Mom Knows Best

By: Dr. Alexandra Saura , D.V.M.

As a Dog Mom, and a Human Mom I have learned that somehow we develop this incredible sense of awareness and understanding for those we care for. I’m not sure how it happens, but our innate senses kick in.  With the chaotic shuffle of life, it’s something that floats to the back of our minds until we are humbled by its presence.

It was my surgery day. Among a few routine procedures, I  had x-rays scheduled with a Great Dane puppy named Caesar. His previous visit 10 days ago yielded symptoms of mild lameness on his front right leg. After a proper exam, he was sent home  with pain medication and directions for strict rest for one week. If he wasn’t better in one week he would be scheduled for x rays.

That’s when I stepped in. I sedated Caesar and x-rays were taken of both of his front legs, hips and knees. There were no significant findings, so I sent the x-rays off to the Orthopedic Surgeon for a consultation.  Collectively, we reviewed the x-rays and hatched a new treatment plan. Caesar bounded home with new pain medication and I was confident he had a soft tissue injury that would heal with time.

The weekend came and went, and I hadn’t heard anything about Caesar.

No news is good news.

The call came on Tuesday from Caesar’s Mom. He was worse. Now he seemed to be painful all over his body, and not eating well. His owners were insistent that something more serious was wrong, and they were right.

The once happy puppy came back in for another visit. He was not himself – very quiet and stiff when walking. His joints were swollen and painful. I took blood to test for Lyme disease, and x-rays of his swollen wrists.

We had our answer! His blood test was normal, but the new x rays determined that Caesar had Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, a very painful inflammatory disease of long bones seen in large breed dogs. His lesions had progressed rapidly through out the weekend.  The healing process would take time, but he would fully recover. We had caught the disease early on thanks to the concern and action taken by his loving owners.

Caesar stayed in the hospital on anti-inflammatories and morphine for a few days. “Mr. Popular” had 3 visits each day from his family to smother him with hugs and kisses. After a long week, Caesar was able to finally go home. It would be another few weeks until he was back to his old self, but the worst was over.

Always remember Mom knows best. Maybe it’s just ingrained in us. Maybe it’s something we learn by watching our parents. Either way, as caregivers we must trust our instincts, and as doctors we must listen to our clients even when science tells us otherwise.

Jack of All Trades

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Had you asked me when I was five, I would have said a dog. By 15, I was more sophisticated and predicted I would be a Veterinarian.  However, now at 30 I realize I’m much more.

It’s 8am as I rush through the hospital doors and with a coffee in hand, I will have soon forgotten about my uneven night’s sleep with a cranky 1 year old.  Before I can let the caffeine do its job, I am thrown into the thick of a packed day.

I work my way back to the treatment area where we have a few hospitalized patients. My gear switches to Internal Medicine. Each patient is evaluated and medicated. While updating my clients, I manage to get down a few gulps of coffee.

By 9am, my first appointment is here. It’s Molly, a goofy chocolate lab who licks me head to toe. She has a terrible skin and ear infection, and my Dermatology skills are tested.  Molly leaves the exam room happy and more comfortable. Her owner, on the other hand, shuffles up front to pay her hefty bill and gather all her medications.

Next up is Sunshine the cat, whose mood reflects more of a storm. I try my best cat whispering skills, but Sunshine is on to me. She hasn’t been herself lately and is dropping food when she eats, causing a little weight loss.

Sounds like dental disease.

Since I value my fingers but need a proper oral exam, Sunshine has bought herself a ticket to sedation. Off I go, transforming into an Anesthesiologist. A full examination indicates a terrible mouth infection and loose teeth. Sunshine gets started on antibiotics, pain medication and is set up for dental x rays and a cleaning next week.

My morning is now in full swing as I meet Butch, an older but spunky pug who managed to upset his feline roommate. Now his right eye is squinting.

Time to put on my Ophthalmology hat. I examine his eye and diagnose him with a scratch on his cornea. Once spunky, now sulky, Butch leaves slamming into the wall, courtesy of his new e-collar.

A few annual “check-up” exams slip in and I feel like a general practitioner again. Thank goodness it’s almost lunchtime, I’m starving….

I grab the charts from my box to make phone calls and review lab results from yesterday’s workload. Once completed, I dash home to walk my dogs, see my son and eat a quick lunch.

As I return to work, I am met with a double hit by car. Now I’m an ER Doctor. After bloodwork and x-rays, the prognosis is positive – A broken bone and dislocated hip. They are sent home with pain medication, antibiotics and scheduled for surgery.

The afternoon is filled with annual exams coupled with a few sick patients requiring x-rays…

Good thing we were taught how to be Radiologists.

By 4pm, my feet hurt and I’m thirsty, but I compose myself. One of my longtime patients is here for euthanasia. Wyatt is an old boy suffering from prostate cancer. His body is tired, his owners are emotional and my heart aches with theirs. We spend a few minutes reminiscing all his good days while delaying the inevitable.

I have done this hundreds of times, but it never gets easier.

Now I’m a friend and support system as we say our goodbyes to Wyatt.  It’s the hardest part of my job. We grow so attached to our clients and patients.

My tears are halted as I enter exam room 5 and meet Triscuit, an energetic newly adopted puppy. Her owners are first time dog parents and I morph into Pediatrician mode. We spend time going over prevention, vaccines and training. The half hour of bliss moves too quickly, and Triscuit is happily on her way home.

My day is winding down, and I spend the rest of the afternoon following up with clients, hospitalized patients and specialists.

When I finally get home, I become Mother and Wife. As a Veterinarian, I am so more than I thought I could be. If only I had mastered the art of being a dog.

5 Things You Need to Know For a Fantastic Summer with Your Furry Friend


Dr. Monica Sterk, DVM

  1. HOT dogs!

Hot days and active dogs can lead to serious emergencies. Heat stroke is a result of over-heating from exertion or from lack of appropriate shade/shelter. When a patient is not able to cool him or herself down, it can lead to consequences such as liver, kidney, and brain damage. Things like seizures and comas can be secondary to heat stroke.

What to do:

  • Provide shade and shelter to your pets on hot days
  • Make sure the water bowl is always full
  • Monitor playtime and don’t allow your pet to over-exert itself
  • Don’t hose your pet down after running outside – this makes it harder for them to regulate their temperature


  1. TICK tock… It’s Lyme o’clock!

It’s that time again – tick season. Transmission of disease from ticks can happen in less than 24 hours and can cause clinical signs from stiff joints and limping to neurological signs and seizures. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Babesia, Anaplasmosis, and so many more!

What to do:

  • Make sure your pet is up to date on his/her monthly flea and tick prevention
  • Check your pet for ticks daily, especially after hikes or walks in high grass areas


  1. Too HOT to trot!

Hot days mean hot sidewalks and driveways. Sometimes we forget that our furry friends don’t wear shoes like we do! Burnt paw pads can be very painful and can happen quickly without notice.

What to do:

  • Carry your pet to grassy areas (if possibly)
  • Spray down driveways or sidewalks with a hose before letting your pet out
  • Check out the latest in doggie fashion and consider booties for your pet
  • Keep walks on sidewalks short on hot days


  1. Mmm… BBQ

It’s time for those summer BBQs and family events! Unfortunately, these events can lead to consequences for our furry friends. Eating things like bones or food scraps can sometimes cause more than just upset stomachs. Obstructions in the intestines and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas – a painful and dangerous ailment) are big concerns that are often seen in the ER.

What to do:

  • Make sure your pet can’t get into the garbage
  • Don’t feed table scraps
  • Don’t allow your pet to chew on bones, corn cobs, etc


  1. Leptospir…What?

Taking your pet on hikes has its own additional precautions, but leptospirosis is something to think about. Wildlife that are active in the summer months may carry this spirochete bacteria and shed it in still water in hiking areas. If your pet drinks this water, it could lead to a serious condition that causes kidney and liver failure.

What to do:

  • Keep your pet close on hikes and monitor where they sniff and drink from
  • Talk to your veterinarian about the Leptospirosis vaccination


Have a fantastic and safe summer with your pets.

Never hesitate to contact your veterinarian with questions or concerns – better safe than sorry!


All Things Big and Small

Alexandra Saura, DVM

It was a typical day at the hospital of seeing patients, fielding phone calls and treating in-hospital cases. I was scanning the scheduler when my eyes stopped over the 10:30 AM appointment:

Hammy the hamster – unable to urinate.

Being primarily a canine and feline Veterinarian, I started racking my brain for causes and treatments of every urinary disease in hamsters I could remember from vet school. As usual, my “day dreaming” was cut short by the controlled chaos of my hospital.

Before I knew it, 10:30am was here, and Hammy was there – waiting for me in the lobby. Hammy was taken into an exam room and triaged. My technician reported that Hammy had not urinated in about a day and seemed to be continuously straining to urinate, while also licking his “private areas”.

I took a deep breath. I mean, I’m a Veterinarian right? I was taught all about hamsters/ferrets/rabbits/mice/rats in a series of 3 classes back in veterinary school. The information had to be in my brain somewhere. Has it really been 5 years since school?

I refocused, and introduced myself confidently to the Owner. During Hammy’s exam, I noted tenderness in the lower part of his belly, near the bladder, making it likely that Hammy did indeed have some sort of urinary tract issue. I discussed with the owner that I needed to conduct an X-Ray to determine what was wrong with Hammy.

Hammy was very cooperative for his X-Ray, and we were able to determine that he had a large stone in his bladder, but still could not figure out why Hammy couldn’t urinate. The stone wasn’t blocking his urinary tract, just floating freely in the bladder. My best guess revolved around an obstruction in the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder out of the body). The next thing to do was to sedate Hammy and try to unblock him by passing a urinary catheter up his urethra into his bladder.

After locating the smallest urinary catheter I had in the hospital, I set myself up to unblock the little guy. I had done this many times in a cat, how different could it be? Well, it wasn’t easy and for whatever reason it wasn’t working. Now I had every technician and doctor staring at me with doubt.

I wasn’t ready to give up.

I went back to Hammy’s owner and told her what was going on. I recommended surgery to remove the bladder stone (cystotomy), then pass the urinary catheter the opposite way from the bladder through the urethra and out of the body to relive his obstruction. Hammy’s dedicated owner, a true animal lover, had to see this through, so off to surgery we went.

A fairly straightforward procedure, except for the constant reminder that I’m dealing with a hamster!

I grabbed my best technician and off we went to save Hammy. With extreme concentration, a prayer, and a steady hand, I opened up Hammy.

There it was! The cause of his obstruction!

Two glands in the belly had gotten so large with an infection (forming an abscess), which were pinching off his urethra. And yes, there was a bladder stone as well! I removed the stone from the bladder, drained the abscess from each gland and closed him back up. Hammy was on his way to a full recovery.

Just like that, I had another reminder that all animals are special, big and small.