Last Sunday Ethan and I attended a rally to support LGBTQ+ individuals in the state of Iowa. He made an amazing sign on his own that said “You can’t ban people”. Being enveloped within the positive energy of the day I started to think about my practice and how I strive to be inclusive – not exclusive.
I graduated as a veterinarian 21yrs ago. At that time, I was strictly a traditional veterinarian. In fact – as I was searching for a job I would skip over openings if they mentioned acupuncture etc. as being part of the practice. It had been drilled into my head that there wasn’t scientific proof that acupuncture worked, and I did not take the time to look into that fact on my own.
I should post my resume so that you can better understand the non-traditional path I bounced through to get to the point I am today – owning my own integrative mobile practice. I have worked in multiple traditional clinics (IL, ME, IA), at Purdue University as a small animal intern, and I worked at a 24hr referral center as an emergency clinician outside Chicago. I am thankful that I did not know right away that I wanted to work for myself as an integrative vet. The road I took was long and painful.
My work as an ER veterinarian included caring for all patients hospitalized in the ICU as well as taking care of the emergencies coming in during my shift. I might be in charge of caring of a dog with diarrhea, and I could also be in charge of taking a patient to surgery for a bleeding abdominal mass – all at the same time. At one point I was in the ICU caring for a dachshund who had just come out of back surgery. No matter what pain med and/or sedative I gave him he kept crying. I felt so bad for him. A quite & calm veterinarian, Dr. Cheryl Adams, visited him in his cage. When she left he was sleeping. I later tracked her down to see what she had done to help the pupper – acupuncture. Dr. Adams then handed me a packet of needles & showed me where I could put one (top of my head – GV 20) for stress. The rest is – history.
I took my acupuncture classes with IVAS in 2008/2009. I started my own mobile business in 2011/2013-ish (that time is a blur as we moved from Maine to Ames, Iowa in order to get closer to family). I spent a majority of the first year walking miles with young Ethan around Ames as I plotted my next career move.
How am I inclusive – not exclusive?
I started my own business because I was not meant to be within four walls all day long. I want to take the time to get to know my clients & patients. I can keep my prices reasonable because I have a low overhead. I tell owners standard recommendations for their pets…my additional feedback…and I let owners choose the path that makes the most sense to them – financially & philosophically. My goal is to work as part of a pet’s health care team (ie I do not require folks to switch their pet’s care to my practice exclusively. I am quite happy to be part of a pet health team while I provide additional integrative insight). I not only offer traditional care (ie vaccines, lab testing, & prescription management), but I also offer holistic care (ie acupuncture, supplement recommendations, & food therapy). This combo makes me ‘integrative’. I advocate for owners as well as for those without their own voice – pets, children, & at times adults. I am a problem solver and an empathetic individual. I will be open and honest about each situation I encounter, and if I need to I will be blunt in situations of neglect/ danger/ needed education. Everyone is treated with the respect that they deserve, and there is not a ‘one policy fits all’ for my patients or clients. I mold my care plan based on my patient and owner’s needs. I am me – unapologetically.
Telehealth/ Remote consultations
What is involved with a remote consultation?
We have all gone through changes thanks to COVID. I went from traveling 17,000 miles in an average year to cutting back in my travels and switching to helping pet owners remotely as part of my daily work. In two years I helped over 4,500 pet owners with questions ranging from how to help a dog with skin issues to deciding if an animal needed to be seen at an ER due to an urgent issue. I have been able to guide owners through an online chat format to help them make choices for their pets.
For a variety of reasons, I am going to switch to offering this service through my business, Abby’s Road Veterinary Care. My vision for this service is to offer the following guidance:
-Review of chronic conditions (and also preferably records) in order to help pet owners make future choices for their pet: Some conditions to consider (but are not limited to): skin disorders, cancer, internal organ issues, behavior concerns, etc. If an owner wants to be heard, validated in their concerns, and would like the opinion of a neutral party I can help. I am available to make recommendations for additional team members to add such as integrative/ holistic veterinarians or specialists in an owner’s area. An owner might want to review current recommendations from their general practice vet & that is an option as well. My goal would be to add to a pet’s team & not take away from an animal’s current team. My approach is to work together- not to divide/ remove care members.
-End of life/ Quality of life discussions: I have been a veterinarian for 20 years, and I have been a part of the veterinary community for 28 years. One of the most important things that I can do is help owners talk through a pet’s current situation to help determine if it is an animal’s turn to peacefully pass to their next adventure. I find that this is such a challenging decision for most of us & one to not take lightly. I see euthanasia as a gift that pet owners can give to their companions who have been loyal from day one. We have the capability to take care of our pets even better than many humans are allowed, and at a certain point there may be a shift from a quality life to one that is simply a day-by-day existence. I am not a therapist, and I will not make the choice for an owner, but I have been through this with many owners as well as my own pets. The very first animal I euthanized as the owner/operator of Abby’s Road Veterinary Care was my dog, Chance. I was so thankful to be able to help him when he needed the gift of peace. I am willing to lend an ear and discuss options based on an owner’s interpretation of how their pet is doing. I can also review records as well.
-Nutrition. My passion is natural/ holisitic/ integrative care. I am an integrative veterinarian & that means I take tools form natural/holistic options as well as traditional means. I think it is important to have an open mind to the resources we are given from both sides of the health coin. In regard to nutrition, I have had advanced training through the Chi Institute (Food Therapy), and I believe in using food as medicine. I can help an owner learn how to formulate their pet’s own diet, make suggestions regarding commercially available options, and I am able to make recommendations for specific services that are run by veterinary nutritionists. Food is key to an animal’s (and our) health.
These are a few basic examples of how I can be helpful. Essentially if you have a concern with your pet & want to talk it out directly with a veterinarian, I can help you. I offer phone and zoom consults. Please email/ call/ or text for additional information, and we will pass along an estimate for this service.
Thank you for your time.
-Dr. Abigail Cowan-Strobbe
September 06th, 2018
Hunter - the best 15yr old adoption we ever were allowed to make:
We adopted Hunter, a 15yr old German Shorthair Pointer Mix, in 2017 from Great Plains Pointer Rescue. I can not say enough good things about that group ( www.greatpointers.org/ ). We instantly felt a strong connection with the gentle giant. He came to us with medical issues that were to be expected in a grandpa pup. For nine months we did not really notice the side effects of a very loud murmur. He had amazing joints. He was selectively deaf. He did not show obvious signs of Lyme disease although his antibody levels were quite high. He enjoyed frozen poop - his & rabbit pellets the most. He could be equally excited to take a walk or a nap - your preference. I had a sense he had been well loved before & that some unplanned circumstance took him away from his owners. He knew what the bank drive-up meant (insert head sticking from the back seat & out my window..."see me? treat?"). He did the same thing at Starbucks. He had REALLY worn teeth (which can happen with a lot of fetch from a gritty tennis ball). Hunter had great manners. I could let him walk up to any animal or person, and I knew he would be gentle to all creatures.
Our 9 month ownership of the gentle giant was amazing, but it did come to an end. One week before Hunter got sick I had a dream that we had to give him back. I woke up extremely depressed, but I tried to talk myself out of the obvious - Hunter was going to be going back to his original family soon. He was over 15yrs old for goodness sake! When Hunter got sick he slid downhill quickly. I was torn between trying to find out 'the why', trying to keeping him comfortable, and sorting through 'the when'. I thought about taking him into a traditional clinic for xrays etc, but I decided (after many tears, deep breaths, and a good chat with Marc) that is not what Hunter would want. Knowing why he was going to die was not going to change things. I cancelled all of my appointments & stayed next to Hunter all day. He seemed comfortable, but I knew it was the quiet before the storm. In the evening I woke Ethan & Marc up so that we could say goodbye together. I already knew that letting a pet go is the most important part of pet ownership, but it is one of the hardest choices we will ever make for our pets. Many times I, as a veterinarian, feel a relief for my patient(s) & their family once an animal is at peace. I must admit that I did not have that feeling with Hunter. I knew the instant that we brought him home we were on borrowed time. When the time came I needed to fast-forward my emotions, and I was not prepared. I was sad to lose him, and I had to work really hard to remind myself that we were lucky to have him for the limited time that we did. We loved Hunter like we had had him since he was a puppy. I am thankful he trusted us to shape his retirement. He taught me what it is like to lose an animal quickly. I can work clients through this process, and now I have the experience to be better at it for myself.
How I heal the sick
"It matters not wheter medicine is old or new, so long as it brings about a cure. It matters not whether theories are Eastern or Western, so long as they PROVE to be true"
-Dr. Jen-Hsou Lin
I challenge all owners of animals with chronic diseases to seek integrative veterinary care with an open heart & open mind. Once root issues are dealt with symptoms are more likely resolve. One cannot keep chasing fires unless the cause of the fire is also addressed. I worked for 6yrs trying to just put out fires, and thankfully I was shown one therapy that required some thinking outside of the box. I had a patient who had had back surgery, & he was crying/ wining despite my therapy of pain meds & sedatives. A quiet veterinarian at the large referral hospital I worked at got into his cage & did something that caused the dog to fall asleep. When I asked her later on she said she had performed acupuncture. I feel bad that the daschund had to deal with my strictly allopathic (traditional) training, but it was because of that one treatment my iron heart began to soften. I accepted there was a lot more out there that I didn't know. Chinese medicine has been in use for over 3,000 years (acupuncture, Chinese herbs, food therapy etc). Allopathic medicine started in the early to mid 1800's. If a pet needs an antibiotic I will prescribe it. If an animal needs a vaccine I will give it. If an animal has had years and years of traditional medications & therapies I am likely to start with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). I am very fortunate that the clients who seek out my opinion are open-minded when it comes to their pet's treatment plan. What I want folks to know is that regardless of the treatment I choose I have their pet's best health in mind. As long as we can all work as a team there are good chances that we can get animals feeling better again. If you have reservations about my therapy suggestions - tell me. If a treatment plan resonates with you - I want to know. My goal would be to assist in finding true health for my patients in whatever way makes the most sense to a patient's long-term health. I would be doing my job if I saw my patients less frequently once they are feeling better. Thank you to my clients who accept me for who I am & my training. I have your pet’s best interest at heart.
Restructuring my Business
After a one month unplanned medical leave I had to make some rather dramatic decisions regarding the structure of my business. Decisions were made keeping my family & my health in mind. I have chosen to continue to offer housecalls and wellness clinics, but I did cut back the number of locations that I will travel to. I live north of Ames in Nevada. A trip to Des Moines is easily a 100 mile round trip, and the driving became too much.
For the month of October my hours are as follows: Tu/Th/Fri 9-11, 2-6, Wed - Bone-A-Patreat in Des Moines 11-6 by appointment, Sat October 10th Bone-A-Patreat in Des Moines 10-5 by appointment, Sunday October 11th Wholesome Pet Essentials in Ankeny 12-4 by appointment, Saturday October 24th Bone-A-Patreat in WEST Des Moines 10-5 by Appointment. I am closed on Mondays. Housecalls to Central Iowa are available on nights and weekends (and after wellness clinics) by appointment.
Thank you to the clients who have been patiently waiting for me to return. I am back - better than ever. I also apprecite the respect regarding the change in my schedule. The human critter below is my main focus in life. This is a picture of Ethan & our new kitten, Bobbie Ray. This cat is so bonded to my son that he could really care less if my husband or I are trying to love on him.
With my new schedule I can take my son to school, pick him up, and & can take him to his 'ninja' classes. It is the little things in life. ;)
I saw a tiny puppy at the park last night, and I polled my clients via my Facebook page: “When is it safe to take a puppy to the park?” I am going to refer to my good friend,VeterinaryPartner.com. I will give you a link below. The major thing I worry about at parks & other public places is parvo virus. If/When I have my next puppy he/she will not be setting foot off my property until 4mo of age (or until I have had a blood test drawn to see how high their titer is for parvo virus). I think it is ok to go to socialization class & places where I can prove without a doubt that the animals around us who will be sniffing noses & pooping on the floor have had their parvo vaccine. I would want my puppy's immune system to be developed a bit more before challenging it. It may sound extreme, but I have seen puppies die of parvo virus. It is also very expensive to treat (IV fluids, prescription medications to try to halt vomiting & bloody diarrhea, sometimes plasma transfusions...). Last year I heard from a family who had two puppies die of the virus. The dogs were in their yard, but they escaped. Within one week they were both sick. I don't want to be a party pooper, but a puppy’s immune system may not be fully developed by the time they get their first vaccination. A lot depends on their age & what the mom passed along in her milk. It can be hit or miss. Happy Spring!
It does get a little easier...
On September 28th a rabies clinic was performed at the Perry Dog Park to benefit the Humane Society of Perry. 90 animals were vaccinated with the help of many volunteers.
On September 16th a wellness clinic was held at The Pet Project Midwest to help families in need. This was an amazing experience for myself as well as the preveterinary students and additional volunteers who helped with the event.
I have had this question come up recently, and it is a good one. I will try to be as honest as possible, and if you notice something that I missed please let me know. Here we go...
I think the most important thing that an animal needs is a really good food. If corn is on your current label lets talk. I see many dogs with recurrent ear infections & anal gland issues (to name a few), and when we get the animal on an appropriate food things typically get better. Even if you are purchasing your food from a pet health food store there is a chance that something may need tweaked. If you know me you know that I took a food therapy course from the Chi Institute. You can use food as medicine.
Dogs (and rarely cats) can get heartworm. We have it in Iowa. Even if your animal 'doesn't go out much' they can contract this severe illness. For <$10/mo you can prevent heartworm infection. Many vets are recommending year around meds based on the American Heartworm Society recommendations (https://www.heartwormsociety.org/). If you are giving meds at least May/June to Nov that is pretty good for Iowa. The one benefit I really see for year around meds is to prevent intestinal parasites. Humans can get roundworms from pets (rare...but it can happen).
What vaccines are needed? First off...I am not the vaccine police. I am willing to review your wishes & what your animal likely needs. I do not see dogs & cats as 'cookie cutters' when it comes to vaccine plans. If you want a refresher please check out the vaccine blog in the veterinary care section. By law dogs and cats are required to have rabies. Cats in my practice receive the 1yr purevax rabies vaccine. I can use the 3yr Imrab product if requested. It does carry a 1-10/20,000 risk for a vaccine associated cancer. Cats should likely receive a 'distemper' vaccination as a kitten. Boosters are based on their environment. I do not give cats feline leukemia vaccines unless they are indoor/outdoor cats. FIV - 'feline aids' - I do not recommend this vaccine. You can find great information on all vaccines at www.VeterinaryPartner.com. I recommend dogs receive at least 1-2 distemper/parvo boosters as puppies. After that we either check a titer or vaccinate every three years until 8yrs of age. Leptospirosis? Do your homework - www.VeterinaryPartner.com. I could go on and on, but it is easier if you do a little reading on your own. Lyme? I think your money is better spent on topical preventative. Ticks also carry a million co-infections that there are no vaccines for.
Other things that are important:
-behavior...if you are having issues let me know. You are not alone if you are having issues with your furry friend.
-a loving home (very important) :)
-lots of attention & exercise (have you tried a laser pointer for your cat?)
-enriched environment (especially for indoor cats): treat balls, automated feeders to spice up their diet life, perches to look outside, etc etc etc...
-natural therapies as needed: ie: acupuncture, VOM - Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation, food therapy, & herbal supplementation
I consider myself a holistic veterinarian. I will be honest and open when it comes to your pet's care. My clients are involved in the decision making process when it comes to their pet's care. I see pets in their homes & at Wholesome Pet Essentials in Ankeny.
-Abby Strobbe, DVM
Housecalls are enjoyed by all...
Meet 'Spot'. He was pretty excited to see that there were treats waiting for him when I arrived at his house to trim his nails and visit with his cat friends. He plucked the treats right from my 'doctor bag' (also know as the Mary Poppins bag). I really enjoy housecalls because the animals are so relaxed.
Dr. Abby lives with her Son, Ethan, Ray the cat, and Jazz the elderly Chihuahua in Central Iowa.