Archive for the ‘Exotic Pets’ Category

Back on Track

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

The last time I posted here was October 1!  Do you want to…

read my list of excuses


read about my (mostly) awesome past month


see a list of what I will be writing about next?

…waiting for telepathic answers from all my friends and readers…

OK!  Here it is!

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My brother Bill and his wife Cara had their second baby boy, Henry Cormac, in September.  All of my down time has been spent waiting to meet  him and trying to set up family time with Bill.  (No to Thanksgiving – I work the day before and the day after – boo, but yes to Christmas because they are coming here – yay!)  Henry is SO cute!!  They live in Ohio, and I am counting the days till I get to hold him.  I mean counting THOSE days instead of days till Christmas, which is kind of a big deal for me.

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What threw me off track in my weekly Tuesday book reviews is a ginormous book about Abraham Lincoln – A Team of Rivals.  In fact, at one dramatic and almost horrific juncture in my reading project, I put the book on the “back to the library” pile because I could not read it quickly enough to have a review to post one week after The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and I wanted to post one review every week of every book I loved from the Veterinary Economics list in order they were listed in the article.  Not being able to honor that weird, self-imposed, nonsensical structure honestly threw me off by an entire month in my writing.  On the up side, I settled in for the month and read the book slowly, loving every minute of it.  I am so glad I did not miss it!  *phew*  That was close!

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I did write THIS.

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Our dog Joy the Puppy had knee surgery.  This has taken MOST of our energy this past month!  Future blog post spoiler – she did great and is recovering well!  Pictures to come because she is so freaking cute…

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Without a minute to spare between dogs-I-love-having-major-life-events, our Pittie nephew Tidus developed a life-threatening illness.  Another spoiler – he too is recovering well.  I won’t tell you what he had because it will be a Gentle Doctor Facebook page case study (every week!  Well, every week like my book reviews are every week…most weeks…), but some of you know Tidus’s story, and if you don’t yet, you will for sure figure it out when you see his history and exam findings.  He is AS cute as Joy, so I promise to post all the pictures here!

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I entered a partially philosophical, partially-crucial-to-the heart-of-my-entire-career discussion that has not yet been completed.  I did not sleep well for ten days in a row and developed a perfect zombie appearance and personality just in time for Halloween.  I have since slept well three nights in a row thanks to all of your suggestions (THANK YOU) and coming to the realization that we can disagree on this and this doctor is still a good guy at heart, so all will be ok.  I KNEW that, but I didn’t know it well enough to, you know, sleep at night.  How important are average transactions in your field?  In mine, they are oft discussed and debated.  I think this is the most misinterpreted, misleading and worthless of numbers.  So yeah, we’ll talk more about it here if you would like.  I will be interested to hear what the veterinary professionals and non-veterinary professionals have to say.

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BOTH doctors I work with are having babies this month!  OK that has not kept me from writing, but it is major news.  I am so excited for the Kanne and the Thomassen families!  I will miss working with Adrienne and Miranda this next few months though!  I’ve gotten very used to and very spoiled by having a doctor friend to work with most of the time.

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This is a very sad update, but I will literally breathe easier having made the decision – I am no longer seeing pets other than dogs or cats.  I had to break up with my first bunny this past week.  I will be sure to tell you that story too.  I already miss the guinea pigs.  OK, so this post is full of spoilers, might as well add one more…allergies.  *sigh*

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What got me back on track?  Finishing the book on Lincoln mostly.  But also, two very sweet comments from fellow veterinarians on Twitter – Dr. Eden Myers and Dr. Mark Hedberg, and one very sweet comment from a veterinarian here.  Compliments from colleagues are second in creating week-long buzzy happy feelings only to compliments from family members.  They (family AND colleagues) are in the middle of what you are in the middle of, and they KNOW.  Thank you guys.  I’ve been in a bit of a slump, and it is good to be back.

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Next up, Tuesday, November 5, 2013 – A Team of Rivals – 5 stars!

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Camp Kindness, June 2013

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

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Happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

3 years ago, our hairless dumbo rex rats, Fuzzy and Wuzzy,  won second place in a beauty contest.  Just kidding!  If it had been a beauty contest, it would have been FIRST place!

Three years ago, our Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats won second place in a national Fourth of July pet photo contest.  They placed after an adorable baby Bulldog, which I thought was very impressive!

Here are the pictures of Fuzzy and Wuzzy eating rat-sized watermelon slices in 2010.



Wuzzy (left) and Fuzzy (right).  Fuzzy wanted to know if Wuzzy’s watermelon was better.


Fuzzy – “Hey, move over so I can try your watermelon!”


Fuzzy decided Wuzzy’s watermelon WAS better.


Wuzzy continued munching her melon while Fuzzy checked out the camera.  Hello, Fuzzy!

Happy Fourth!!

You can read about Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats in the Wuzzy Chronicles of – Wuzzy Rat, Part 1 HERE and Wuzzy Rat, Part 2 HERE.

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Moe the Turtle

Friday, June 28th, 2013

“A vet Sharpie tattooed Moe long ago.  Now I can tell him from the rest of the turtles.”

“How many turtles do you have?” I asked.


I picked up Moe to examine him.

On the side of Moe’s shell was a heart and his name in my handwriting.



Most of my Friends are Real

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Last weekend our family took a road trip to the Kansas City area for a Oxbow Animal Health sponsored small mammal veterinary conference.

Is there anything about that sentence that you do NOT love??  ME NEITHER!!

Story #1

We arrived at the Crown Center Mall, and I remembered that it was Christmas time in Kansas City and remembered also that I do not like being crowded.  So Russ, having been in that exact situation with me many times (me whispering, “I didn’t realize it would be so crowded, and I just remembered I don’t like being crowded!”) directed us to the one uncrowded corner of the entire mall, which had this awesome gingerbread village in it!

How was that spot not crowded??  It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen!  I said as much on Facebook, and Brendan Howard, who I think lives somewhere near the gingerbread village but was in California bossing people at The Central Veterinary Conference, said, “Why are you visiting KC when I am not there?” even though he had JUST done that to ME by visiting Omaha over Thanksgiving when I was not home.  I said I would stand still while we tried to end up in the same city, but I got distracted by the Crayola Store and wandered off.  It happens.  Also, I got a new coloring book.

Story #2

That evening, our family went to dinner with Dr. JC Burcham and her family.  Dr. Burcham is a veterinarian at Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center, and we have been friends online for a few years.  We both like writing, reading and pets, including the weird ones, so that has been fun.  I finally got to meet my friend, who up until that very moment, I had no proof was even real.  She is.  And as nice as I suspected.  So is her family.  THAT was my favorite part of the whole trip.

Story #3

I was drunk with the anticipation of our next adventure.  I had not actually had any alcohol at dinner, but we had just spent the evening with wonderful people, there was a tiny bit of snow swirling in the parking lot outside of the restaurant and we were going to look at CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!  That combination has the same effect on me as alcohol.

So I was in a pretty good mood and feeling a bit more extroverted than normal when we came to a yard filled completely with PENGUINS.  I HAD to show my brother.  I HAD to show the author of the awesome blog, I Miss You When I Blink.  So I did.

And SHE asked, “Do you know anyone who would be a good date for Liam?” perhaps assuming from my pictures that I knew hundreds of penguins, which I actually do not.  But I found this cute penguin, and from what I have heard, she and Liam may hit it off.


If you are keeping track, Story #3 includes:  my brother Dave, who I know is real, the wildly creative author of a very fun blog, who I assume is real but cannot prove, a cartoon penguin and a real penguin, who may or may not be dating.  Most of my friends, as far as I know, are real.

Story #4

Sunday Russ and the girls went shopping and I did the OPPOSITE of shopping on the fun scale, went to the Oxbow Animal Health small mammal veterinary conference.  In case you are not as in love with guinea pigs and bunnies and things as I am, and as out of love with shopping as I am, I will say that I got the good side of the fun scale.  Our girls think they did because they were shopping with Dad all day.  Russ knows that he did not.  hahaha

Dr. JC Burcham and I got to sit together at the meeting.  I tweeted things like “I am with Dr. Burcham at this conference!” and drew cartoons of hamsters with IV catheters, which one of the presenters said was actually possible, and I found amusing, and JC learned important things.  So between us, we picked up some good information.

I met some other veterinarians and caught up with Dr. Micah Kohles, the Oxbow veterinarian, and got to say hi to the other two Omaha veterinarians there.  You would think there would be one hundred twenty Omaha veterinarians there, wouldn’t you?  They were talking about bunnies for goodness’ sake!  Weird.  But nonetheless, very, very fun.

All in all, my favorite weekend of the Christmas season so far.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

May your life be filled to the top with friends of every kind.

What if Every Case is a Gift?

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I recently had an incredible trauma case with a technician I enjoy working with but do not get to see often anymore.

I do not like trauma cases. I am much too empathetic and in love with preventative care to appreciate how cool trauma really is. But after Trey and I had this particular bird diagnosed and stabilized, his pain well controlled, and had established a better prognosis than we had originally feared and we were working together to maintain anesthesia and literally put the poor thing back together, a strange calm settled in, and for the first time in my life I thought,

What if every case is a gift?

What kind of gift is a tiny, beautiful, broken and bloody bird? What kind of Gift Giver gives such a gift? What does it say about us as recipients that we return time and time again, hands and hearts wide open, to accept the next case?

What if every case is a gift?

I dunno, maybe.

Switching Veterinary Hospitals

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Thank you for coming with me.

Thank you for telling your friends to come with us.

Thank you for trusting me with your pets.

This is going to be good guys.

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If You are Switching Your Pets from One Veterinary Hospital to Another, How to Make the Move as Easy as Possible…

Transferring Records:

  • Call your previous veterinary hospital and ask them to fax veterinary records of all pets to your new veterinary hospital.


  • Call your new veterinary hospital and ask them to call your previous veterinary hospital and have veterinary records of all pets faxed over.

In most situations, both veterinary hospitals involved in a procedure like this will be eager to help you and be good at getting records transferred for you.  Potential issues…

  • Legally, you need to be the one to request the transfer, not your vet or your new hospital.  Uhg!  I REALLY wanted to do this for Ernie Dog, but even then, Mom and Dad had to call, just so he could get his next dose of Revolution (which he approves of by the way…)
  • If you call right when you need records (like during your first exam at the new hospital), either or both hospital staffs may be busy and may not be able to transfer records right away.  If you think of it, have them help you before you actually need vet care so records will be ready and waiting at the new hospital.
  • You do not NEED to have records transferred, but I would recommend it for two reasons…
  1. The new hospital will have a record of chronic issues and previous medical history and laboratory values.
  2. Exact dates of wellness examinations, vaccinations and laboratory test results will be on file, which helps as we plan your pets’ medical care from here forward.
  • If you need medication refills and such, the previous hospital may be able to fill prescriptions if your pet has been seen in the past year and refills are available.  You may need to transfer records to the new hospital and have prescriptions filled from there.  That is a generalization and probably confusing!  Here is the real solution:  If Ike/Ernie/Noodle needs meds, he can have whatever his little Poodle heart desires/needs and I will help you make sure he gets whatever that is!

I say, whatever Ernie wants, Ernie gets! :)


Wellness Plans

In the specific situation of transferring from Banfield to Gentle Doctor, your dogs or cats may have Wellness Plans that need to be cancelled.  You can call Banfield Pet Hospital of Papillion directly, or Banfield’s Wellness Plan Relations Team.  They will help you determine if it is less expensive to cancel the entire year that your pets are on and pay “full price” for what has been used, or let the plan continue until the end of the year and set it to not renew.

Helpful Numbers:

Banfield Pet Hospital of Papillion…………………………402-331-1108

Banfield’s Wellness Plan Relations Team………….1-888-649-2716

Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals Main Number……..402-445-4400

I will be mostly at the 120th and Blondo location, but if you call, they can tell you where I am and when.  I will be available roughly three times as often as before and, as always, will be seeing dogs, cats, small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.  Thank you Gentle Doctor team for adding exotics back onto the list of Pets We See.  At least one team member has very severe allergies to some exotic pets, so make sure you hug them and thank them for putting up with me and my bunny love!  Just not when you have your bunny with you…

Greeting card Dave (Secret Penguin) made for me long ago

Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals Website

and just for fun…

Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals Facebook Page

I love THIS conversation:

Me to super awesome doctor (eight times over) I am shadowing or super awesome support staff (fifty times over?  I dunno.  I’ve lost track of the Gentle Doctor super awesome staff numbers):  “May I go into this next room with you?”

Super Awesome Doctor/Tech/Team Member:  “Nope, go ahead.  They requested you specifically.”

You all are making this the best transition ever.  Thank you so much!



How Do I Love Thee?

Friday, May 27th, 2011

When we were newly married and I was trying to convince my husband that we NEEDED Max the Cat, my Mom said the words that got Max’s paw in the door. ..

“Russ, Do Not Make Her Choose.”

Russ is allergic to cats.  And guinea pigs.  And their hay.  Oh, and rats.  Mostly rats.  We have had them all.

By the time we had Fuzzy and Wuzzy (our 4th and 5th rats) he honestly could not breathe in their presence.  He just did not go into the living room, and if he did, we ended up in urgent care.  “You NEED to breathe, Finch,” I said, in a rare moment of logic over emotion.  He ended up on pretty strong allergy medications for the remainder of the rats’ lives.  He could not breathe well, and he ALWAYS felt miserable, but he did not die.

Crazy, huh?

You know what would be crazier?  If I insisted on a 6th rat…or a 6th and a 7th.  (You know, so Six wouldn’t get lonely.)

We adopted Fuzzy and Wuzzy (Hairless Dumbo Rex littermates) with the misguided hope that they would be less allergenic than their furry predecessors, ButtercupRita and Cookie.  Cookie actually ended up living with Mom and Dad because…yup, Russ could not breathe in her presence.

Fur does not cause allergic reactions.

Allergic reactions are caused by protein in dander, spit and pee.

HOW MANY years have I been telling friends and clients that very thing when they beg me to approve of their Sphinx Cat/Chinese Crested Dog-adoption-to-be because they are just sure hairless pets (or low-shedding pets, like Poodles) are hypoallergenic?  *sigh*  We were just sure hairless rats were hypoallergenic.

Not that that notion is totally misguided.  Some pets seem to cause less intense allergic reactions in people than others:  those with less hair slough less dander, are easier to keep clean and probably have a genetic predisposition to being less allergenic.


We knew better.  But we sure loved those rats.  I am grateful Russ coexisted with them for almost three years.  I will not ask him to do it again.

Thank you for not making me choose, Russ.

In honor of Russ’ kindness, I have written this poem.  My apologies to  Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  I am quite sure this is not what you meant your poem to be.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

If we live sixty more years more or less

And you stay on your meds and hold your breath,

To the very end of our married days…


I love thee more than all the future pets

We’d get if we filled our house like we do–

Got one of each color or maybe two.

I’d love all these Finches-to-be, and yet…


I love thee more than all of our future pets.

We could have two or four rats at a time!

And rabbits and piggies, kittens and cats,

Just a rough guess, that’s about ninety-nine

Pets we could have were we crazy like that.

But we’re not, and I promise, I’ll be fine.

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CareFRESH Blog!

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I am SO excited about my newest writing project!  I have been working with CareFRESH for a little over a year, and the team decided to start a blog on the website.  I love it!

Lavender CareFRESH bedding complimented Fuzzy and Wuzzy’s gorgeous skin the best of all the colors…

With this project, I will be less able to just go with my random kicks, and need to focus on themes and schedules and such much more than I do here on Riley and James, which, honestly, will be very good for me!

I am fairly disciplined, but (I have only ever told Russ this, and just very recently…) a large part of my discipline is extrinsic.  For example, I love having a made bed every morning, but if FLYLady did not tell me to make my bed, I probably would not!  I love being a veterinarian, but if I had not had the structure of veterinary school, I would not have learned all that I have.

And I love writing about environmental enrichment of <hamsters>, but if I were not led to write about it, I probably would not!

I will write somewhat shorter posts than what I normally write here, focus on small pets – rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rabbits and ferrets – and send the team every single picture I have of Fuzzy, Wuzzy, Princess and Piggy!  Feel free to send cute pictures of your Warm Fuzzies too!

Wuzzy in her Classroom in a Box

I will let you know where on the CareFRESH website the blog is as soon as I know.  It will probably attract a similar crowd to the Ask-a-Vet part of the CareFRESH website (kids and adults who are in love with small pets – two of my very favorite subsets of humanity!)  It will be an interactive blog, which will be very fun.  I hope you will come join me as often as you can!

For now, will you help me come up with topics? Do you have questions that would be best answered in a longer post than the Q & A of Ask-a-Vet?  Are there things about your own favorite small pet species that you think everyone should know, but may not yet?  THIS is going to be fun, people! :)

Princess Gerbil



Laboratory Animals are Exotic Pets on a Different Life Path

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I have spent the afternoon researching small pet (rabbit and rodent) nutrition in my constant, obsessive quest to be a better veterinarian for my patients and veterinary resource for CareFRESH.  Much of my reading today has circled back to laboratory animal nutrition resources.  That is weighing heavily on me.  It is difficult to read about research subjects when my frame of reference in Real Life centers around my own pets and the rodent patients who come in for individual, loving veterinary care, often in the hands of a child.

In college I worked with the best teacher I have ever had, Dr. Merlyn Nielsen, a Professor of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  His research interest at the time was primarily the heritability of obesity in mice.  I loved helping Dr. Nielsen with his research and spending time with his super cute little white mice.

I did data collection and analysis pertaining to fat percentages of purposely bred thinner and heavier genetic lines of mice – all survival studies, because Dr. Nielsen knew from the start I was a wimp and would cry if I were asked to do terminal studies.  (A story for another day – CPR on a laboratory mouse was my first rodent CPR attempt, not CPR on our baby ratties.)

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It took me thirty minutes to find a plain ol’ white lab mouse picture to contrast with the pet hamster picture, and I still think this guy is super cute!

Fast-forward to senior year of vet school.  I was finishing a well-rounded Midwestern veterinary education covering cattle, horses, pigs, cats and dogs, and realized no one had said “mice” to me in four years.  So I headed down to the Lab Animal corner of the veterinary school and Dr. Lab Animal created an exotic pet rotation for me.  We threw in a couple goat cases for fun.  Again, a surprisingly wonderful experience.  And again, I was shielded from terminal studies.

Fast-forward um…many…years, and I LOVE my career as a small animal vet.  I started in Littleton where lots of vets saw exotics, and ended up in Omaha, where I often get “You’ll see my hamster??  Woo!  I will be right there!” which is almost more fun.  Yeah, exotic pet loving vets are here, and they are awesome, but they are few and far between.  I get quite a few referals from vets who only see dogs and cats and even from mixed animal practitioners (vets who see pets and large animals).  Imagine the courage it takes a pet owner to ask that guy for a hamster referral!

Most of what I have learned has been from exotic pet veterinary books, experience, continuing education and other veterinarians with an interest in exotic pets.  Every once in a while I will wonder…

What if laboratory animal researchers and veterinarians who like exotic pets communicated?

We don’t.  We have entirely different goals and focuses.  Pet practitioners are sad around research.  It is difficult to wrap our heads around.  Animals educated us so we could help other animals.  We got through it and do not want to look back.


Both of my experiences working with lab animals were very positive.  Both leaders who taught me were kind-hearted, compassionate people who cared very much for the animals they oversaw.

And SO MUCH research has been done over the years on animal health and nutrition and longevity.  It has mainly been done to benefit people.

Thank you researchers.  Thank you animals.

What if the knowledge from that research were also used to help pets?  I joke that we should have more medical knowledge about guinea pigs than any other species, because they are…guinea pigs.  But do we?  And if so, is it all being accessed to its fullest potential?

I think I have been ignoring a huge resource to the detriment of the patients under my care.  I do not have a conclusion for this post because I do not know how it ends.

When I figure out how to bridge the gap between the caretakers of the animals of the research world and the caretakers of the animals of the exotic pet world, I will share with you what I learn.  This is just one tip of the lab animal iceberg, which, for me, is a very emotional topic.  Chime in – I would love to hear your perspective.

Sometimes the most emotionally exhausting journeys are also the most rewarding.