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 the eight wellness clinics that I have around Des Moines, Urbandale, Altoona, Ankeny, & Webster City. If you have any questions for me please do not hesitate to e-mail me (AbbysRoadVet@gmail.com) or text/call my cell (515-290-3598).
-Abby Strobbe, DVM
I am really getting excited for the rabies clinic at the Perry dog park tomorrow. The hours are from 11-1:00. Last year I vaccinated 75 animals. I am hopeful that the weather is a bit cooler so that we can help even more pets. I have a group of four to five pre-veterinary students who are coming along to help. I am hopeful that they will see that there are many facts to veterinary medicine. Not everyone has to wear a white coat and work within a building to help. The vaccine carries a suggested donation of $10 & all of the money is going back to the shelter. Good things can come in small packages. I will keep you posted on how things go.
I am pretty sure that most of us by now have heard of the term "Pay it Forward". If you need a refresher of what this means please feel free to use my old standby: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_it_forward . As you may know the concept is not new, but for me this is the first time in my life I have been able to act on this concept as a veterinarian.
Some of you who know me may remember my rough patch that started in 2010 with medical issues, a loss of a job, a fractured leg, a new baby to care for, and a longing to move back to the Midwest. Family, friends, and perfect strangers took my little family under their wings and helped us to get to the better place we are now. I will never forget the kind acts that others did to help.
I started my house call business out of a desire to help others in the comfort of their own home. I also wanted the flexibility to be able to remain a stay at home mom for Ethan. For a little over a year the house calls were the focus of my business. I then had an 'aaha' moment when I realized that I would be able to help more people and pets if I had a chance to set up a low cost wellness clinic. From my research I found that very few veterinarians were offering this type of service in Central Iowa. I had been introduced to this idea while still in Maine. A veterinarian that I knew and respected traveled the entire state offering low cost clinics in a variety of locations.
I started my quest with what I knew: Tractor Supply & Pet Health Food Stores (Thanks to The Animal House in Damariscotta Maine). I spoke with the managers at Tractor Supply in Ankeny, and they were game to give it a try. I also spoke with April, the owner of Bone A Patreat in Des Moines too. She saw the benefits of offering this type of service to her customers as well. I also kept an ear out for other potential locations, and two clients highly recommended my third location: PetSakes in Des Moines. I thoroughly enjoy all three locations I am at. I not only see clients who could financially use a little help, but I also see owners who want another opinion on chronic disease states. I feel that my integrative background helps owners see options that have never been offered to them before. Pets seem to be much more relaxed in these settings than when I worked in a traditional clinic. Many of them have had positive experiences at these locations before since they are all pet friendly and full of treats. I love seeing people's reactions to pets getting acupuncture as they pass buy to make a purchase in a different part of the store. I am glad that I have a low overhead and that I can offer people a good price for my services. It is helpful that a majority of what need for my clinics packs into four milk crates and a cooler. Less is best & life is good.
In order to help more people with my services I have opted to partner up with Bone A Patreat in Des Moines and Tractor Supply Company in Ankeny. I will be offering low cost wellness clinics at these locations during the month. Bone A Patreat is the 2nd Saturday of every month from 10am to 2pm, and the Tractor Supply Company clinic is the 3rd Saturday of every month from 10am to 2pm. See the services offered section of my website for a list of services & their prices. The set up of the clinic is a 'first come first served' style. I have a sign in sheet, and I will call families or come find them when it is their turn. The stores can be explored while I am helping other families. Dogs must be on a least, and cats must be in a carrier. Feel free to e-mail (AbbysRoadVet@gmail.com) or call (515-290-3598) with any questions you may have.
Ethan and I took Chance to Ledges State Park yesterday morning in a small window before the rain hit. Chance was able to do some good sniffing while I snapped picture after picture. Between last week and yesterday I have three rolls of film to develop. It is like I am hoping that the extra pictures will help me find more memories in my mind.
We spent the afternoon putting streamers up in the dining room and preparing Chance's cake. When Marc came home from he made dinner & I iced the cake. To honor Chance we made things we thought he would like: pigs in a blanket & peas. We sat around & told stories and then played with Ethan until he was so tired he wanted to go to bed early.
Marc and I told more stories and then while Chance rested on his soft old dog bed I euthanized him. The E word...it sounds so horrible. In all actuality it was a gentle & quiet way for my best dog friend to pass to his next adventures. Afterwards I held his paw for quite some time while Marc and I told even more stories about the dog who had his last 'chance' with us.
I love you Chancie & I will miss you a ton. Thank you for protecting me when I was younger and enjoying the family that we became. No one will replace you, my friend. You were a once in a lifetime pet. Stay close and check back in every once in awhile while you make new friends and SHARE your frisbee this time.
I helped with a rabies clinic at the Perry dog park on 9/2/12. This was the line that was waiting for me when I got there, and it did not slow down for over two hours. We vaccinated 78 animals and raised money for the Humane Society of Perry. Dr. Felz from the Sommerset Veterinary Clinic and I are going to do a clinic in Nevada on 9/29 for the Story County Animal Shelter from 1-3pm. We donate our time, supplies and services to support the community and shelters.
Well...this is really it. In a very short amount of time I will be letting my once-in-a-lifetime dog go. It is so surreal. A little over fourteen years ago I got him out of a kennel at the pound to take a tick off his chest. He laid on his back right next to me begging me to spring him from the joint. He has been with me through fourteen years of my life, and much of it has been together. A friend of mine recently lost two of her dogs, and she precisely stated "they are like a time line in your life."
Chance, Ethan, and I went to the park the other day. While Ethan and I were at the swings Chance enjoyed some long sniffs around the garbage cans. We really couldn't go on much of a walk, but we did enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.
I have a trip planned for this weekend. I am going back for my 10 year vet school class reunion. Chance will spend time at my parent's house in the country while I am away for a day. I was thinking back about the time in vet school with Chance, and I remember:
-Chance running around with a bunch of dogs while we studied in the Anatomy lab after hours
-Learning that my dog would gag if he smelled blood, a scab, or a bugger (GROSS!)
-Chance getting in a tussle over his frisbee while he was in the park. We scavenged around in the large animal clinic for sedatives and suture to fix him up.
-Being in shape because I attached a leash around my waist to a harness Chance would wear so he could PULL me around the block
-Waking up early freshman year to make it to the park for a good squirrel chase
-Living at the 4-H house as the youngest 'house mom' on campus with Chance....he once helped me get a group of TP'ing fraternity boys to cool it & leave
-Snuggling up each night with Chance under the covers... I used to think it was weird that people let animals sleep in their bed before I got Chance.
Marc and I are planning a party for Monday night for Chance. So far we have decided he will want pigs in a blanket and a cake. We are going to have a celebration of his life, and I am going to try REALLY hard not to cry. It really upsets Chance to see me cry, and I am going to try to hold it together for my child. Until then I will continue to prepare. I need to pick up another bag of those gross snausages because they were his favorite before I knew better. For now he has his own jar of human beef jerky sticks, and I have been giving him some of our food as a topper to his meal each day. He gets lots of good treats to hide his medications and supplements. He gets as many kisses on his head as he can stand, and I have been trying to give him a nice massage when ever possible. I have noticed that being touched has its limits. He will allow one to two minutes of it before he walks away to go lay on his bed.
It is time. It has been time. I am not ready. I find myself thinking not as a veterinarian but as an owner. His coat is too shiny. He can still walk (not well...especially not well after he falls down the two steps that he has to make it up to get into our house. We carry him up and down). He can still eat. But...he can't lay down. He has to have his squishy dog bed. The luster is gone from his eyes. He sleeps all the time. Neighbors ask me "what is wrong with your dog?" as they see him try to get around outside. His body is worn to the point that I am uncomfortable asking him to keep on living for me. When it comes down to it he has really been there for me, and it is time that I am there for him in the most important way possible. I hope I can keep it together...
I think part of the reason I am up so early is that I am worrying about my once-in-a-lifetime dog, Chance. My husband and I have wondered for years whether he was going to make it much longer. In standard Chance fashion he has powered on despite severe hip dysplasia. I have treated him with supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, traditional medications, and massage. He used to be the most magnificent frisbee dog, and he could jump up onto a ledge 6ft off the ground without hardly trying. In vet school he was my running partner. Now we shuffle around part of a block and it takes us 30 minutes. When clients are trying to decide if they should let a pet go I tell them to write down five things that used to be important to the pet. As things continue to be checked off the list it might be getting closer to the time. I keep evaluating my list, but it seems that the sparkle is fading from his eyes. There are some people who feel strongly that pets should be allowed to die naturally without any human intervention. I respect everyone's opinion. My husband made a good point that he hoped we would let Chance go when he had a little wag left. For now I will continue spoiling him while I try one last medication to see if I can alleviate his pain. He has had a great life. His name is Chance because I was his last Chance. He was about to be euthanized at the pound when we met. He came with me to veterinary school, and he caused many laughs to help break up the stress. Chasing squirrels, fending off pranksters, performing numerous tricks, and sneaking pumpkin bars were a few of his adventures. He has seen oceans on the east coast and west coast. He helped keep me warm at night during the winter of my internship when I could hardly afford to heat my house. He made friends with a rooster as a farm dog in Illinois. He joined in on naughty dog activities like running away in the woods for hours with Chimbo and Martin when we lived in Maine. He knew he wasn't invited to sleep in bed anymore when I was about seven months pregnant with Ethan. He moved to the couch without even being asked. He has been friends with Ray our partially blind cat ever since we slipped Ray into our 'no cats allowed!' rental in Illinois. Marc once said something like "I should have known what I was getting into when I married a veterinarian". I think this was when I was tending to a kitten with diarrhea in our bathroom. Besides a crazy wife Marc also inherited an amazing dog. We sit and stare at him and each wonder...when is it 'time'?
I went to a very informative meeting last week in regards to vaccinations in pets. Dr Richard Ford from North Carolina State University gave a talk titled "2012 Vaccines & Vaccination: The FACTS vs. the FICTION". Dr. Ford helps write the guidelines for AAHA. I think the thing that pleased me the most was hearing Dr. Ford say "Chronic Lyme Disease exists". As some of you may know many humans are dealing with lyme disease, and the human medical community does not fully acknowledge this fact. I am glad that the veterinary field can admit it!
If you would like to see how lyme disease is spreading in our pets check out this web site: http://www.dogsandticks.com/diseases_in_your_area.php
The full text of the AAHA guidelines can be found at www.aahanet.org.
Canine Core Vaccines:
-Distemper, Parvo, Adenovirus - 8, 12, 16wks of age. Booster 1yr following the last dose in the series (or IMHO...check a titer) & then every three years or longer.
-Rabies- single dose at 12 or 16 weeks. Booster in one year (and then the booster is good for 3yrs legally)
Canine Non-Core Vaccines:
-Bordetella, Parainfluenza- single dose (intranasal) at 12 or 16 weeks of age.
-*Leptospirosis- 2 doses 2-4 wks apart AFTER 12 weeks of age.
-*Lyme- 2 doses 2-4 weeks apart AFTER 12 weeks of age. In Maine we also gave a dose at 6mo after the 2nd dose, and Dr. Ford thought that was likely a good idea. The main thing that makes me hesitate to recommend the lyme vaccine is that there are MANY co-infections that we can not vaccinate for. The common ones we hear about in veterinary medicine are ehrlichia & anaplasmosis. Deer ticks can also carry babesia and rocky mountain spotted fever...to name a few. When deciding whether to give your dog the lyme vaccine or not consider checking www.veterinarypartner.com for more information.
-*Canine Influenza- 2 doses 2 to 4 weeks apart AFTER 12 weeks of age.
non-core vaccines are boostered annually where risk of exposure is sustained.
*Small breed dogs (adult 20lbs or less) should have a delay in administration until after completion of the CORE series.
Feline Core Vaccines:
-Panleukopenia, Herpesvirus, Calicivirus-8, 12, and 16 weeks. Booster 1 year following the last dose (or check a titer IMHO) & then every three years.
-Rabies- dose give at 12 or 16 weeks. I am currently recommending the purevax (non-adjuvanted) rabies for cats and it is licensed for a one year vaccine. See www.veterinarypartner.com for vaccine associated sarcoma. We can greatly decrease the risk in our furry friends by using the purevax vaccine.
Feline Non-Core Vaccines:
-Leukemia Virus - 'highly recommended' for all kittens (inside/outside) at 12 & 16 weeks and then 1 yr later (if going outside)
-Feline Immunodeficiency Virus- 3 doses 2 to 4 weeks apart. Initial vaccination will cause cats to have a false + FIV test result. Kittens having nursed from a vaccinated cat may also have a false + test.
-Feline Bordetella bronchiseptica- one dose intranasally as early of 4 weeks of age if indicated. Booster annually where the risk of exposure is present.
-feline chlamydophila felis- 2 doses 3 to 4 weeks apart, if indicated. Booster annually where the risk of exposure is present.
-virulent systemic calicivirus- 2 initial doses 2 to 4 weeks apart, if indicated. Disease prevalence is considered low & limited to high-density housing environments (esp shelters)
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) vaccine is 'Not Generally Recommended" by the AAFP Vaccine Advisory Panel (2006)
Dr. Ford's handout states: "Other non-core vaccines are seldom administered and should be considered only after asessing and defining a clear risk of exposure. All other non-core vaccines are recommended for annual administration as long as the risk of exposure persists."
The vaccine guidelines group of the WSAVA recommends against the FIV vaccine. AAHA recommends cats getting the FIV vaccine be tested 'negative' first. They also recommend a microchip or tattoo to be able to ID their vaccination status.
People are aware that vaccines in kids are very controversial. We are starting to see that there is not one 'cookie cutter' program to pets either. Thankfully these guidelines have the pet's best interest in mind, and they are put together by AAHA - not by the vaccine companies.
Dr. Abby lives with her Son, Ethan, Ray the cat, and Jazz the elderly Chihuahua in Central Iowa.