Firework Fears (and other noise aversions)

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Independence Day is almost here!  While children and adults all over America are excited to celebrate our country’s freedom with fireworks, our pets may be less excited.   Noise phobias are particularly common in dogs and July 4th is a terrifying holiday for them!  There are some things we can do to help with Fido’s fears.   Here are some general tips to help keep your pet safe:

 

  • Create a safe zone. This is a space where your dog can go to feel safe.   Katie’s dog, Ruby, particularly loves the middle bathroom.   Dr. Katie turns the fan on to add white noise, and provides soft bedding so Ruby can be comfortable.  Some dogs may find comfort in their crate, but be careful locking them in as being trapped during a noisy event can increase anxiety.    Dr. Katie usually allows Ruby to go to her safe spot, but doesn’t lock her in.   For dogs that bolt through open doors, use caution during firework season.   A terrified dog may be more prone to run away and get injured during the noise.
  • Don’t coddle. One thing you want to avoid is rewarding fearful behavior.  Instead, work on training and reward for a good response.  For example, practice sit, stay, or tricks and reward for the desired response.   During this time it is important for owners to stay calm and avoid projecting anxiety.  If you are nervous, your dog will pick up on that emotion!
  • Take a long walk before night falls. Before the scary event (ie, fireworks) take a nice walk with your dog, or play fetch!   Activity can help your dog feel calmer by wearing him out and by releasing endorphins.

 

If your pet is very fearful, he or she may have a phobia.  Medications can help, but there is no 1 size fits all.  You can schedule an appointment and discuss options with one of our veterinarians.   We have a new option this year called Sileo.  It is the first and only FDA-approved treatment of canine noise aversions.  We would love to discuss if this medication or another is right for your dog.  Call us at 573-875-3647

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Meet your Veterinarians – Dr. Katie

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Dr Katie Darr DVM

Dr. Katie knew she wanted to be a veterinarian since she was a small child, but she wasn’t sure what type.   She volunteered a lot at the local zoo (in Little Rock, Arkansas), and shadowed the zoo veterinarian. After spending a few weeks observing the zoo vet, she decided that she valued her fingers too much to be a zoo veterinarian. She also decided she loved working with people and wanted to find a balance between helping animals and people.   Growing up, Dr. Katie loved Jane Goodall and dreamed of studying wild primates. In 2005, she got the opportunity to have her own “Jane Goodall experience.” After 6 weeks of observing Central American Spider Monkeys in the rainforest of Costa Rica, she fulfilled that dream.   She also realized that she loved being in the United States and working directly with pet owners.   Those long hours and muddy jungle trails were fun for a while, but not what she wanted to do full time!   In May 2012, she graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and joined the My Zoo Animal Hospital team in June.   She’s loved her job ever since.

Dr. Katie and her baby

Outside of work, Dr. Katie loves spending time with her family. She is happily married to Dr. Chase Darr. Chase graduated with his PhD in engineering December of 2014 – just days before the birth of their first child (a little girl with the online name “MM”). Dr. Chase is currently staying home with MM to keep her out of daycare for her first year. The Darrs are also foster parents (to human children) so you never know how many children will be in their house at any given time!   Over the last 3 years, they’ve had 12 children from age 3 to 13 pass through their doors.   If you are interested in finding out more about Dr. Katie’s foster parenting, she’s always happy to share more information.

 

Dr. Katie and MM on a hike in a local state park.

Dr. Katie and MM on a hike in a local state park.

When she’s not busy with her 6 month old baby or other children, Dr. Katie loves hiking with her family, painting, crocheting, and sewing.  Dr. Katie is also trying to live a more healthy life. She and the My Zoo team are training for a 5K in August. We hope to run as a team and encourage each other to complete the 5K (Epic Mud Run).

 

 

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Meet Your Veterinarians! – Dr. Debbie

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We have 2 veterinarians here at my Zoo Animal Hospital, Dr. Debbie and Dr. Katie. We love both of our vets, and we would love to introduce them to you!   We’ll start with Dr. Debbie.

Dr Debbie Leach DVM

Dr. Debbie is the owner of My Zoo Animal Hospital.   She always wanted to be a veterinarian as a child, and was able to achieve this dream in 1998 when she graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. She opened My Zoo Animal Hospital in 2006.   For more information on how she became a veterinarian and established My Zoo Animal Hospital, visit http://columbiabusinesstimes.com/127/2006/10/07/animal-lover-realizes-lifelong-dream-opens-animal-hospital/.

Our veterinarians are more than just vets though! Dr. Debbie has 3 children and 5 grandchildren.   When not working at My Zoo, Dr. Debbie loves spending time with her grandbabies! She loves taking them to the zoo, babysitting them, taking them fishing, and teaching them all about being a veterinarian. Maybe one of them will decide to be a vet as well!

Dr. Debbie goes fishingDr. Debbie and her Grandchild

Dr. Debbie is also an avid reader. Not only does she enjoy reading veterinary journals to keep up to date on the latest ways to help animals, but also takes part in a book club. They read a variety of books from a variety of authors and get together to discuss the books and socialize.

For exercise, Dr. Debbie enjoys horseback riding as well as archery. She occasionally competes in archery tournaments. Dr. Debbie has 3 horses and 1 pony at her home. One of her horses is blind, and Dr. Debbie and her husband care for this horse and provide his retirement home.

When not visiting her grandbabies, shooting arrows, reading, or riding her horses, Dr. Debbie often spends time hanging out with the My Zoo team. She spent one Saturday in June helping Dr. Katie learn how to sew a dress for her daughter. “You just finish this up with a simple continuous suture pattern.” Dr. Debbie knows how to sew garments from a pattern, and Dr. Katie is trying to learn.

Dr. Debbie helped Dr. Katie make this dress for MM.

Dr. Debbie helped Dr. Katie make this dress for MM.

 

As you can see, we love Dr. Debbie and we love being a part of the My Zoo Team! We would love for you to come and meet us, and become a part of our My Zoo family.

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Greyhounds are Greyt Dogs!

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Gary running

Even at 12 years old, Gary still enjoys a brief run.

 

Here at My Zoo Animal Hospital, our team members own a variety of different breeds of dogs.   We thought it would be fun to write a couple of blog posts about some of these breeds (and a few more).  We’ll start with greyhounds.

 

Greyhounds are elegant, athletic dogs with a slim build.  They range in weight from about 60 to 80 pounds.   Ironically, they can come in any color not just grey!    Greyhounds are considered sighthounds, hounds that hunt using their sense of sight.  In the United States, Greyhounds are known for racing.  They also make great family pets.  They are sprinters.  Greyhounds are NOT endurance runners.

 

Here are some cool facts about greyhounds:

  •  Greyhounds can reach their maximum speed in only 6 strides.  Some of the fastest greyhounds ever recorded ran their races at about 38 miles per hour.   The only animal that can accelerate faster than the greyhound is the cheetah.
  • A typical greyhound race lasts about 30 seconds and covers about 550 yards.
  • Most greyhounds have ear tattoos that can be used to look up their racing history.
  • Greyhounds start race training at around 1 year of age.  They usually retire from racing around 4 – 6 years.  The best racers will often be kept as breeders.   Dogs that do not race well or have health issues are not bred so their genes are not passed down.
  • Greyhounds are usually born in a litter of around 8 puppies (but can be as many as 15).  The puppies are handled regularly and allowed to go out in a fenced pen multiple times a day.    By about 5 to 6 months of age, the greyhounds are introduced to leashes, walking, muzzles, and basic training.  By 1 year of age, they are training for races.  Most dogs run their first race at about 15 to 18 months of age.  However, some greyhounds that don’t do well at the training are retired before ever running a race.
  • Most racing greyhounds run 2 races a week, while the rest of their time is spent resting in kennels.  They are actually not very energetic dogs (more on that later) and are lovingly called “the 40mph couch potato.”

 

Gary is Dr. Katie's 12 year old greyhound.

Gary is Dr. Katie’s greyhound on the day she adopted him in 2008.

GARY’S STORY

Gary the greyhound entered Dr. Katie’s life about 6 years ago.  She had done quite a bit of research about what breed of dog she should adopt before she started veterinary school.   After attending multiple “meet and greets” from a greyhound rescue based out of Missouri, she decided on an older greyhound.   Around the time she turned in her adoption application, Gary just happened to turn up in the small Arkansas town she lived in.  Coincidence?  Or fate? No one knows.  She and Gary have been a team ever since.

 

So what would Dr. Katie and Gary like you to know about life with a retired racer?

  • Greyhounds are wonderful family pets.   They are not highly energetic dogs; they are generally content to sleep on a fluffy bed (or couch) for 18 hours a day.  Gary gets to go run around in our fenced back yard for as long as he wants 4 times a day.  Since Gary is 12 now, he generally only wants to stay out around 5 minutes before he’s ready to resume his nap.  When Dr. Katie lived in an apartment, she took Gary on ½ mile to 1 mile walk (if he wanted to go longer) twice daily and then a few more short potty breaks.
  • Gary has a couple of health issues which are fairly typical of greyhounds.  The biggest issue Gary has is his teeth.  He has to have dental cleanings twice a year to keep his mouth healthy, and all of his teeth are permanently stained.  Gary also requires premium dog food because of his sensitive stomach.
  • Gary is greyt with small animals; he just ignores them.  Not all greyhounds are good with small animals though.
  • Gary doesn’t tend to enjoy the company of small children.  When Dr. Katie has little visitors in her house, Gary usually goes to a bedroom and sleeps away from the children.
  • You can look up a greyhound’s racing history by their name or ear tattoos.  Gary ran 65 races, but only won 1st place in 6.    He retired around the age of 4, spent some time with a greyhound rescue, and was adopted by Dr. Katie when he was 6 years old.  He’s been a wonderful pet ever since!

 

Gary the Greyhound

Gary the greyhound enjoys taking long naps on the couch.

 

If you are interested in adopting a retired racer, there is a greyhound rescue here in Columbia called Rescued Racers (http://rescuedracers.com/).   If you would like to ask Dr. Katie about greyhounds as a pet, feel free to call us at 573-875-3647.

 

HAVE A GREYT DAY!

 

 

 

 

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A Normal Day – A Day in the Life – Dr. Katie #7

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7:20 amWoke up.  I rolled out of bed, let the dogs out, got dressed, and trudged down the hall.

 7:30 am – I started the day by eating a cup of yogurt and watching the local news.   I always check the weather.   During the hot days of summer, I always worry about animals getting too hot.  Remember to provide shelter and water for your animals.  Pets can over heat too!

7:50 am – Arrived at work. Before starting appointments at 8 am, I poured a cup of coffee and checked the schedule and files of patients coming in.   I perform physical exams on any patients here for surgery to make sure they are healthy enough for anesthesia.  Usually I don’t get to sit and finish my coffee and end up gulping down the last bit when it’s already cold!

 

8-8:45 – Spayed a cat.  The most common surgeries we perform here are castrations and spays.  Interestingly, the term neuter refers not just to males but also to spaying a female animal as well.  We blogged about neutering pets in an earlier blog post (http://www.myzooanimalhospital.com/ruby-speaks-out-on-neutering-pets).

9:00- about noon – During this time I saw appointments.  Today, I gave an 8 week old puppy her first set of vaccinations and started her on heartworm prevention.  Puppies can still get infected from heartworms even though they are young, so it’s important to start them on prevention around 8 weeks of age!  During this first visit, I also dewormed for common intestinal worms.   I also saw a sick 17 yr old cat.  We performed blood work on the cat and found out that this cat’s kidneys aren’t functioning as well as they should.  This is a really common problem in older cats, and one that can be managed with a special diet and keeping the pet appropriately hydrated.   During the afternoon appointments, I also saw a dog with low thyroid, a cat with flea allergies, and a family of 3 healthy cats for routine vaccinations. I also cleaned up a wound on a dog’s paw, and applied a medicated bandage.

Gus is sleeping with his nub hanging of the shelf

Gus is sleeping with his nub hanging of the shelf

12:30 – Lunch.  I went home to let out my geriatric greyhound.  While our technicians were caring for lodging animals, I headed home to take care of my dogs.  I have an old greyhound who depends on a regular bathroom schedule.   Gary has written quite a few blog posts about caring for older dogs (Care of the Older Dog , and Avoiding Heat Stroke).   During lunch I also checked on my 3 chinchillas who are usually sleeping at that time.  They are just so cute when they sleep!  My 3 legged chinchilla (Gus) was sleeping with his nub hanging off the ledge today!

 

1:30 – Closing – During the afternoon, I continued to see appointments.   During this afternoon, I performed examinations and gave vaccinations to 3 more dogs and 2 cats.   3 of these animals were overweight so I discussed weight loss plans and took measurements that help me calculate a healthy weight.  Overweight pets are more inclined to have arthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, and other issues.   Overweight pets have a shortened life expectancy and a decreased quality of life!  Around 3:00pm, I saw a 19 year old cat who no longer was enjoying life.  After discussing numerous options, the owners decided that it was time to say goodbye.  I performed euthanasia to ease this pet’s suffering and let her rest.  As a veterinarian, this is the hardest part of my job, but I know that it’s one of the most important tasks.   Guiding a suffering pet to a peaceful rest is the final act of service I can perform to help an animal.  I gave the owners a great big hug as they headed out the door.   Around 4:00pm we performed x-rays on a patient we diagnosed with cancer a couple of months ago.  The lungs were still free of visible metastases!  Hooray!  I saw a couple more appointments before closing: 2 more puppies, a constipated cat, a limping Yorkie, and a beagle with ear issues.

 

6:00pm – Around 6:00pm I headed home for the evening.  I took my dogs on a walk while I warmed up for a jog.  My dogs are old so they don’t like running, but they do enjoy the warm-up walk!  Then I met a neighbor and we ran together for 3 miles.   We’re preparing for a 5K in July to benefit orphans in Haiti.   I watered my flowers, and cleaned up after the run.  Last night, my husband cooked a stir-fry dinner that was ready around 9:00pm.  After dinner, I get ready for bed and the next day!

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A Day in the Life – Dr. Katie 4: Veterinary School Classes

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The Vet School Experience:  HOLD ON TIGHTLY!

The Vet School Experience: HOLD ON TIGHTLY!

From 2008 to 2012, I attended veterinary school at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.  What’s it like? Well let’s just say it’s like you are really, really thirsty for knowledge.  Vet school is like trying to drink from a fire hose.

Here's what my desk looked lick most of the time during my first year of vet school.

Here’s what my desk looked like most of the time during my first year of vet school.

Year 1 – The first year is all class room work covering “normal:”   anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, virology, microanatomy, immunology, genomics, parasitology, pathology, nutrition, and an assortment of other classes.    I’ll be honest, the first year is extremely difficult, and about 10% of my class dropped out or failed out during the first year.   Just as a note, Mizzou’s classroom curriculum for veterinary students isn’t broken into semesters but instead “instructional periods”  Basically 2 instructional periods equals 1 semester in terms of time, but each IP still covers a full semester of material.  Vet school classes move much faster than undergrad.  It was my observation that students tended to be good at either physiology OR anatomy and not both.   I was a physiology-minded student, and I despised anatomy.  During this year, I had to constantly remind myself why I was there, and that I chose to be there, and that there were many people who wished they could be in vet school.

 

Year 2 – The second year of vet school is all about what can go wrong in animals.  Classes include clinical pathology, internal medicine, community medicine, exotic animal medicine, public health, epidemiology, pharmacology, surgery, and other classes.

If you’re entering vet school and about to start your first year…here are some thoughts that helped me through the first 2 years:

  • Happiness = reality – expectations.  You might have been a straight A student in college, but in vet school that goal may not be reasonable.    Do the best you can and focus on learning the material for life and not for the test.  After school, the test comes first, then the lesson (and sometimes it is a hard lesson indeed).
  • Do something fun EVERYDAY!  You will likely spend most of every day studying.  I used to wake up at 4am and study for a couple of hours before school started.  I would come home, walk my greyhound, eat dinner, and then resume studying.  For the first 3 instructional periods (1.5 semesters), I didn’t spend much time doing fun things.  When I started painting (something I enjoy) again in IP 4, my grades dramatically improved as did my happiness (finishing anatomy might have helped my happiness too).
  • Sleep.   You will feel like pulling all nighters during your first year, but studies show that sleep is more important.  If you don’t know the material by then…it’s probably too late!
  • Take care of your body.  You will have a hard time focusing and studying if you neglect taking care of yourself.  Remember to eat nutritious meals regularly, exercise, brush your teeth every day, and bathe!   As a student, you pay for a membership to the student gym and the student health center with your fees.  No, you can’t opt out of paying the fees so you might as well use both facilities! If you are sick, go to the doctor!
  • Make friends.    I made some wonderful friends during vet school.  We spent a lot of the 4 years of vet school together:  studying, eating, celebrating, and commiserating. They are still very important to me although now they are miles away.
  • Be nice to teachers.  Contrary to how you might feel about them, teachers really do want you to succeed.  Your ultimate goal is to pass your “boards” (federal and state) so you can “practice veterinary medicine.”   Your teachers are there to teach you the information you need to know to pass boards and become an excellent veterinarian.  Ask them politely for help and how you can do better in their class.  They are a treasure trove of information.
  • Utilize resources.  Did you know the vet school has a counselor employed just to listen to you?  He came in a couple days per week when I was a student, and he can help you address little problems before they become big problems.   You’re paying for him with your tuition and fees!  Get your money’s worth!
  • Live frugally.  Those loans are no fun to pay back!  Talk to a financial planner at least a couple of times to help you!  The vet school has one that is very knowledgeable about loans for veterinary students.  Your tuition also pays for him!  I wish I had lived a little more frugally during vet school, because now I’m paying off my loans.  My monthly loan payment is more than (much more actually) than my mortgage and home insurance combined.

 

This picture was taken just after the Class of 2012's White Coat Ceremony.

This picture was taken just after the Class of 2012’s White Coat Ceremony.

Right around fall of your 3rd year of vet school, you have a “white coat ceremony.”   This ceremony marks the end of your classroom years, and the start of clinicals.   During this ceremony, someone very important to you “coats” you.  My husband, Chase, helped me put my white coat on since he supported and encouraged me through the challenging classroom curriculum!

 

The next blog post will be about surviving clinics in Veterinary School!

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A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian – Dr. Katie 3: Becoming a Veterinarian

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One of the most common questions I get asked by people (especially children) is… “How did you become a veterinarian?”   Well I can tell you, it was a long journey!   Of course it all started with deciding that becoming a veterinarian is what I wanted, and that’s covered in the last blog post (link here).   Becoming a veterinarian takes just as much education as becoming a human doctor:  4 years (most of the time) of college and 4 years of veterinary school.  After vet school, you have to take exams to make sure you learned everything you need to learn to practice veterinary medicine.  I’ll pick up the rest of my journey in middle school when I started to decide what type of veterinarian I wanted to be.

In middle school, I met Jane Goodall in person after one of her lectures. I was impressed by her intelligence and passion for helping animals and teaching people, and I dreamt of emulating her example.  Going to exotic locations to study wildlife sounded fun and exciting!  During middle school, I started to build a good foundation in studying math and science so I’d be ready for advanced courses in high school.

During high school, I really focused on my grades and gaining more experience with animals.  I studied really hard and excelled in math and science courses.  Veterinary Medicine is a lot of science, so gaining a strong background in the sciences is very important!  For more animal experience, I started volunteering at the Little Rock Zoo.   Since I love working with people and animals, I chose to volunteer in the petting zoo area with the sheep, goats, and miniature horses.  I loved every minute of it, but I still wanted more of an intellectual challenge.  During high school, I also started shadowing a few local veterinarians (including the zoo veterinarian).  I kept a record of every hour of experience with animals.  If you want to be a veterinarian, I recommend you keep a log too, because you will be able to list every hour of animal experience on your veterinary school application.

I decided to get my bachelor’s degree in Animal Science at the University of Arkansas (I come from a long line of Razorback fans).   During college, I made sure to always take a high course load (greater than 15 hours per semester) and get all the required courses to enter vet school.   Every vet school has different prerequisite courses, so you should check with the schools you are interested in attending.   I also took every animal science course I could fit in my schedule.  During the summers I worked at a small animal veterinary clinic and I loved it!  I loved the relationship humans and pets have, I loved the challenge of not knowing what cases would walk through the door.  In college, I was also very involved with extracurricular activities (Pre-vet club, honors college, Block and Bridle, Equine training, and Sisters for the Lord).  Taking difficult classes and being active in extracurricular activities demonstrates to veterinary schools that you can handle the rigors of vet school!

In June 2005, I engaged in my very own primate adventure in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.  For two weeks, I observed the feeding habits of Central American Spider Monkeys.   During those 2 weeks, I learned just how much I missed interacting with people on a daily basis (and not to mention how much I love running water and electricity).

Here's a picture of a spider monkey that Dr. Katie snapped while in the jungle.

Here’s a picture of a spider monkey that Dr. Katie snapped while in the jungle.

Your application to veterinary school is due almost a year before you start vet school!  Most schools use an online application system so you can apply to multiple schools at once.  I applied to multiple schools, but after visiting Mizzou, I knew Mizzou was the school for me!   My whole family came to visit with me, and we all just loved the faculty and facilities of the Mizzou Veterinary School.  In 2008, I graduated with my Bachelors of Science from the University of Arkansas (4 years of undergraduate), and in August 2008 I headed out to start my first year of veterinary School!

 

Dr. Katie and her family during a visit to the Mizzou Campus before vet school.

Dr. Katie and her family during a visit to the Mizzou Campus before vet school.

Advice for people who want to be a veterinarian:

  • Keep a record of every experience you have with animals.  This includes all the farm work, volunteering at zoos, animal classes, shadowing veterinarians, and anything else with animals!  Try to get as much experience in different areas as you can!
  • Study hard in school.  You’re going to need exceptional grades and an excellent foundation in education to get into and succeed in vet school.  Study! Study! Study!   This goes for students of all ages!
  • Volunteer!  Volunteering not only helps your community but it helps you gain experience in working with a variety of people and animals.
  • Remember that people are important too!  If you don’t like people, veterinary medicine may not be the job for you!  Be sure to explore many career options and get experience in the veterinary field to make sure it’s the right fit for you!
  • Be well rounded.  I know that I’ve stressed grades are important, but it’s also important to get real world experience as well!

 

I’ll be blogging next about what veterinary school is like, because I think that deserves a blog post or two all of its own!

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A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian – Dr. Katie 2: Why?

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Top.BMP

Many people spend their entire lives trying to discover their passion. I found mine as a child who loved her dog.  Corky was a feisty, little Corgi-mutt, who entered the family when I was five. He was my loyal defender for eleven years, defending me from friends, parents, neighbors, and everything else he deemed dangerous. Growing up, I always knew there was nothing scarier than my dog under my bed.   As a child, I always enjoyed accompanying him to the veterinarian’s office and plaguing the vet with questions. Even though Corky tried to bite the vet every single time except for his last visit, I wanted to be a veterinarian so I could help pets and their people.  This is the only profession that provides new challenges every day and fulfills my passion for helping animals and people.

So, is veterinary medicine everything I thought it would be?  Every day is a little different, and I never know what cases will walk through the door.   I enjoy the challenge of diagnosing and treating animals’ maladies, and I love meeting new people with their pets.  I truly enjoy learning something new every day.  However, there are difficult things about being a veterinarian.  For example, there are diseases (like cancer) we can’t cure, and patients we can’t save.   When I’m faced with those, I offer the very best that new technology and medicine have to offer, and hope and pray for the best.

 

This post was all about the why I decided to be a veterinarian; next up will be how I got there.

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A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian – Dr. Katie: Introduction

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Dr Katie Darr DVM
Hi everyone!  This is Dr. Katie!  I’ve been asked quite a bit about what it’s like to be a veterinarian.  Why did I become a vet? How did I become a veterinarian?  How long did it take?  What sort of education did I have to receive?  What is a regular day like?  How many pets do I have?     To answer some of these questions, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts (called A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian) over the next couple of months.

 

If you have any burning questions that you’ve always wanted to ask a veterinarian, submit your questions here as comment, on our Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MyZooAnimalHospital), or on our Twitter account (https://twitter.com/MyZooAnimalHosp).

 

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