Writing articles for a periodical publication such as York County Magazine is an interesting process. The deadlines for each month’s column occur approximately one month prior to printing and distribution of the magazine, so it’s helpful to anticipate which topics will be pertinent at the time of printing. That’s why I may compose a Thanksgiving article in early October for the November issue, or may write hot weather pet safety tips in the spring.
Today is the day after Christmas, and this article will be published in mid-January. For some of you who are reading it, the excitement of the Holiday season and the New Year has not yet faded, while for others you are already well-settled back into the routines of life. Some may have even established new family traditions or work habits. This month’s Animal Health Column will look back a little, look ahead just a bit, and eventually get to the truth that both we and our pets get along best when our lives follow some type of order and routine.
Let’s first tie up some loose ends from last year. Thanks to all who have asked about my sister, Carol, who’s heart was broken last summer when she lost her dear dog, Blue. She is doing well, and yesterday we met Lizzy, her brand new 5-pound bundle of sweetness who has started to put her own unique brand on all of our hearts. Lizzie is a cute little chihuahua who is very different from Blue, but even though the relationship is unique and new, it is already obvious that some things will remain the same. I noted yesterday that, just as with Blue, Lizzie may not get much exercise, since she spend much of her time curled up in Carol’s lap (which suits them both just fine!)
Last year saw another important event for us. The political season ended with the re-election of the president and a bitterly-divided legislative branch, ensuring another four years of conflict in Washington. It also ensured the implementation of Obamacare, and along with it, apparently, the loss of my own health insurance coverage. Though the President had promised us that we could keep our insurance if we liked it, last week the American Veterinary Medical Association group health insurance policy I have had for 35 years informed me that our coverage will end next year because of the provisions of Obamacare. Thanks. (Sarcasm intended. Many of you may not agree with me on this issue, and that’s OK, but there is no escaping the impact that this legislation will have on small businesses such as mine.) If only the politicians had turned to the veterinary healthcare model, which provides access to state of the art compassionate care while still providing great value, instead of their top-down approach which places even more bureaucrats between the patient and the doctor. Again, even when the faces and names of our elected officials change, what “we the people” end up with seems to remain the same.
My last end of the year rant: It is 6 days before the “fiscal cliff” and our goverment is still playing politics with my childrens’ future. I have no idea what will have happened by the time this article is printed, but even if they work something out they have already let us down. Businesses can’t make plans which are in the best interests of their employees or their customers unless they know the regulatory and financial environment under which they’ll have to operate, but our federal government hasn’t passed an actual federal budget in four years. Even more alarming is their attitude toward the upcoming debt limit. In less than two months we will have again reached the current national borrowing limit, and our politicians will again negotiate terms to increase the debt, all but ignoring the true problem of spending too much money.
Here’s where I’ll get off my soapbox and get back to my responsibilities of writing an article which deals with Animal Health.
Despite the changes in our personal and pets’ lives over the years, the essence of our relationships with our pets remain constant. Though each pet relationship is unique and special, and each new pet relationship brings new opportunities and challenges, there are common threads running through them which can be understood, and if followed, can help keep the pet healthier and happier.
Pets do indeed benefit from stability. The “same-ole’, same ole’ ” that we may see as a rut is in fact for most pets a groove, a safe harbor of security in which pets can thrive.
The most obvious and timely example of this is diet. Most of our patients enjoy a wonderfully healthy diet of commercially prepared pet food, accompanied by a moderate number and variety of treats. We usually know how sensitive our pets’ stomachs may be, and try to keep their diets reasonable. The holiday season just passed, though, was a time when we saw many more pets with stomach upsets, usually because of special foods and treats they were given (or sneaked from the table) at home. One patient in particular is a great example…the Golden Retriever who ate an entire tray (18-20 pieces) of individually-wrapped Russell Stover chocolate candies. He had a significant upset stomach, as much from the wrappers as the chocolate, but is fine now. As always, a steady diet of quality food is much better than an ever-changing variety.
Daily schedules and environment make a difference as well. The recent holiday was a time for many families to travel and celebrate with loved ones, and the change in daily routine can take its toll on us as well as on our pets. Even little Lizzie was a bit overwhelmed by all of the family coming to visit Carol, especially when she was just getting settled in to her new life with my sister and her husband. Knowing this, even when changes are necessary and good, keeping some semblance of routine, with consistent feeding schedules, well-used blankets or toys from home, and quality face with you, can all help a pet deal with hectic times.
Just as Lizzie has recently come into my sister’s home and heart, this is the season when many families get new pets. Remembering the pets’ need for stability, try to find a routine which works for you and your pet, scheduling feeding times and exercise/play times consistently from day to day, and keeping the diet as nutritious and consistent as possible. Also remember that new pets can make for a very stressful time for your existing pets; they’ve got to wonder what’s the deal with the new critter that has suddenly brought new smells and sounds into their home, and has taken over some of the time you used to spend with them. As far as possible, try to keep their schedule the same as well, continuing the walks and individual feeding bowls and pet beds that they are used to. New pets generally win over the hearts of the “old” pets as well, but let them do it on their own schedule, and give them plenty of time and space.
Changes can be good, they are often challenging, and they are inevitable. Understanding and preparing for them is the best way to keep the most important aspects of the pet relationship as stable as possible.
There are some exciting changes at our office occurring right now that I’d like to share with you that are another perfect example of the theme of this article.
Active and personal communication with our patients and families has always been the top priority at Catawba Animal Clinic, and we have several new tools available to make that communication even more effective. On our practice website, catawbaanimal.com, we now provide interactive forms for everything from boarding reservations and pre-surgery check-in to ordering medication refills which can be sent directly to your home. Your pet’s medical care schedules can be accessed through your own individual “Pet Portal,” and you can watch informative videos and slide presentations on many health topics. (You can also catch up on previous York County Magazine Animal Health articles in the archived news section.) I encourage you to visit our website and become familiar with the new and different ways we can communicate with each other.
We also have new ways to communicate better with our referral colleages by sending x-ray and medical record information electronically. When we need to expertise of specialists we can get rapid information; just this week I was able to send X-rays to a specialist friend in Columbia and we could see the pictures together on Christmas Eve from our laptop computers at home, helping get important information to the pet’s family without the typical holiday delays. Our laboratory can now send test results to my iPhone as soon as they are ready, allowing me to review up-to-the-minute data even when I’m not in the office.
These technology changes are exciting, but they are also consistent with the never-changing need for us to have good communication in our pet relationships. The more things change the more they stay the same.