Blog Archives

Blocked Cat Reunited With Owner After Emergency Intervention

A few weeks ago, a cat came to me in the morning as a transfer from the emergency clinic that handles our after-hours medical care. The cat was a male, black cat that was blocked (unable to urinate), in very poor condition in the emergency clinic, and remained in very poor condition upon coming into our care at the San Jose Animal Care Center.

Most cats that come to the emergency clinic in this kind of poor condition without any identification are at risk of being euthanized. This cat, however, had a microchip, so the emergency clinic received authorization to spend more than our normal limit per animal on this cat, because we had reason to believe this cat had a home!

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Before & After: Cavalier King Charles Gets Second Chance After Extensive Surgery to Remove Tumors

An adorable 12-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel came to us at San Jose Animal Care & Services with multiple problems.

Cavalier King Charles - Mass Removal (2 of 4)


The most obvious problem was the large mass that was on the front right of her chest. Though her long locks covered and concealed much of her body, we also found another mass on her belly and a large umbilical hernia. Like many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, this little girl also had a heart murmur.

A rescue organization saw past her age, heart murmur, lumps and bumps, and agreed to find her a forever home. Read the rest of this entry

The Forensic Veterinary Examination

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of my job as a shelter veterinarian at a large municipal shelter is that I get to be involved in veterinary forensics.

For those of you who have seen shows such as Animal Cops or CSI, you may have an idea of what this  entails. Essentially, I work with animal service officers to investigate and prosecute cases such as animal abuse and neglect by performing examinations on the animals that are the focus of the investigation to determine whether my examination supports or fails to support the case.

Some of the interesting cases I’ve seen so far include:

  • Dogs allegedly killed by other dogs
  • Dogs that were allegedly abused.
  • Dogs that were allegedly neglected, such as owners allegedly failed to provide the dogs with medical care after a substantial injury or attack.
  • Dogs that were allegedly sodomized.
  • Dogs that died from unknown causes and were found on a crime scene that was part of a police investigation.

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Before & After – Struggling with Paraphimosis

Paraphimosis Before Phallopexy

Paraphimosis Before Phallopexy

It’s an awkward problem. It’s also often misunderstood. Many people see a dog with paraphimosis (par′ă-fī-mō′sis) and think the dog is sexually aroused. While any male dog may normally (even without sexual arousal) extend his penis beyond the sheath or prepuce that normally covers his penis, the penis should be able to retract back within the prepuce and out of sight without any difficulty. When that doesn’t happen, we have a problem. Paraphimosis is the term we use when a dog’s penis is unable to fully retract back within the prepuce. The first paraphimosis case I cared for was a chihuahua. His penis was stuck outside of the prepuce, but fortunately it simply appeared dry. Some dogs with paraphimosis  may develop swelling, strangulation of the tissue, infection or necrosis. This dog was lucky. Read the rest of this entry

Before & After – Feral Cat With Notoedric Mange Gets Treated and Forever Home Thanks to Trapper

Sarcoptic Mange

On one of my surgery days at HSSV, a feral cat was trapped for TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) and brought to me for surgery. Immediately upon looking at him, it was clear that he wasn’t doing well. While I neglected to take a photograph of his condition at the time, I can assure you that the skin on his face and neck was akin to the photograph at the right – cracked, hairless and oozing.

We saved him for last as we were worried about him having an illness that would be transmittable to the other animals in our care (or even to us as humans).

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Spud – Dog With Spinal Injury After Hit By Car Traced To Owner Within Hours

While no two animal shelters are alike, they often involve a lot of teamwork. A huge component at one of the animal shelters I work for is the role of Animal Control Officers, or ACOs, as they are often called. ACOs have many roles, one of which involves responding to calls from the public regarding animal related issues such as bites, loose animals and animals that have been hit by a car (otherwise known as “HBC”) to name a few.

One morning an officer responded to a call from a person who was bit after trying to help a HBC dog. The officer completed a bite report at the scene and brought the dog in to the shelter for immediate veterinary evaluation.

When “Spud” arrived at the shelter, he was evaluated and found to have suffered an injury to his spinal cord as he was completely unable to use his back legs and didn’t show any signs of sensing pain in those legs either. He was in a tremendous amount of pain but was otherwise stable from our evaluation. We offered Spud relief from his pain with a medication while we discussed what to do.

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Before & After – Vinnie’s Puppy Strangles Didn’t Stop Him From Finding a Forever Home

One of the things I love about shelter medicine is the ability of a shelter and its staff to take an animal that would easily be overlooked or considered for euthanasia and give them a chance to heal and get a second shot at life.

There are many animals that come into the shelter broken, malnourished or with various medical concerns that need to be addressed. Oftentimes we become so enveloped in caring for the animal that we forget to recognize how far the animal has come in its recovery. We often think back to the grainy image stored in our memory of the animal when it first arrived in our care but have no actual image to reflect back on to remind us and show others how much of a difference we made. That is why I am going to make a concerted effort to take photographs of animals early on in their treatment so that I can share with you the many success stories that we see in animal shelters.

To start off the Before & After series, it is only appropriate that I share the story of Vinnie.

Vinnie - Before

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Not Just Any Vet…A Shelter Vet

Since I made the decision back in 2007 to leave a promising career in psychology behind to become a veterinarian, I knew that the type of veterinarian I wanted to be was not the type that most of us think about — the family pet’s doctor, who is there with you from puppy or kitten-hood until your beloved companion takes his or her final breaths. That was not where I belonged.

I wanted to be the invisible person who takes care of your beloved companion when they are lost, the person who nurtures your pet until you can be reunited again. I also wanted to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship that you have with your newly adopted friend. I wanted to be the person that helped bring you together so that you can share and support one another through the ups and downs that come your way over the years of your lives together.

Most people don’t know that shelter veterinarians exist or what their role entails, but I wanted to become one as I saw it as a place that I could make a significant impact on the lives of thousands of animals (and people) every year.

When I graduated from veterinary school at UC Davis’ world renowned School of Veterinary Medicine, I set out to bring my dreams to fruition. And I have!

I invite you to jump on and take a ride with me on the roller coaster that is shelter medicine!

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