Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Florida's Gentle Giant

Before addressing the main topic of this week's Pet Chat Radio personal comment and subject of this week's blog entry, I want to first mention that our special guest this week on Pet Chat Radio is Rob Rosenberg, pharmaceutical sales representative for a large veterinary pharmaceutical company. In my interview with Rob, he shares some very interesting insights into this prevalent aspect of the veterinary industry. Also, I wanted to give ample notice for my appearance on Dr. Arlene Barro's talk radio show, Win Without Competing, my role will have changed, as I will be the one being interviewed live by host, Dr. Barro. The live broadcast will be Wednesday, August 12, 2009, and you can listen to it at:


On to my personal comment, as I have mentioned, I was just vacationing in the Florida Keys, the biggest enjoyment of which my wife and I derive from the natural beauty of the landscape and diverse and beautiful wildlife. From snorkeling the breathtaking coral reefs and taking in the diverse sea life, to kayaking the mangroves and feeding the tarpon at Robby's Marina, it is the unique and diverse wildlife that keeps us going back (of course, the charming resorts, great food, and gorgeous sunsets don't hurt). Of all the wildlife we see in the Keys and even up here occasionally in the Space coast, none are more captivating than the Manatee.

These gentle giants, and Florida's official state marine mammals, are actually a large aquatic relative of the elephant. They are grayish brown in color with medium sized, black, expressive eyes and have thick, wrinkled skin on which there is often a growth of algae. Their front flippers help them steer or sometimes crawl through shallow water. They also have powerful flat tails that help propel them through the water. Despite their lack of outer ears, manatees seem to hear quite well.

Manatees can be found typically in the warm waters of shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters, rarely going into water that is below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Well known for their gentle, slow-moving nature, manatees have also been known to body surf or barrel roll when playing, and often are playful and curious with people, commonly swimming up to boats, kayaks and even swimmers for up close interaction.

As adults, Manatees are about 10-12 feet long and weigh between 1500 - 1800 pounds, supporting this bulk with an exclusive herbivorous diet of marine and freshwater plants. Their life span in the wild is about 50 - 60 years of age. The largest population of Manatees is in Florida, where they number about 3000.

Unfortunately this subtropical treasure faces many threats, including destruction and degradation of their coastal and freshwater habitats. The leading known cause of death is by boat strikes; propellers and hulls can inflict serious or mortal wounds. Most manatees have a pattern of scars on their backs or tails after having survived collisions with boats. Scientists often use these patterns to identify individuals. They have also been found crushed or drowned in flood-control gates and suffer harm from exposure to toxic red tide. In addition, a large number of manatees die from unknown causes each year.

Fortunately, although numbers have gradually recovered in recent years, Manatees remain a protected species, listed still as a federal endangered species.

Just one glance at one of these huge yet surprisingly graceful, gentle creatures, and one's heart is instantly endeared to them. I encourage all of my blog readers and radio show listeners to take interest in their continued protection and preservation. To find out how you can do your small part to help this magnificent animal, visit the Save the Manatee Club at:


Roger Welton, DVM
Founder, Web-DVM

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Alaska's Wildlife Can Breathe A Sigh Of Relief - Hopefully?

Before delving into my personal comment for this week, I want to remind our readers to listen to this week's Pet Chat Radio broadcast, which begins with a wonderfully informative interview with master groomer, Heather Shultz, who kindly took the time to offer invaluable insights into the art and career of pet grooming. There is so much more to this profession than most realize, as Heather so eloquently explains in our interview!

Back to my personal comment and subject of this post, I just wanted to touch on Sarah Palin’s resignation. While this is a political story really, and politics have little place in our broadcast and this blog (we learned the hard way during this past election!), this does pertain to animals directly, and that is, apart from partisan politics, from a wildlife standpoint, perhaps wildlife advocates of Alaska can breathe a bit easier with this revelation. From a wildlife perspective strictly, her policies have been abysmal at best.

As reported by a September 4, 2008 Associated Press article titled, "Environmentalists say Palin's record on wildlife are as harsh as Alaska itself," Sarah Palin's policies and record clearly illustrate little regard for wildlife and the environment. Beginning with her time at the National Governors Association conference spent primarily making her case to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne against classifying the polar bear as a threatened species, Sarah Palin has continually maintained troublingly dismissive environmental and wildlife policies. Some months later, she once again confronted Dirk Kempthorne, arguing against even the Bush administration that they, "didn't use the best science in concluding that without further protection, the polar bear faces eventual extinction because of disappearing sea ice as the result of global warming."

During her months of governor of Alaska, Palin had opposed federal marine scientists who concluded that the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale needs protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Most appallingly, Palin has defended the right of Alaska to shoot wolves from the air for the benefit of boosting the populations of moose and caribou herds - not for the sake of the moose and caribou, but for the sole purpose of leaving more live moose and caribou for the human sport hunters to kill! Interestingly, this is a view that is contrary to that of her former running mate John McCain. Finally, Palin remains skeptical that human created greenhouse emissions are responsible for the dramatic acceleration of global warming in this century.

As a result of her harsh environmental and wildlife policies, environmentalists have nicknamed Palin the "Killa from Wasilla," and John Toppenberg, the director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, has said that, "Her philosophy from our perspective is cut, kill, dig and drill," and that she is "in the Stone Age of wildlife management and is very opposed to utilizing accepted science."

Now of course, I know nothing of her replacement’s wildlife policies and it is difficult to envision worse, we have to retain some feeling of at least there is the potential for respite, that Alaska’s wildlife powers that be will at least gather or begin to regain some reverence for one of our nation’s most precious wildlife havens.

Roger Welton, DVM
Founder, Web-DVM

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Veterinary Technician: The Unsung Hero of Veterinary Medicine

In my personal comment and subject of my blog post today, I would like to expand a bit on my Pet Chat Radio interview earlier with the lovely certified veterinary technician, Melissa Welton. She exemplified just how invaluable technicians are to a veterinary practice from her own personal experience in teh profession. If you have not yet had the opportunity to hear the interview, I strongly recommend it.

Most veterinarians understand the value of good technicians, most treating them and regarding them with the respect they deserve. Many clients also understand how important certified veterinary technicians are to animal health care, taking the time acknowledge them with verbal “thank you” and often “thank you” cards, but very often, the credit for having saved a life or resolved disease is directed solely at the attending veterinarian. Yet the technicians rarely are affected by this, moving on, and performing their essential tasks with the reward they need: the personal satisfaction of knowing that they work in the field that they love, and that they play a big role day in and day out, in doing their part to better the health of people’s beloved house pets.

To get a better understanding of how important technicians are, just refer to the following small glimpse of what my technicians do for me.

When I come in the morning, all treatments of in-hospital animals have ready been complete by the techs. Hospital runs have been cleaned, the animals walked, fed, vitals have been taken, and the treating technicians have a report for me on each patient.

In addition to this, technicians have admitted, performed presurgical vitals, run all pertinent labwork, and reported to me the findings so I can go ahead with my recommendation for premedication, which they then implement. Prior to surgery, technicians, clip and scrub the patient’s surgical site, induce the patient, place the tracheal tube, start gas anesthesia, then monitor anesthesia throughout the procedure. If the procedure is a dental prophylaxis, they perform the professional cleaning, check for pockets and other intraoral lesions, then alert me to assess whether further dental work needs to be done. For procedures that require another set of hands, technicians scrub in to assist me.

During appointments, technicians perform all labwork by my order, freeing me up to keep up with my paper work and see more patients. During down time, technicians sift through all faxed labwork, place them in the proper medical files, then put them in my box for me to interpret and call the clients. They also process and examine all stool samples for parasites, alert me about positive results, then dispense the necessary medication and call the client with a diagnosis and to alert that medication is waiting for the pet to be picked up. My most senior technician spends her down time logging the controlled drugs, keeping the hospital OSHA compliant, and ordering inventory.

At the end of the day, technicians discharge the patient, dispense medications, and go over discharge instructions with the client.

I am sure there is plenty more that they do that is escaping me at this very moment, but I think the point is clear how important technicians are to a hospital. While veterinarians are the nucleus of the practice that bear the primary patient responsibility, we could not do what we do, as well as we do, without our dedicated and hard working veterinary technicians.

Roger Welton, DVM
Founder, Web-DVM