"What does a healthy-weight dog look like?" is a topic that often comes up at parties I go to

Not really. But I was spending time with a friend who doesn't work in vet med recently, and it made me realize the extent to which the general public has trouble distinguishing a chubby dog from a fit dog: "Is Your Dog Overweight? You May Not Realize It" (via National Geographic).

If you are curious about your pet's body condition, a couple of things:

-There are two widely-used body condition scales- a 1-5 scale, and a 1-9 scale. We use the 1-9 scale, where both 4 and 5 are considered "healthy." On the 1-5 scale, a 3 is considered healthy.

-We record body condition scores on patients at (virtually!) every physical exam, and we're happy to look at your pet's record and tell you his or her most recent BCS if it would interest you!

-If your pet hasn't been in recently, come by and let one of our nurses or doctors have a look and let you know how he or she is doing weight-wise.


"Ten Commandments of Veterinary Office Visits"?

I LOVED this article. So many good reminders for us about how to make YOUR visit as smooth and valuable as possible. Take a look (here, from TheBark.com) and then keep reading- I'm going to explain how we try to help with some of the "Commandments."

II: Thou shalt be present.

This is rarely, if ever, a concern for us. Our clients virtually always take an active role in their pets' care and are attentive and focused when speaking with doctors or nurses. We do try to avoid potential sources of distraction by going over discharge information and medication instructions before we bring you your pet, though.

III: Thou shalt let the staff know if thy dog is aggressive.

Again, our clients are generally very, very good about this, but we also try to take that burden off by making notes in patients' charts about their temperament. Typically, if you've been to see us before, the nurse or doctor who checks you in will know a bit about your pet and be prepared for her personality, but of course a reminder never hurts. 

IV: Thou shalt provide information.

This is a fun one, because it allows me to explain one of the little eccentricities of our vet visits that I think people wonder about- "The nurse just asked me these questions- why is the doctor asking some of them again?" Aha! We've found that pet owners will sometimes respond differently to nurses and doctors (perhaps this speaks to the intimidation factor from Commandment I) AND that giving people time to think after an initial question/answer session will often prompt new or additional information when the question is posed again, perhaps in a slightly different way. It's not just us being silly, I promise!

V: Thou shalt confess everything.

Totally. We're not going to be mad, we ARE going to be discreet, and the more we know (no matter how embarrassed you are) the faster we can help you. This actually speaks to Commandment IV, as well, because sometimes pet parents feel more comfortable sharing sensitive information with the nurse than with the doctor.

VI: Thou shalt pause for confusion.

Yes! We try really hard to ask open-ended questions of our clients ("What questions do you have for me?" rather than "Do you have any questions for me?"), but we can always do better. One of the really wonderful aspects of our walk-in model is that we don't have another appointment to rush off for- we can spend as much time with you as you need, and you don't have to feel guilty about it.

VII: Thou shalt share thy concerns.

This is a tough one for everybody. It's actually a huge relief for us to have someone say "Hey, look, I only have X dollars" or "I really don't think I'll be able to give her any pills," because it narrows our focus and allows us to zero in on the stuff we can do that meets your constraints, rather than considering a huge galaxy of possible options.

VIII: Thou shalt ask questions.

See Commandment VI. But also! Don't ever, ever feel weird about coming in with a written list of questions. The veterinarians and nurses have worked a long, long time to accumulate this knowledge (the veterinarians especially) and we love an opportunity to share it. We also try to call back on all of our medical cases the next day and offer our clients the opportunity to pose questions they might not have been able to articulate during the visit. If you'd like to make sure this happens, you can ask the nurse or doctor you see to put in a call back for you on whatever day you'd like. 

X: Thou shalt always come away with a plan.

Hold us accountable for this! Here's how we try to obey Commandment X:

  1. There's always a plan written in the patient's medical record after a visit, so if all else fails, we can fall back on that.
  2. We work hard to send all of our post-surgical, post-procedure, and newly-diagnosed patients home with clear discharge instructions, either written or emailed. If you feel strongly that you'd like something in writing at the end of any visit, just ask! 
  3. As in Commandment VIII, we try to call ALL of our surgical cases back the next day to check in and answer questions.


We definitely have room for improvement, which was probably my biggest takeaway from the article, but hopefully you appreciate seeing a little of the how and why behind the scenes.

An Ode To Pill Pockets

“Suspension, caplets, transdermal, solution, soft chews, capsules, tablets.”

It wasn’t until I started medicating my own cat this summer (she was diagnosed with small cell lymphoma with the care of the fantastic doctors here) that I discovered just how many options are out there for any given medication. In my experience, cats had tolerated the flavored suspensions best, so that’s what I chose.

After weeks of chasing my sick cat around the house, having her constantly hide under the bed and ultimately missing doses (sorry, doctors!), I had to try something else. The pill form went a bit more smoothly, but she still wanted nothing to do with me. It honestly occurred to me that I might have to choose between a good relationship with my ailing cat and treating her cancer. Then, as a last resort, I brought home a few Pill Pockets.

We frequently use these in food-motivated dogs, but cats tend to be pickier (and, let’s face it, smarter). If you’re not familiar with this product, it’s a tasty, soft treat that is meant to be wrapped around a tablet/capsule to mask the taste and smell for easy administration. “There’s no way my cat will eat this,” I kept thinking, but she proved me wrong and gobbled it right up. Now, every morning and evening, we have a routine: she sits on the counter, watches me put her pill in the pouch, then takes her medicine.

This is in no way meant to be a product plug- I just wanted to share this tale to provoke discussion about options. All pets are individuals and what works for one may not be best for another. Many of our medications come in different forms; just ask your veterinarian when you’re here for your pet’s next exam. We know you want to be the best pet parent that you can be. Let us help!

[editor's note: I had the exact same experience with my cat. I had a devil of a time medicating him (and, like Saleema, I do that for a living!) but as soon as we broke out the pill pockets, he was Mr. Happy Meower at pill time. There is a brand-name Pill Pocket, but there are numerous other products with similar form and purpose. Also, if you decide to go this direction, remember that you don't have to use a full pocket for each pill! You can stretch the treats out by using a half or quarter of a treat to disguise one or more pills at once, providing it's OK to give them together. Yay for pill pockets! -Jared]