Friday, July 20, 2007

Welcoming New Avian Clients

(Contributed by Dr. Jina Andrews)

From the time we opened two and a half years ago, we have required an exam the first time we see any bird, even for something as routine as a wing trim. It is important to assess the bird’s overall health to catch any underlying issues it might have, and to be sure we can handle the bird safely, without undue stress or trauma.

During the course of these examinations, we found that many (if not most) of the bird owners, even those who had owned birds for years, were making basic husbandry and diet mistakes that, while not causing overwhelming harm to their birds, was still impacting their health and well-being.

So earlier this year we began approaching our avian exams in a different way. We feel strongly that it is our job to provide pet owners with all the information they need to give their pets the best possible care. Now, the first time anyone comes to us as a bird owner, their initial “New Avian Client” appointment is a longer one, so that we can cover the wealth of important information regarding diet, supplements, husbandry, behavior and health. This exam also includes a full avian fecal test. Why is that fecal test so vital? We’ve found that at least 80% of the avian fecals we run show some degree of abnormality, which tells us so much about that bird’s health. Besides parasites, we find undigested starches and bacterial counts that are not properly balanced, all of which can lead to a wide range of health and behavior problems, including feather-plucking, maldigestion and even malnutrition. This test and the exam enable us to provide that bird owner with specific instructions and suggestions on how to maximize their bird’s health and quality of life, and eliminate many of the nagging issues that may have plagued them for some time.

When that owner returns with another bird, they are not required to have that “New Avian Client Appointment” again, just the general avian exam. While some clients have felt the extended first appointment is unnecessary, we truly believe it is. If we can form a good working partnership with that bird owner right from the start, we can, together, provide their birds with the best we all have to give, and that is what is most important to all of us!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Why We Don't Declaw Cats

(Contributed by Dr. Jessica Levy)

Declawing is a hugely controversial procedure. To some people it seems a routine procedure, to others it's a horrible mutilation of a beloved pet.

Jina and I have always debated declawing, whether we should even do it, and just how awful it was to continue to perform this procedure. Neither one of us would've ever declawed our own cats. As new business owners, however, we feared that if we didn't offer declaws, our surgery schedule would be bare! I felt very confident about Jina actually doing them, because her surgical skills are amazing, and she is extremely conscious of pain control.

Then this past winter, I was on my way to Israel to visit family and attend my nephew's wedding. Somewhere I came across a list of the countries in which declawing is illegal. To my surprise, Israel was one of the countries on the list. When I lived in Israel, there was not a big pet-owning population. In the Middle East animals were traditionally considered dirty, so having them in your house was quite unusual. Animals tended to often be casually mistreated or neglected. The people who frequented the vet clinic I worked at after high school were mostly Americans who had immigrated with their strange beliefs about keeping animals in the home.

My return to Israel was an eye opener! Pets were everywhere! Animals were treated courteously and kindly! When I grew up there, we used to joke about the "fur-lined streets," but those are history! The best part is that all cosmetic surgeries are now illegal, so there were Boxers and Dobermans with ears and tails. I saw restaurants putting out leftovers for the cats.

As soon as I saw that Israel was on that list, I thought, heck, if they can do it, so can we. And as of the first of the year we stopped doing declaws. Our surgery schedule has remained steady. And we can feel good about ourselves, as doctors and as the representatives of those who cannot speak for themselves.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Farewell, April

(Contributed by Dr. Jessica Levy)

April, our diabetic clinic cat, died over the weekend. She was one of our greatest successes, having been on insulin for most of her life, but maintained for the last year and a half with diet and supplements.

April was the queen of our hospital. The other cats knew to give way when she stalked the hallways. She especially ruled the countertop in Pharmacy, eating unattended snacks, walking on the x-rays, and stretching out on top of everything you happened to be working on.

April, we love you and will miss you.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Toward a More Natural View of Health Care in Pets

(Contributed by Jessica Levy, DVM)

What would we do if we didn’t have all these chemicals available? What if we had to rely on more natural sources for simple problems?

Recently our farrier, Fred, reintroduced an old idea that I had practically forgotten about under the onslaught of chemicals in our environment. He l

He learned from a client that instead of toxic fly sprays, if you just spray the horses with a half and half mixture of water and vinegar, flies are eliminated.

I should have thought of this.

When I lived in Israel, if our dog got fleas, we gave her a vinegar bath. Voila! No fleas!

When my sister got lice from babysitting young children, she’d brew up a pot of rosemary tea and wash her hair with it. Voila! No lice!

When I lived in Maryland, before going hiking or camping, we’d take a bunch of B-vitamin pills. Voila! No mosquitoes!

In 1998 I was at a large Arabian racehorse stable in Ocala, Florida, in June. It was hot, but there were no flies. The groomers were adding vinegar to the horses’ grain.

For years I’ve been adding apple cider vinegar to my horses’ water trough, because it cuts down the algae growth.

In some ways these simple practices seem almost harder to think of, because we have chemicals available easily at hand, and also we wonder, “Will this really work? It seems simple. Too simple, perhaps.”

I’m sure we’d be a lot more inventive, and successfully so, if we didn’t have carte blanche to grab the nearest toxic preparation and just use that. And it can be hard to tell which claims are true and which are not. How do we know what really works?

It has always been my policy to try stuff on my own pets before recommending natural products to other people. Unfortunately, what works well for one animal may not work for another, for no reason that we can see. Every member of Central Bird & Animal Hospital is striving to achieve perfect health for our pets, and this common goal is what drives us to test products and supplements at home. This way we can be sure that we are offering our patients proven, reliable options for natural health care.