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Tip of the Month

Animal Career Information
  • Thinking of Becoming a Veterinary Assistant? - March 2009
    Do your friends call you the “crazy cat lady?” Do you have more framed portraits in your house of your dog than your nieces/nephews? Do you love animals more than you love most people? Would the perfect job for you involve working with animals daily? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re the perfect candidate for the numerous animal jobs out there!

    It’s eternally fulfilling to spend your days working in a field that you love. Lucky for animal lovers, there are many, many jobs available to us. Some require minimal schooling, while others call for a degree, such as a Bachelor’s in Animal Science. In this article, we will discuss becoming a veterinary assistant, as the demand for professionals in this field has risen considerably (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for professional veterinary services will rise more than 22 by the year 2014) and the requirements are few.

    Becoming a veterinary assistant does not necessarily require any certification or a degree from a veterinary assistant school, though it is recommended. An assistant (in comparison to a veterinary technician who must achieve at least a two-year Associate’s degree) is usually trained on-the-job for all of the procedures he/she will be responsible for. However, when Animal Behavior College (ABC) polled veterinarians across the United States, they found that over 96 of all veterinarians surveyed stated they would prefer to employ an assistant who pursued and achieved certification over those who did not. Thus, certification from one of the more well-respected veterinary assistant schools is highly recommended.

    Also, keep in mind that while some certification programs will simply suffice, you will be much better off becoming certified by a veterinary assistant school that includes hands-on training as part of their curriculum, such as ABC’s Veterinary Assistant Certification program. Extensive research of veterinarians nationwide indicates that 88 of veterinarians prefer to hire certified graduates from veterinary assistant schools where the curriculum included a hands-on training module in a veterinary setting. Also, the hands-on training is a great learning experience that will stay with you throughout your career.

    Once you have decided whether you will seek certification prior to attempting a career as a veterinary assistant, make sure to choose the right school that covers all necessary topics. If you have any questions about what you need to learn, try questioning the veterinarian at your local veterinary clinic or hospital. Your veterinarian should be able to tell you what he or she requires out of their assistants. Then, compare that information to the courses offered by your choice of veterinary assistant school to ensure that everything is covered. Your responsibilities will be numerous and will include (though will not be limited to) assisting in examinations, laboratory testing, imaging (including x-ray and ultrasound), assisting with front office procedures, administering vaccinations, drawing blood and obtaining urine and fecal samples for testing, assisting and answering questions for clients, exercising dogs on their daily walks, and much, much more. Learning how to do all of this before applying for a job at a veterinary hospital or clinic will put you far ahead of the competition.
  • Harmful foods in the home - November 2010
    Many owners like giving their special four footed family member a special treat. However, there are many foods that harmful to your pets. You can always check with your local veterinary assistant for foods you should not give your pets.

    Alcoholic beverages: can cause intoxication, coma and death.
    Avocado: may cause pancreatitis and fluid accumulation in abdomen, chest and heart.
    Baby Food: could contain onion powder which is toxic to dogs and cats.
    Bones (fish, poultry, or other meats): could cause obstruction or lacerations in digestive system.
    Caffeine: May be toxic and cause vomiting, restlessness, and even death within several hours.
    Cat Food: too high in protein and fats for dogs.
    Chocolate: Contains caffeine. Chocolate can cause seizures, coma and death depending upon amount ingested. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to pets. Symptoms may not show up for several hours with death following within 24 hours.
    Egg Whites (raw): will deplete your dog of biotan which can cause hair loss, weakness, growth retardation, or skeleton deformity.
    Fat trimmings: can cause pancreatitis.
    Fruit pits and seeds: contain cyanide, which is poisonous.
    Grapes and raisins: As little as a single serving may cause kidney failure in dogs and / or death.
    Gum, candies or anything sweetened with Xylitol (artificial sweetener): low dose will increase insulin in body and may cause weakness, vomiting, staggering and seizures. High dose will bring onset of liver failure and death.
    Ham and Bacon: way too much fat content which could cause pancreatitis.
    Human vitamins: may damage the lining of digestive system and be toxic to liver and kidneys.
    Liver (raw or cooked): could lead to vitamin A toxicity.
    Macadamia nuts: an unknown toxic is contained in macadamia nuts which could affect the nervous and digestive systems and muscles. It may also cause weakness, muscle tremors and paralysis.
    Marijuana: will depress the nervous system causing vomiting and change the heart rate.
    Milk or other daily products: Could result in diarrhea.
    Mushrooms: could contain toxins which could cause shock, and result in death. Wild mushrooms can cause drooling, liver and kidney damage, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma and death.
    Nutmeg: possible tremors, seizures and death
    Onion and / or garlic (any form): could damage red blood cells which would cause anemia. Cats are more susceptible than dogs.
    Raw yeast dough: Can expand and produce gas in the digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.
    Salt & salty foods: If eaten in large quantities it may lead to electrolyte imbalances.
    Tea leaves: contain caffeine. This may be toxic and cause vomiting, restlessness, and even death within several hours.
  • The most common vaccines for felines - February 2011
    When vaccines are given, the immune system responds by a protective response. Then when the cat is exposed to that particular organism, the immune system can either prevent infection or reduce the severity of the disease. The choice for your cat’s vaccine will be decided by your veterinarian and several factors:

    - The age and health of the cat
    - The risk that the cat poses to humans ( for example, rabies)
    - The risk of infection
    - The exposure the cat has to other cats and / or the environment the cat lives in.

    The most common vaccines are:

    Feline Calicivirus / Herpes virus: an infectious upper respiratory tract disease. Once infected, many cats do not recover totally and become “carriers” either continuously or off and on. This vaccine is usually recommended for all cats.

    Feline leukemia virus (FeLV): is spread from cat to cat through bite wounds and from an infected mother cat to her kittens. Most at risk are outdoor cats, and indoor / outdoor cats. This vaccine may be recommended: however, the risk of cancer at the injection site has been a problem. Whether to give this vaccine should be discussed with your veterinarian.

    Feline Panleukopenia virus (feline distemper): a highly contagious and deadly viral disease that can survive extreme temperatures for many months plus is resistant to most disinfectants. It was once considered the most infectious disease for cats but, thanks to very effective vaccines, it is now considered an uncommon disease. But, due to the very serious nature of this disease and its continued presence, this vaccine is recommended.

    Rabies vaccine: Because of the fatal nature of rabies, and due to the number of increased incidences of rabies in cats, this has become a major public health concern. A rabies vaccine is high recommended for all cats and can be required by law in many parts of the country.

    There are also vaccines for Chlamydia (can cause an upper respiratory infection), ringworm and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP - causes inflammation of certain organs in the body) are available but are not usually recommended. Again, it will be the decision of your veterinarian what vaccines would be best for your cat.

    Always make sure to keep up to date records of your cat’s vaccine records. If you need a copy you can contact the veterinary assistant at your vet hospital to obtain this information.
  • Bee/Wasp Stings - June 2011
    Summer is here! With the warm weather, brings many more opportunities for your pets to be outdoors. One thing to be on the look-out for is bee or wasp stings. It can cause not only pain and swelling, but if there is an allergic reaction to the venom, it can be deadly to your pet. Often when they try to play with bees, that’s when they get stung on the head, face, or inside the mouth. If you suspect that your pet has been stung by either a bee or wasp, below are some measures to take.

    The best thing to do first is to remove the stinger, if you can see it. As long as it remains in the skin, it may continue to pump venom into the body. Wipe or scrape it off using your fingernail, knife, or even a credit card. Never use tweezers; it could force more venom into your pet.

    The next step is to access your pet. Generally a single sting does not pose much of a concern. The severity of the reaction will depend on the type of allergic reaction your pet may be experiencing.

    The most severe, signs such as rapid breathing, wheezing, vomiting, and/or pale gums, may indicate that your pet is experiencing anaphylactic shock. A condition caused when there is insufficient blood circulation. It is vital to get your pet under the care of a veterinarian if symptoms, such as these, are apparent. Death from shock can occur if not treated immediately.

    Typically, as long as your pet’s breathing is normal, there are several remedies to alleviate the pain and swelling. Applying an ice pack or a cold washcloth against the swollen area may help reduce inflammation, and soothe the pain. Another option may be to treat with an over the counter antihistamine, like Benadryl. Once taken, decrease in swelling should be noticeable within 20 minutes. For the dosage, please check with the veterinary assistant at your local vet office.

    If the sting is inside the mouth, try offering ice cubes. Another option may be to flush the area with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed in a pint of water. You can use a turkey baster, but be careful that your pet does not inhale any liquid. With stings in the mouth, appetite may be affected. It may hurt to chew, so softening the food may help. By day 2, regular diet should resume. If however, it does not, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

    Another symptom your pet may develop is hive-like reactions. It may cause them to experience itching all over the body. Cold water soaks or oatmeal baths may relieve the itching. The hives should be gone within 24 hours and sooner if treated with an antihistamine. With any concerns or questions you may have, the best advice is to check with your veterinarian. Enjoy your summer!
  • Are Dogs Colorblind? - September 2012

    Are Dogs Really Colorblind?

    Can Dogs See Color?

    One of the most common questions that a veterinary assistant is asked is “Are dogs really colorblind?” The answer to this question is, “Yes, they indeed are.” However, one truly needs to understand the perimeters set to be considered “colorblind”. Being diagnosed “colorblind” does not mean that they can only see in black and white. In fact those that are known as “colorblind” are not completely blind to all colors. They are able to see certain colors or the lack of certain colors. It is commonly referred to as ‘Red/Green’ and ‘Blue/Yellow’ which are determined by what color the individual is having trouble viewing.

    Dogs Have Less Color Receptors Than We Do

    Found in the eye are color receptors which are referred to as “cones”. Cones help the individual in distinguishing 3 main colors; red, blue, and green. These three receptors are able to blend together to help form the variety of colors that humans are able to see in their daily lives. Dogs, on the other hand, only have 2 color receptors; blue and green. Due to only have two receptors instead of three, dogs have difficulty in seeing the color green, which falls into the category of “Red/Green” colorblindness.

    Dogs Can See Some Colors

    The big question is which colors do dogs truly have issues seeing? There is a list that many believe are colors that our canine friends are unable to see: red, orange, green, green/blue colors, and some shades of purple. This does not mean that dogs are not completely unable to see things in these colors. Could you imagine if a dog were unable to see your lawn? These colors are simply not received by these receptors so these colors will show up in various shades of grays and blacks.

    Color Vision Deficiancy

    In order for your veterinary assistant to truly answer this particular question accordingly, it would be better stated that dogs have Color Vision Deficiency. This means that they are able to see some color but are limited to the Blue and Yellow color receptors, and do not have the ability to see anything in the green category as its true color.
  • Hot spots and your pet - August 2013

    Dealing with Hot Spots

    One of the most dramatic looking and annoying skin problems a dog can have are hot spots. An inflamed patch of hairless skin, oozing pus and of foul odor usually appears within hours. It gets progressively worse as the dog continuously licks the area.

    A hot spot or acute moist dermatitis is a skin inflammation triggered by an allergy to seasonal pollens, food allergies, fleas, insect bites or a skin wound. The dog will start itching, scratching and chewing at the site, leaving the broken skin a perfect environment for secondary bacterial infections. The pus gives the skin a wet appearance and a characteristic smell. The spot’s size can vary from a quarter to a whole cheek or thigh. It can occur as a single spot or in multiple locations. The condition is very painful.

    Your veterinarian will more than likely do the following to resolve the hot spot. Treat the bacterial infection with antibiotic. Clip the hair around the wound to prevent contamination and reduce irritation. Use an antiseptic solution, such as chlorohexadine or betadine, to gently clean the wound. Recommend a topical spray to relieve the itching and help with the healing.

    Most of the time, veterinarians are unable to determine the specific cause of the itch without extensive allergy testing, but they do treat the inflammation with steroids and antihistamines. The prescribed anti-inflammatory relieves the itch, while an Elizabethan collar prevents the dog from licking the wound. A veterinary assistant can provide helpful tips on how to secure the collar properly and offer advice on how to get your friend through this shameful experience (they do look silly and clumsy with a big cone on their heads). The hot spot will get dramatically better in couple of weeks of being treated.

    No dog is safe from hot spots and prevention is difficult. However, in cases in which hot spots are associated with seasonal allergies, your veterinarian might prescribe a low dose of steroids and antihistamine during the hot spot season. Flea control should be used year around to prevent the itchy bites. Hot spots are more common in dogs with long and heavy coats, so make sure to remove dead hair by brushing; you should also dry your dog thoroughly after washing. Regular grooming helps your dog have a healthy coat and skin, and enables you to detect any problems or changes early on.

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