But when you have a cat like him that is scared or even aggressive for their veterinary checkups, things can be a lot more complicated. For a really long time, many doctors were unable to do a thorough exam on him or get blood work due to his fearful and aggressive behavior. He was so fearful that he would even lash out at me if I tried to help hold him for the doctor’s exams. Every doctor was very patient with him and tried to make friends, but he wouldn't have it. His fearful behavior made me feel terrible and stressed, both for Kayda and for the people trying to examine or handle him. Because of this, I avoided taking him to the doctor, which wasn’t what I wanted either, because I wanted to make sure that he stayed healthy.

Then I met a doctor that suggested we try a medication called Gabapentin to help his anxiety for vet visits. Gabapentin is a nearly tasteless, inexpensive medication that is commonly used in the veterinary field to treat pain. In cats, it is highly effective in reducing mild to moderate fear and anxiety, and it can increase compliance of cat owners for veterinary exams. For cats who won’t take oral medication easily, it can be given by mixing the powder from the capsule into a small amount of wet food or tuna juice. 

Before I gave it to him for the first time, I was apprehensive; what if he still scratched someone? But I gave it to him two hours prior to coming in for his visit as directed and crossed my fingers. It was amazing! He was so relaxed and didn't care at all what the doctors were doing. We were even able to obtain a blood sample from him with no issues! He just laid there and ate the treats he was offered with no fuss. I was so happy and relieved. Now I knew I could bring him in for his semi-annual visits and not be worried for him or for the veterinary staff. 

When I take him home after his visits, I just put him in the guest room in his bed, and he naps and relaxes until the Gabapentin fully wears off (I can even sneak in a nail trim during this time!). I was so happy with how this medication worked for Kayda that I recommend it frequently to owners who have similar struggles with their kitties and are looking for advice. There are a few other medications and supplements as well that can be used for cats who are showing signs of stress during veterinary visits. You can talk to your veterinarian to see which option is best for your cat. 

Many cats hide their stress and can have a short and unpredictable tolerance for scary procedures in the clinic. Some cats don't immediately act out with aggression when they're nervous or fearful. Other common signs of anxiety or fear include:

Dilated pupils
Hunched posture or hiding
Ears pinned back 
Increased vocalization

If you see any of these signs or if you have any questions or concerns about how to reduce your cat’s stress for vet visits, ask your veterinarian what they can do for you. It will make all the difference for both you and your pet.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

My Rescued Cattle Dog Experience ~ Melissa K., Assistant

I got Brady about three and a half years ago from a friend. She was on her way home from a run, and this little black and white spotted dog followed her all the way home! My friend could not keep her, sadly, so she shared a picture of "Bonnie" on her Instagram page. 

I came across the photo, showed it to my parents and begged for us to all go and meet her together. When we got to my friends house, this crazy, cute, rambunctious fifty-pound goofball ran toward me. We all fell in love with her immediately! My family and I took her home the same day, and we all went to the veterinarian's the next day to get her vaccinated and to make sure that she had a thorough exam. 

The vet gave her a clean bill of health, and she has now been a part of my family's life for three awesome years. There have been many crazy moments with her in our lives, like when she broke the screen door and ran to the golf course in my parents neighborhood! 

Brady is the first dog I have ever had, and she made me fall in love with taking care of animals. I worked at her doggie daycare for almost a year; she lead me to dog training as well, and now into training to become a Veterinary Assistant. She has guided my life on a wonderful path, and I look forward to every day being an adventure with my crazy, cute Australian Cattle Dog!

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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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