Career Change

So I’ve been taking care of wildlife for over 4 years and recently I decided to become a small animal practitioner. Why? Well, here is the story….

A trip to Jakarta earlier this year let me meet an inspiring vet who has been practicing as an exotic pet vet for a few years. We both share a strong passion for wildlife and conservation. She then advised me to start practicing as an exotic pet vet too and help illegal wildlife trade victims. If you know how much I am into wildlife conservation, you’d also know that I would be against this idea. Well, I did at first because I believed doing this would encourage exotic pet lovers out there to keep more wildlife at their homes, thus would create more demands for wildlife trade, and there would be more illegal wildlife trade victims. So I shouted out and explained my opinions. She understood of course, as it was her first thought as well, but what she said next really opened my eyes and changed my point of view. She asked me a few questions:

  • Do they, exotic pet owners, consider if there are any exotic pet vets practicing in their town before buying exotic pets? No.
  • Do they stop buying wildlife just because there isn’t any exotic pet vet available in their town? No. Almost everyone thinks a vet is capable of treating all kind of animals.
  • So what made them buy exotic pets? 1 hobby, 2 prestige. The availability of an exotic pet vet is not in their reasons to keep wildlife as pets.

The fact is, these exotic pet owners don’t really care about the availability of exotic pet vets nearby. The existence of exotic pet vet doesn’t encourage pet owners to buy more wildlife. Then what happens when the exotic pets fall sick? Here is a possible scenario:

1. They will bring the exotic pet to a nearby vet, assuming every vet knows everything about all kinds of animals: furry pets, feathery pets, scaly pets, even hairy rhinos. Unfortunately this is not true, since most clinics are familiar with only dogs and cat. Then the vet will say sorry I don’t know, so the pet owners would start complaining and the exotic pet is left untreated nevertheless. Then….

2. They will bring their pets to a number other vets, hoping a vet would know how to treat it before giving up because apparently no vet knows how to treat a sick Cuora galbinifrons (a sick what??),

3. Once they are home with only a little bit of hope left, they will (of course) do what people nowadays call “research” on the internet search engine and read random articles written by a few different people and playing with medicine to see which treatment works.

4. If the animals live, they will boast they do better than vets. If the animals don’t live, they may buy a new one from black market.

So, I decided to make a career change because in my opinion, by becoming an exotic pet vet I can educate the right targets, which is exotic pet owners who create demand for wildlife trade. In addition I can help them to improve their pet life and prevent the pet from dying (which will lead to buying more wildlife to replace the dead pet). By educating them to stop buying wildlife, I’m hoping they’ll educate other owners in the community as well. Many of exotic pet owners aren’t aware of the damage they cause by keeping an exotic pet. If I can prevent them from buying new animals, we can lessen the demand of wildlife in black market and break the illegal wildlife trade cycle.

Exotic pet vs electronics

Another thing that I realized recently is the tendency of buying some particular electronic brands based on the availability of official service center in their countries/cities/towns.

This brand is cheaper and ships faster. Yes, but there’s no service center in our town. What if it breaks or needs servicing?

Yes that’s what people consider before buying electronic goods, but do exotic pet owners consider if there’s a vet who can handle their exotic pets before they buy it (I mean before the mom is killed and the baby is taken and sold in black market)? No, because everyone thinks each and every vet should be capable of treating any kind of animals, from cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, turtles, horses, cattle, bears, and even elephants. If you think all vets can treat any kind of animals, try bringing a snake into vet clinics and see how many of them even dare to open the door and check the snake.

So now that I’ve opined my thought, could you see my perspective? What do you think about becoming a practicing exotic pet vet?


Spay And Neuter: The Pros, The Cons, And Things To Consider


The pros and cons of spaying and neutering

Spay and neuter – that’s a very common thing that we hear almost every day now. Many pet owners approach me and ask my opinion regarding the matter. Some are very supportive towards the spay/neuter program, some are still considering whether their pets need it or not, while some others are hesitant or worried about the side effects of it. So what are the pros and cons of spaying/neutering?

Let’s start with the pros:

  • No off-spring (obviously!).
    Finding homes for your new family members is not as easy as you may think. Every year about 17 million dogs and cats were turned over to animal shelters. Only one out of every 10 taken in to the shelters found a home. This means that over 13.5 million had to be destroyed. The tragedy is that this is unnecessary. Much of the problem could be eliminated by a simple surgery: sterilization. By sterilizing pets, owners can help lower the numbers of unwanted and homeless animal companions.
  • No risk of pyometra in queens and bitches. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus that may occur in dogs and cats. The uterus is generally filled with pus. Removing the whole uterus will eliminate the risk of getting pyometra.
  • Less risk of mammary cancer.
  • No dominance and aggressive behavior.
    Dominance and aggression are often (but not always) related to sexual hormone. Getting your pets spayed and neutered removes their sexual hormone which also removes their dominant and aggressive behavior. This is especially helpful to reduce fights in a pack of male dogs or in a clowder of toms.
  • More gentle, more calm, and more affectionate pets.

Apart from the pros, here are the cons of spaying/neutering:

  • Excessive weight. Neutered pets tend to become fatter because their metabolism is slower once the sexual hormones are removed. This problem can be solved by decreasing your pet’s meal portion and take them for more exercise.
  • Hormonal imbalance and diseases related to it. A few examples of common hormonal imbalance diseases are hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. Dr. Karen Becker wrote that Dr. Jack Oliver, who ran the University of Tennessee’s adrenal lab, said that indeed adrenal disease was occurring at epidemic proportions in dogs in the U.S. and was certainly tied to sex hormone imbalance (read full article here).

De-sex, sterile, intact. Which one is better?

Before we start reading the answers, let’s familiarize ourselves with these terms to make sure we’re on the same page:

  1. De-sex: the animals have all their reproduction organs removed. Females do not have ovaries and males do not have testicles anymore. Hence they cannot breed and they don’t have their sexual hormones secreted. Examples of this practice are spay and castration.
  2. Sterile: the animals have their reproduction organ partially removed so they cannot breed and produce offspring, but they still have sexual hormones secreted by ovary or testicle. They still have their sexual hormones and minimal behavioral change is observed. Examples of this practice are tubal ligation, hysterectomy/ovary sparing spay/partial spay (applicable in bitches, but not preferred in queens), and vasectomy.
  3. Intact: no change is made to the animal’s reproductive systems. They still have their reproductive organs and hormones, and can produce offspring.

Spay and castration are the most common methods for de-sexing, but there’s another option called sterilization. If you ask me which one is better, I always opt for sterilization without fully de-sexing the pets. Popular methods of this option are ovary-sparing spay and vasectomy.

In sterilization, your pets will have almost no risk of hormonal imbalance and behavior change is minimal because the reproductive system is kept in a more natural condition than de-sexing.

Bitches which are sterilized but still have at least one ovary intact will still show signs of heat in their behavior. Some people refer this to “clean heat” because there will be no blood, but the bitch will still show heat behaviors.

Should I get my pets fixed?


Like I always say, you know your pet better than anyone else and eventually the decision is yours. However here are a few things to take into consideration before deciding to have your pets de-sexed or sterilized:

  • Indoor or outdoor pets. If you keep your pets indoor all the time and they have no chance to meet (or breed) with neighboring animals, maybe they need neither de-sexing nor sterilization. However if you don’t supervise your pets outside, please sterilize them so you are not contributing to the stray overpopulation problem. Don’t be an irresponsible pet owner who allows your intact pet outside without a leash and direct supervision.
  • Hyperactive and aggressive pets. Aggression and hyperactivity are related to sexual hormone. Most pets become less aggressive and less active after they’re de-sexed because the hormone producing organs are removed. If your pet is highly aggressive and dangerous, de-sexing is an option, but of course a better solution is to contact an animal behaviorist to alter their aggressive behavior.
  • Number of pets. If you have more than one pets in your place, they make hierarchy and normally there’s only one dominant male leading the group. The presence of other dominant males in the group will lead to fighting and possibly injuries. If you experience this problem with your pets it’s better to have them de-sexed.
  • Species of your pets:
    1. Old bitches are prone to pus-filled uterus infection called pyometra. It can’t be treated with antibiotics and the only way to treat is to remove the uterus through surgery. If you have a bitch then you should consider spaying her in her young/adult age. When a bitch is too old, there are higher risks of getting a surgery done on them (for example they may not survive anaesthesia, they make slow recovery, the surgical wound may lead to a complicated health problems, etc) and in this case often the final solution to pyometra is to put them to sleep.
    2. Spaying in queens have less complication and less negative impacts compared to spay in bitches. The only negative impact they will experience is being overweight. No significant case of hormonal imbalance disease has been observed in spayed queens.

The decision to sterilize, spay, or neuter your pet, at what age, and with what technique is a very personal decision that is based on your pet’s breed, temperament, personality, and your commitment to training, lifestyle management, and responsible pet ownership. – Dr. Karen Becker

Ready to make the decision? Or still unsure? Contact me if you still have questions regarding spay and neuter.


Volunteer experience #1: Santisook Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, Chiang Mai

Santisook Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation focuses on rescuing stray dogs and cats, and spaying/neutering any dogs and cats they can find, including ones in remote villages where the villagers cannot afford vet bills. It is also the only cat shelter in Chiang Mai and maybe even the only one in Northern Thailand. They adopt dumped and sick pets, and up to this date they have sheltered over 600 dogs and 100 cats. It is located inside a housing complex about 40 km north of Chiang Mai downtown, far from everywhere but everything was provided in the house.

The owner is friendly and would take us for meals, grocery shopping, or just hang out in a coffee shop on our day off. Meals and accommodation are provided in exchange of donation. Meals are mostly local food (white rice or sticky rice, with a few dishes for sharing) but you can also buy groceries and store them in the provided fridge.

santisook cat shelter

The cat shelter, big and clean. The cats seem happy, don’t they? 🙂

How to get there: Flight to Chiang Mai, then from the airport it’s still another 1 hour car ride. I was already in Chiang Mai so it was easier to go to their place. You can take a yellow taxi/song thaew from the city, but if you’re going straight from the airport it’s better to arrange your own transport, such as airport taxi or charter a red taxi/song thaew. It is also possible to ask the foundation to pick you up. They may be or may not be able to pick you up depending on their schedule.

The accommodation: upstair facilities for volunteer in a modern house, next to their cat shelter. Nice room with attached bathroom, aircon, and ceiling fan. There’s a communal area with shared fridge, hot water kettle, TV, DVD player, and some other basic stuff. Very nice accommodation.

The food: Meals are provided downstairs, most of them are local Thai food. You will sit on the floor and share the dishes with their staff. If you cannot eat local food, western food can be arranged too but you will have to pay for it, or stock up on bread and instant noodles. For vegetarians, it’s possible to ask for vegetable dishes only so they can prepare it. It’s best to say that you want to eat only vegetables instead of saying “no meat”, because sometimes they still put fish or seafood as they are not considered as ‘meat’. For vegans it’s a bit more difficult because they still don’t understand the vegan concept and still use fish sauce, shrimp paste, oyster sauce, etc in the dishes.

The medical facilities: Let’s be honest here. The facilities were VERY basic. You’ll operate on a wooden table, outdoor, with non sterile examination gloves, with no drip because I.V cathether and I.V fluid were considered too expensive. If you’re lucky someone can help you with I.V injection for top up dose, but don’t expect too much. There was nothing sterile, all tools were sterilized by alcohol and iodine solution. I donated a sterilizer but it arrived after my volunteer period ended, so I don’t know if they use it or not. If you volunteer or know someone who volunteers there, it would be nice to have some updates about it.

santisook medical

This was the surgery site at one of their dog shelters. That table was where I spayed and neutered the bitches and dogs.

The activities: treat the resident cats and dogs, perform health checks when necessary, treat rescued/dumped pet that they often get, spay/neuter dogs and cats in villages – sometimes in a nearby village and sometimes in another shelter which was 10 hour car ride away from them! They are very dedicated in controlling the stray dogs/cats population and if you have the same mission, this is the right place for you to volunteer.

What I enjoyed: when there is no surgeries or treatment, you’ll be taken to the countryside to see the local life, enjoy the mountain view, soak in a hot spring, see the Chiang Mai city, try Thai tea and Thai coffee, visit local temples, shop in local markets, and most importantly just relax. The founder will make sure that you are comfortable and are enjoying your stay.

What I dislike:

  1. You’ll probably be the only person with medical knowledge (unless there’s another volunteering vet) so there’s nobody to back up your opinion if they say you mess up, even though their reasons do not make sense scientifically. I heard them complaining about a cat died weeks before I arrived, blaming the vet and assuming that the cat died of brain damage 5 days after spay because the vet’s hands were not sterile when she spayed the cat.
  2. No gratitude and appreciation of what you do. I speak Thai and understood the conversations they had, even when they were talking about me and other volunteers. What they said in English in front of you and what they said in Thai were completely different. Don’t trust their sweet words. I also understood when the villagers said “Thank you very much, this is for the vet” while handing over some fresh produce from their backyard or other souvenirs, but everything disappeared so I and other volunteers never received anything.
  3. Okay this one is a bit personal. Before leaving the shelter, I donated a new sterilizer, an imported one as it was difficult to find a portable sterilizer in Thailand. It arrived after I left, unfortunately they forgot to tell me they had received the sterilizer, then they forgot to take pictures, and then they forgot to send the pictures to me. It took them over a month to send a single picture as you can see below. Well, I hope they don’t forget that they have a sterilizer now and hopefully they will remember to use it for future surgeries.santisook gratitude1
santisook gratitude.png

What they promised vs what they actually did. They promised a thank you letter in the picture, but it seemed like they can’t be bothered typing proper messages after receiving their gift.

Recommended length of stay: 1-3 weeks.

Tips for future volunteers:

  • Bring your own basic medical tools and references such as stethoscope and medical books.
  • It’s recommended to donate sterile gloves, swabs, drapes, I.V catheters, I.V fluids and giving sets if you have extra to spare.
  • Don’t forget to bring mosquito repellent!
  • Come with an open mind and a good sense of humor. This one applies to any place you visit 🙂


Up next: Volunteering with Naucrates Turtle Conservation Project in Koh Phra Thong, Thailand.

Read more about my experience in volunteering while traveling here.


Traveling secret: Revealed!

As mentioned in my previous post, I spent the last year traveling and volunteering in Thailand. This has raised some questions asked by people, well, actually most of my friends, about how much money I earned in the past, how much saving I had, and how much I spent. They assumed I must be either very rich for not having a job yet still enjoying vacation, or exceptionally stingy to survive a whole year travel with no income.


To answer the questions: I was paid below vet salary standard and followed NGO’s low salary standard, my saving was not big, and on average I spent about $400/month for the last year. This amount had included everything from visas and visa runs (yes visas and flights were not provided and I had to pay from my own pocket) to entertainment and leisure such as drinks and diving. True, I’m not a big fan of drinking and partying, so probably more money was spent for diving than drinking.

I didn’t stay at Couchsurfing hosts, neither traveled the backpacker style, nor cut my expenses as lowest as possible. So now the question is: how did I survive with such low expenses, less than $15 a day? If you’re thinking that I robbed someone’s treasure, sorry to disappoint you. It’s not true.

Some of you travelers might have noticed that the one of the biggest expenses in traveling is accommodation and food. So if you somehow manage to cut those expenses you can save a great deal for your traveling. Now here’s my little secret to avoid those expenses: volunteer where your skill is appreciated and get free accommodation (even better with free kitchen), and sometimes free transportation or meals, in return of doing high-skilled work. Because I’m an animal lover and a vet, I’m going to talk about volunteering with animals from a vet’s point of view; and when I said “skill” it means a specialized skill where people have to spend years of studying and years of experience to master the skill.

It is rare to see free accommodation offered to people who have no special skill, in exchange for general work such as cleaning the cages and feeding the animals. Almost everyone can do those. To be honest I’m getting sick of hearing travelers asking “Do you know where I can get free visa, stay for free, and get free meals in exchange of doing some work?” basically asking for a free holiday. Let me tell you the answer: it’s almost impossible to find such place. Before someone tries to find a place where they can get sponsored holiday they should ask themselves what kind of skill can they offer? General helping is not considered as a specialized skill.

liz renae bloodless surgeries

Even if you have a special skill and are experienced, some places still require you to pay for the whole volunteer experience. (Again, we’re talking about volunteering with animals here, so) this is usually the case if you want to volunteer at wildlife rescue centers. For stray dogs and cats it is easier to stay for free in exchange to your skill. Why? Because not everyone can experience working with wildlife but anyone can interact with cats and dogs any day they want. Another reason is because it needs special permit to keep wildlife, while anyone can have any number of dogs and cats anywhere they want. Fair enough?

So in the next upcoming weeks/months, I’ll share my volunteer experience and include as much helpful details as I can. You can also comment below if you have questions about volunteering with animals or share your experience to let me and the readers know. Here’s another little secret: next I’ll reveal my experience volunteering with Santisook Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation in Chiang Mai. Stay tuned and don’t miss the story 🙂


Pattaya Field Surgery Trip

This is just the short version. The full story, day-by-day details, and more pictures of the trip can be viewed here.

On September 25, 2015 I went from Chiang Mai to Pattaya to volunteer with Santisook Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation and do free spay/neuter clinics for stray dogs and cats. 900 km covered in 15 hours car ride! I know it was such a long tiring trip, but you know, I can’t say no when it comes to helping animals. And after a hot shower, finally it was time to sleep. We had a queue stray dogs and cats to neuter the next day. Oh dear….

The next morning, we started quite late because we were so tired from the previous day’s long trip. Thanks to Neo from Pattaya Animal Coalition (PAC), the one who organized for this field spay and neuter program, for being so understanding and let us sleep an hour longer before a long surgery day!

We sterilized the tools by using Glutaraldehyde, which is known to be toxic, but is within our budget to spay and neuter over 300 stray animals. We used pet pads as disposable drapes. As you can see from the pictures, even the drugs we use are very basic too. For example, Nembutal is a dangerous drug which is no longer used to anesthetize animals but it’s commonly used to euthanize them.


Surgical tools soaked in a solution of glutaraldehyde.

Disposable drape, cut from a pet pad.

Disposable drape, cut from a pet pad.


Today’s site was a hidden animal shelter outside Pattaya. With two vets did the surgeries, who are an Australian vet and me, we managed to spay 9 female dogs and 3 male dogs in 6 hours of our first day. Subtotal: 12. Total: 12.


Dr Renae from Australia is doing spay.

I was just starting the first spay of that day.

I’m just starting the first spay of that day.

The next day we did surgeries at a beautiful countryside house, which also serves as an animal shelter. The shelter houses at least 300 dogs,100 cats, and 1 cow.

Dr Renae and I are doing spay on the second day of the trip.

Dr Renae and I are doing spay on the second day of the trip.

The surgery started around 11 a.m and ended around 6 p.m. 2nd day: 9 male dogs and 13 bitches. Subtotal: 22. Total: 34.

On our third day, we did surgeries in an ordinary house located within a small village. I heard people came since 6 a.m in the morning to queue for the surgeries. It makes me happy to see how people care about the animals and want to get them fixed, even though they don’t have money. It’s probably my main reason why I volunteer to do these free spay and neuter clinics.

Namfon from Santisook is talking to villagers and pet owners, arranging the queue for surgeries.

Namfon from Santisook is talking to villagers and pet owners, arranging the queue for surgeries.

Dr Renae is doing the first spay of that day.

Dr Renae is doing the first spay of that day.

The 3rd day was the highlight of the trip! We did nearly 12 hours of surgeries, finished at 9.27 p.m and managed to neuter 3 male dogs, 10 bitches, 11 toms, 13 queens! Subtotal: 36. Total: 70.

On our 4th day we went to a Thai navy base. I’m glad to see that the government also contribute and show their care for stray dogs in this country. Just by seeing their hospital it gave me a big smile in the morning.

Finally, a better vet hospital facilities.

Finally, a better vet hospital facilities.

Everyone at the military base seemed to be curious of what we were doing and would like to watch closely. This, however, made me nervous and I felt that if I had done something wrong, they would have punished me for it!

Can you see my nervous face for being watched closely by the military staff? LOL.

Can you see my nervous face for being watched closely by the military staff? LOL.

4th day: 23 dogs and 1 bitch. Subtotal: 24. Total: 96.

The next day, we continued to neuter all dogs at the navy base. We did all the male dogs that day and wanted to continue by spaying all the bitches. Unfortunately, they did not mark the spayed bitches and mix all the spayed and intact bitches together. It is almost impossible for us to check the bitches one by one and try to find which one is spayed and which one is not.

Now let’s talk about the importance of ear notch. Every spayed females, be it dogs, cats, or other animal species, should be marked with ear notch or tattoo when they are spayed. This way we can distinguish them from the intacts and it makes a vet job a lot easier in the future.

Those lucky boys to have this cute vet scrubbed their balls with tender loving care (before cutting them off!).

Those lucky boys to have this cute vet scrubbed their balls with tender loving care (before cutting them off!).

5th day: 26 dogs and 3 bitches. Subtotal: 29. Total: 125.

On our last day, we decided to go back to the first day’s site and neuter all the cats and a few remaining intact dogs.

We had plenty of time today and I did some of the prep before surgeries.

We had plenty of time today and I did some of the prep before surgeries.

6th day: 4 bitches, 5 queens, and 10 toms. Subtotal: 19. Total: 144.

This was the last day of my trip. My back was paining terribly, my fingers have blisters from using scissors, artery clamps, and needle holders, my fingertips and fingernails were brown from touching glutaraldehyde. It was a tiring trip, but thinking about 2 vets, each did 46 hours of surgeries and neutered 144 animals altogether in 6 days, it gave me a feeling of accomplishment!

Here is a group shot for the full team! From left to right: Dr Vincent, Dr Liz, Dr Renae, Namfon, May (restaurant owner who treated us free dinner that night), Neo from PAC, Tong, Atinuch, and a staff from May's restaurant.

Here is a group shot for the full team!
From left to right: Dr Vincent, Dr Liz, Dr Renae, Namfon, May (restaurant owner who treated us free dinner that night), Neo from PAC, Tong, Atinuch, and a staff from May’s restaurant.

We already planned for our next trip to Pattaya or surrounding area around the end of this month. Excited!

If saving animal is your passion and you want to contribute to our spay/neuter clinics, check this crowdfunding campaign and spread the words!


9 Things Every Vet Will Experience

A while ago I posted some experiences being a wildlife vet. I think it’s unfair if I exclude the experiences working at small animal practices. So today I’m sharing my experiences from small animal vet point of view. Here are 9 things you’ll likely experience if you’re a vet:

1. You accidentally mix patient’s name and owner’s name. Yes, it’s a very common mistake that every one of us do. Sometimes the pet’s name is easy to recognize as an animal name, such as Brownie, Fluffy, Princess, but most of times their names are very similar to someone’s names, such as Troy, Alice, Simon, etc.

2. You are not a pervert but you touch animal bums hundreds times a week, thousands times a month. Ewww… I know it sounds gross but admit it, taking your patient’s temperature is one of the most common exam you have to do on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

rabbit butt

Come touch my cute butt! Source: pinterest.com

3. At first you might tremble when you do your first ever surgery, but as your skill improves after tens or hundreds of surgery, you now have a new hobby. Your itchy hands can’t stay away from scalpel and a day without surgery becomes a boring day.

4. When you see an animal with big protruding vein suddenly your mind says “What an easy vein to catheterize!” and when you see intact stray male dogs or cats your mind says “I’m gonna cut your balls!” I know for non vet readers it sounds crazy but trust me, it’s very normal for vets to say those things.

horse jugular vein

5. You become a detective, in some way. When you ask questions to your client regarding their pet’s health, don’t expect them to tell you the truth 100%. Instead, expect to play some detective game to see what they actually do to their pets.

6. You spend at least 6 years in vet school but ironically in your client’s mind your advice sometimes means nothing compared to those who come from pet shop owner. Moreover, your knowledge will be compared to Google, a LOT. Unfortunately a lot of misleading information is easily accessible from Google nowadays. Someone from engineer background writes an article about their own experience regarding their pet’s health and somehow it becomes a reference for your client to say your method is wrong.

vet vs cashier

7. You want the animals to be healthy, thus you are happy to see healthy animals, but hey life is a paradox. I know every vet has a favorite case and somehow you are glad to see an animal suffering from it. I have a friend who loves squeezing abscess and every time she has a patient who suffers from it she always exclaims happily “Yes, I love abscess!” I honestly don’t know which can make her happier: to see the animal heals quickly or to squeeze the pus every day for a month.

8. You are compassionate towards animals but have to be heartless sometimes. You love all your patients, but there are times when you have to put them in a deep peaceful sleep to end their pain. To say it personally, this is my weakest point.

9. There are quiet days, there are busy days. When you have no patients and have no work left to do, you complain about how boring your job is. Somehow someone hears you and within 3 minutes sends an emergency to your clinic. When you are busy scrubbing your hands for emergency surgery, another emergency comes in. Be careful of what you wish for.

Does anyone have interesting vet-related experience that you think we should know? It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced vet, a fresh graduated vet or even a future vet, you are more than welcome to share your experience by commenting below.

being a vet liz



The Effect of Veterinary Holistic Medicine

One of the greatest challenge being a holistic veterinarian is facing skeptics. I know some people think of woo woo stuff when they hear holistic, but for me holistic simply means psychological and holistic approach means minimizing psychological stress during treatment. Psychological mental state cannot be measured but can be felt, while physical state can be measured with lab test but usually cannot be felt (blood test, urinalysis, MRI, etc). While most physical symptoms can be healed almost instantly and the result can be reflected in lab result not long after that, treating psychological or behavioral issue may take longer. Same as in human, physical pain heals faster and easier but psychological pain may takes years to heal.

In human, once the client feels the effect of holistic medicine they can tell their friends and family about the experience, but in animals, they cannot speak to share what they experience. When an animal feels sick or when they feel better, nobody can tell except their observant owners. Often, the owners run out of patience because they do not see progress after several therapy sessions. This is normal, and I’m going to discuss this matter further using an example of psychological treatment which can be seen in the video by ASPCA below.

Coconut was a puppy mill dog and was abused for a long time. She was aggressive and did not let anyone touch her. A 6 week intensive daily therapy can finally change her behavior. Kristen Collins, the animal behaviorist in the video stated that Coconut is very smart and six week treatment was considered “extremely quick recovery” according to her. Now here comes the math: if Kristen works 5 days a week for 6 weeks and spent at least 2 hours a day with Coconut, it took her at least 60 hours to change Coconut’s behavior! That is a quick progress for a smart dog and may take longer for different individuals. Now imagine if I needed to do 60 therapy sessions for my clients, what would they say? That there’s no progress even after 50 sessions? That I’m ripping them off with endless therapy sessions? That there’s no significant effect of holistic medicine?

I find this to be the greatest challenge facing clients. One of the measurement done to make sure the therapy session works is to record everything. Every time I get a new client, I have to make sure that all complaints are listed. If necessary, pictures or videos can be taken to keep track of the whole progress. The same thing applies to you as a pet owner. List the symptoms and behaviors when you take your pet for therapy (contact me to download free checklist forms), then compare their condition after a few therapy sessions. Do they make any improvements? Can you tell the effect of holistic medicine?