Why Bringing Your Cat to the Vet Is Like an Alien Abduction…

A cat looks scared by a UFO and aliens
“Take me to your leader … so I can scratch their eyes out.”

…And What You Can Do to Help

After a decade in practice, I’m thankful I’ve only had to go the hospital for a cat bite once. Since then, I’ve gained a lot of experience and understanding of the feline psyche, and my best summation of how cats perceive going to the vet is this: It’s an alien abduction.

Think about it. For the most part, cats live their whole lives in a relatively small area, and an overwhelming majority of them love it that way.

The most important aspect of a cat’s life is their territory (which includes you). Their territory is their world, their home planet.

Most cats rarely travel in cars and only ever see a travel carrier when they are headed to the vet. Imagine, you’re living your life on your home planet, then you are forced into a pod, and thrust into a metal vessel, and taken to a faraway place that smells aseptic and strange. While there, a weird, hairless ape pokes and prods you. Then, you are thrust back into the pod, whisked home, and your owner acts like nothing happened.

I’m honestly surprised more cats haven’t attacked me. I’d like to think I’d put up a fight too, if I was abducted by aliens. However, maybe if they had a nice spread out and some calming aromatherapy, I’d be amenable to some polite questioning.

Making the Vet Visit as Low Stress as Possible

So that’s what we try to do for your feline family members. Here at Medical District Veterinary Clinic, we are Fear Free Certified. This means all the staff members here have taken training in how to make the veterinary experience as low stress as possible.

We have cat treats at the ready, Feliway spray aplenty, and a separate cat area. We also have gone to great lengths to learn how cats think and how to read their body language. We understand what’s important to them.

Cats often get a bad rap. People think that cats are aloof and don’t care about anything, but cats care about everything! Please know that we are doing our best to be peaceful and compassionate alien overlords.

Try This at Home

There are a few things you can do as well to make the trip to the vet a little less stressful. The first is getting your furry felines accustomed to the carriers you use to take them places.

Just bringing the carrier out before a vet visit can be a trigger. If you’re able to leave the carriers out, put your cat’s favorite treats or toys in there. This small step can help greatly to reduce your cat’s aversion to the carrier.

You can also try using products like Feliway spray, Composure treats for cats, or Rescue Remedy. If you think your kitty needs something stronger, talk to us and we may prescribe medications to help make the visit less stressful. For more information about eliminating the stress in your cat’s life, The Ohio State University Veterinary College has a wonderful site call the Indoor Pet Initiative with information about dogs and cats.

So remember, next time Fluffy’s wellness exam comes around, you may be envisioning All Creatures Great and Small, but they may be thinking more Schwarzenegger in Predator.

—Alyssa Kritzman, DVM

FAQs on CCL: Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Dogs

a dog jumps in the  air at a park
Although a traumatic injury can cause a CCL rupture in dogs, rupture is thought to be the result of degeneration of the ligament over time, is most likely to occur through normal activity.

I frequently speak with pet owners whose dog has a suspected CCL injury. Here are the most common questions these owners have.

What is a CCL (cranial cruciate ligament)?

The cranial cruciate ligament is a ligament inside the knee of dogs that provides stability of the knee when a dog runs and walks. This ligament is very similar to the anterior cruciate ligament (known as the ACL) in people. These ligaments in dogs and people have nearly identical anatomy but different names because dogs walk on four limbs and people on two. CCL ligaments are only found in dogs’ back legs.

How is an injury to this ligament diagnosed?

In most cases, dogs present to the veterinary clinic with a back leg lameness or limp. Veterinarians will examine the dog, trying to isolate the source of pain. Veterinarians use two techniques to test the stability of the knee: cranial tibial thrust and cranial drawer. If there is thrust and/or drawer present in a dog’s knee, this indicates there is a CCL injury. X-rays are often recommended to help rule out any other causes of pain or lameness, but the ligament itself cannot be seen on x-rays. There are some x-ray findings that make veterinarians suspicious of underlying CCL injury, but true diagnosis is made from physical exam and laxity in the knee joint.

How did this rupture happen?

In dogs, cranial cruciate ligament injury and/or rupture is thought to be due to degeneration of the ligament over time. Unlike people, where a traumatic injury – often sports-related – causes ACL injuries, in dogs the cause is usually degeneration, which leads to injury or even rupture through normal activity. Although a traumatic injury can cause a CCL rupture in dogs, it is less common.

What can we do to help our dog feel better?

When a dog experiences a CCL injury, anti-inflammatory pain medications and rest are recommended. Human pain medications are not safe for dogs, so be sure to consult your veterinarian to discuss appropriate medications for your dog. In addition to rest and medications, surgery is the gold standard for treatment of a CCL injury. Various surgical techniques are available, and your veterinarian will discuss the best option for your dog.

How much does surgery cost?

I recommend that owners see a board-certified surgeon for their pet’s orthopedic surgery. These veterinarians have had additional training to specialize in advanced surgical techniques. As previously mentioned, there are multiple different surgical stabilization techniques for CCL injuries. The most-performed technique in the Chicago area is the Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO). These procedures cost between $4,000 to $6,000 in Chicagoland.

Can we use a brace like in humans?

Unfortunately, braces and/or wraps are typically not beneficial in dogs. This is because dogs walk on their tiptoes, so their knee is always bent. (Try it: If you stand on your tiptoes, your knee will be bent too). We humans walk flat-footed, so our weight can transfer from our hip to heel. Since this weight transfer cannot occur in dogs, braces are ineffective.

What if surgery is not an option?

In many cases, surgery is not financially feasible, or it may not be in the best interest of the dog due to other underlying health issues. In these cases, I recommend multi-modal therapy. This includes strict rest for 4 to 8 weeks, long-term non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), high-quality omega-3 supplements, and glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, along with weight loss. After the period of rest, physical therapy can be very beneficial as well.

With time, the knee will stabilize, but with the stabilization comes more arthritis formation. The body develops arthritis to try to stabilize the knee joint. Surgery on the knee reduces instability, so the body does not form as much arthritis in that joint. However, even with arthritis, dogs are able to compensate well. Many dogs do well without surgery, although the injured leg may always cause some discomfort. The dogs that typically do not do well without surgery are very large dogs that already have joint disease, such as advanced hip dysplasia.

One exception to the surgery rule is toy breed dogs and cats. We do not commonly see CCL injuries in these pets, but when we do, they typically do really well with cage rest and medications and surgery is not often needed.

What about the other leg?

Unfortunately, over 50% of dogs will rupture their other CCL within a year of the first rupture. This can be explained by the fact that both ligaments are typically degenerating at a similar rate. I like to always warn owners of this because they may be faced with the decision to pursue surgery again soon.

How can we prevent a CCL injury?

Unfortunately, there seems to be a hereditary component. We do not have a good method of determining which dogs that will have CCL injuries in their life. However, maintaining an ideal weight is key to joint health. I would also recommend considering pet insurance prior to any issues. Insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, so don’t wait until your pet starts limping. I have seen CCL injuries in dogs as young as 6 months old, but most commonly we see them in medium to large breed, active, overweight dogs aged 2 to 6 years old.

Dr. Drew Sullivan

Holiday Toxicities

Para leer el blog en español, haga clic aquí

Featured above are pets of veterinary students from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
Arriba se muestran mascotas de los estudiantes de la University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

The end of summer can leave individuals with mixed feelings. Yes, it means the end of pool parties and summer BBQs, but it’s the start of sweater weather, pumpkin spice, and the holiday season. And with that comes family gatherings and, most important, sweet treats and great food!

Halloween and Chocolate

First on our list is the all-time favorite holiday of most kids (and many adults), Halloween. Not only do you get to dress yourself and your pets up as silly characters, but you can eat all of the candy in the world and not be judged.

That comes with a few responsibilities though. As many of you might or might not know, chocolate can be highly toxic to dogs and cats when ingested. How exactly can chocolate affect your pet, you may ask? Chocolate contains a toxin called theobromine, which animals can be very sensitive to because they cannot metabolize it as well as people can.

The amount of theobromine varies by the type of chocolate consumed. For example, baking chocolate contains more theobromine than milk chocolate, which contains more theobromine than white chocolate. In mild cases you may see signs of stomach upset like vomiting, diarrhea, and inappetence. More severe signs include seizures, panting, restlessness, nervousness, and twitching.

Regardless of the amount and type of chocolate consumed by your pet, it is important to reach out to either your local veterinarian or animal poison control. These resources can guide you to your next step to assure your pet stays safe and healthy.

Xylitol

An ingredient that can be harmful and even lethal to pets is called xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that can be found in many sugar-free candies, gum, mints, vitamin gummies, baked goods, etc.

Animal poison control (fees apply)
can be reached at:

ASPCA National Animal
Poison Control Center:
888-426 4435
Pet Poison Helpline: 800-213-6680

Fun fact: toothpaste can also contain xylitol due to its flavor and antibacterial properties. This sugar substitute can be lethal in as little as an hour if a large amount is consumed by your dog. Xylitol consumption can lead to hypoglycemia, which can cause vomiting, weakness, incoordination, tremors, and ultimately seizures. It can also lead to liver failure due to excessive insulin release.

When in doubt and your pet gets a hold of and consumes something that you suspect contains xylitol in it, it is important to note the amount ingested and take your pet along with the original packaging to your local veterinarian for further treatment. You can also contact poison control for further recommendations.

Holiday Feasts

Turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and my all-time favorite tamales. Now we’re getting into the food-filled holidays, which are my personal favorites. With some of our favorite dishes come some ingredients that aren’t the best for our furry friends. Onions, garlic, and chives give many dishes the extra taste they need.

These savory additions can be harmful to our pets if ingested in a large quantity, even in dried, powdered, or cooked forms. The first signs that something is wrong are vomiting, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, and abdominal pain. More severe signs can take several days, but you can see increased heart and respiratory rate/effort, weakness, discolored urine, collapse, kidney damage, and even death.

These ill effects arise from oxidizing agents in onions and garlic, which cause oxidative hemolysis, meaning the destruction of red blood cells. We need red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. If these blood cells are destroyed, vital organs cannot get enough oxygen. Early treatment can decrease the risk for serious effects, so if you suspect your pet has ingested something they shouldn’t have, contact your local veterinarian or poison control center.

It is also important to note that although ham off the bone is a delicacy during the holidays, feeding your domestic pet raw bones can be very dangerous. Bones can be a choking hazard and there is risk of injury if the bone splinters and becomes lodged or punctures your pet’s digestive tract. A foreign body surgery is a medical emergency!

High-Fat Foods

Now I won’t get into Christmas yet. I’ll save that for a later post. What I will mention is—yes, you guessed it!—pancreatitis.
What exactly is pancreatitis? Well, it’s inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a small organ that is located just under the stomach and near the duodenum (a part of the small intestine). Its main job is to secrete digestive enzymes that help break down the nutrients in the foods we eat. It also secretes insulin and glucagon which help regulate the usage of those nutrients.

How do our pets get pancreatitis? A sudden meal high in fat is one of the classic presentations. Be sure to put all your holiday leftovers away in a place your pets cannot reach them, or they can get pancreatitis if they ingest a large amount of fatty foods. Other causes of pancreatitis include hormonal imbalances like diabetes mellitus and hypothyroidism, as well as certain drugs, pancreatic trauma, tumors, and obesity.

When there is inflammation of the pancreas, clinical signs that you may see in your pets include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. If you suspect your pet might have gotten into food they shouldn’t have and notice any of the clinical signs mentioned above, reach out to your local veterinarian for further recommendations/treatment.

– Dr. Angelica Calderon

Toxicidades de Mascotas en Los Días Festivos

Read the blog in English

Llegar al final del verano puede tener personas con diferentes sentimientos. Sí, al terminal el verano significa el final de las fiestas en la piscina y las carnes asadas; sin embargo, es el comienzo del clima de suéter, pumpkin spice y los días festivos. Y con eso vienen las reuniones familiares y lo más importante, los dulces y la excelente comida!

Halloween y chocolate

Lo primero en nuestra lista es el día festivo favorito de la mayoría de los niños (y muchos adultos), Halloween. No solo puedes vestirte a ti y a tus mascotas como personajes chistosos, sino que también puedes comer todos los dulces del mundo y no ser juzgado.

Sin embargo, eso conlleva algunas responsabilidades. Como muchos de ustedes saben, el chocolate puede ser altamente tóxico para perros y gatos cuando se ingiere. Cómo puede afectar exactamente a su mascota? Bueno, la toxina del chocolate que puede afectar a perros y gatos se llama teobromina, a la que los animales pueden ser muy sensibles porque no pueden metabolizarla tan bien como las personas pueden.

La cantidad de teobromina varía según el tipo de chocolate consumido. Por ejemplo, el chocolate para hornear contiene más teobromina que el chocolate con leche, que contiene más teobromina que el chocolate blanco. En casos leves, puede ver signos de malestar estomacal como vómitos, diarrea e inapetencia. Los signos más graves incluyen convulsiones, jadeo, inquietud, nerviosismo y espasmos.

Independientemente de la cantidad y el tipo de chocolate que consuma su mascota, es importante que se comunique con su veterinario local o con el centro de control de envenenamiento, donde podrán guiarlo mejor hacia el siguiente paso para garantizar que su mascota se mantenga segura y saludable.

El xilitol

Un ingrediente que puede ser dañino e incluso letal para las mascotas se llama xilitol. El xilitol es un sustituto del azúcar que se puede encontrar en muchos dulces que dicen “sugar free”, goma de mascar/chicles, mentas, vitamínicas en goma, galletas, etc.

Centro Nacional de Control de
Envenenamiento Animal de ASPCA:

888-426 4435

Línea de ayuda para
envenenamiento de mascotas:

800-213-6680

Dato curioso: la pasta de dientes también puede contener xilitol debido a su sabor y propiedades antibacterianas. Este sustituto del azúcar puede ser letal en tan solo una hora si su perro consume una gran cantidad. El consumo de xilitol puede provocar hipoglucemia que puede causar vómitos, debilidad, falta de coordinación, temblores, y convulsiones. También puede provocar insuficiencia hepática debido a la liberación excesiva de insulina.

En caso de duda y su mascota se apodera y consume algo que sospecha que contiene xilitol, es importante anotar lacantidad ingerida y llevar a su mascota junto con el empaque original a su veterinario local para recibir tratamiento. También puede comunicarse con el control de envenenamiento para obtener más recomendaciones.

Los días festivos llenos de comida

Pavo, jamón, relleno, puré de papas, macarrones con queso y mi favorito, tamales. Ahora estamos entrando en los días festivos llenos de comida. Con nuestros platillos favoritos vienen algunos ingredientes que no son los mejores para nuestras mascotas. Las cebollas, el ajo y las pasas son unos ingredientes principales en muchos platillos que les dan el último toque de sabor a nuestra comida.

Estos pueden ser dañinos para nuestras mascotas si se ingieren en gran cantidad, incluso en forma seca, en polvo o cocida. Los primeros signos que puede notar son vómito, diarrea, gastroenteritis y dolor abdominal. Los signos más graves pueden tardar varios días, pero puede observar un aumento de la frecuencia/esfuerzo cardíaco y respiratorio, debilidad, orina descolorida, colapso, daño renal e incluso la muerte.

Esto sucede porque contienen agentes oxidantes que provocan hemólisis oxidativa, lo que significa destrucción de los glóbulos rojos. Necesitamos glóbulos rojos para transportar oxígeno por todo el cuerpo y, si se destruyen, los órganos vitales no pueden obtener suficiente oxígeno. El tratamiento temprano puede disminuir el riesgo de efectos graves, por lo que si sospecha que su mascota ha ingerido algo que no debería, comuníquese con su veterinario local o con el control de envenenamiento.

También es importante tomar en cuenta que aunque el jamón es plato muy común en los días festivos, alimentar a tu mascota con huesos crudos puede ser muy peligroso. Esto puede ser un peligro de asfixia y existe el riesgo de lesiones si el hueso se astilla y se atasca o perfora el tracto digestivo de su mascota. Una cirugía para remover un hueso del estómago o intestinos es una emergencia médica!

Otras comidas que debe evitar alimentar a sus mascotas

Una comida con mucha grasa

Ahora no entraré en Navidad todavía, lo guardaré para otro blog. Lo que mencionaré es, sí lo adivinaste, pancreatitis.

Puede preguntarse qué es exactamente la pancreatitis, bueno, es la inflamación del páncreas. El páncreas es un órgano pequeño que se encuentra justo debajo del estómago y cerca del duodeno (una parte del intestino delgado). Su trabajo principal es secretar enzimas digestivas que ayudan a descomponer los nutrientes de los alimentos que comemos. También secreta insulina y glucagón que ayudan a regular el uso de esos nutrientes.

Cómo contraen pancreatitis nuestras mascotas? Pues, una comida repentina con mucha grasa es una de las presentaciones clásicas. Asegúrese de guardar todas las sobras de las fiestas en un lugar donde sus mascotas no puedan alcanzarlas, o pueden contraer pancreatitis si ingieren una gran cantidad de alimentos grasos. Otras causas de pancreatitis incluyen desequilibrios hormonales como diabetes mellitus e hipotiroidismo, ciertos medicamentos, trauma pancreático, tumores y obesidad.

Cuando hay inflamación del páncreas, los signos clínicos que puede ver en sus mascotas incluyen dolor abdominal, pérdida de apetito, vómitos, diarrea y fiebre. Si sospecha que su mascota pudo haber ingerido alimentos que no debería y nota cualquiera de los signos clínicos mencionados anteriormente, comuníquese con su veterinario local para obtener más recomendaciones/tratamiento.

– Dr. Angelica Calderon

Fleas and Ticks Beyond Summer

As cooler weather arrives, resist the urge to skip you pet’s monthly dose of preventive medication against fleas and ticks.

Summer is winding down, and soon we’ll be able to enjoy cooler autumn weather. Along with the cooler weather comes the misconception that our pets no longer need their monthly flea and tick prevention.

Although it’s true that a lot of tick species are most active in the summer, there are some species of ticks that remain active in the fall in Illinois. Likewise, flea season in Illinois can last well into the winter. In fact, flea and tick infestations are most frequently encountered in September through November. Without the protection of monthly prevention, fleas and ticks can cause a variety of health issues for our pets.

Fleas

Our pets can get fleas from just about anywhere, including from other animals, outdoors, and even an indoor environment if the fleas hitch a ride from the outside on shoes. Fleas can cause itching and discomfort, and if your pet is allergic to fleas, they can develop flea allergy dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis causes intense itching, severe discomfort, hair loss, and secondary skin infections. In severe flea infestations, our pets can develop anemia secondary to blood loss from the fleas feeding. Finally, fleas also put our pets at risk for intestinal parasites called tapeworms, and Bartonella, a bacterial infection that may cause severe disease and require up to 6 weeks of treatment.

Ticks

Ticks can attach during walks, hikes, or any outdoor activity. This is especially true in wooded areas or places with tall grasses. Ticks can carry Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, and Babesiosis along with other bacterial and protozoal diseases. A variety of clinical signs can develop from these diseases, including swollen joints and lymph nodes, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. In severe cases, pets can develop heart and liver disease and kidney failure.

In addition to the health issues fleas and ticks cause for our pets, they can also infest your household. Clearing your household of these infestations can be labor-intensive, costly, and may take weeks to months to be fully effective.

So, as we approach the cooler months, keep your pets healthy and safe and resist the urge to skip that next monthly dose of their flea and tick prevention.

Dr. Jeanette Barragan

Photo by Tim Golder on Unsplash

Tips to Get You and Your Pet Through Fireworks

sad dog with fireworks over the Chicago skyline in the background

Summer is here and full of celebrations, but these celebrations can induce high stress and anxiety in our pets! With fireworks ramping up, it is important to recognize the signs of anxiety and be prepared.  

Here are some tips on how to get through firework season:

Create a Safe Space

  • Pets usually do better if they are not left home alone during fireworks events. This may not be possible, so creating a safe space is important!
  • Keep windows, doors, and curtains closed to minimize the noise and light.
  • Consider a white noise machine for the area they like to hide.
    • White noise or classical music is preferred over radio and TV as human voices or loud sounds can worsen anxiety.
    • “Through a Dog’s Ear” is a series of classical selections that has been shown to have calming effects on dogs. This is available on Spotify and Apple Music!
  • Add pheromones (Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs) around the safe space.
    • Pheromones mimic the calming scent of the mother and have been found to decrease anxiety in cats and dogs.

Extra Exercise

  • Play with their favorite toys or go on a longer walk to help tire them out.
  • If possible, head out for the long walk before the sun sets.
  • Double-check the fit of the collar and harness before going outside as the chances of loud noises scaring them off is much higher.

Encourage Hydration

  • Fear makes dogs pant and summer is extra warm, so make sure to provide fresh water in multiple spots, particularly if they like to hide.

Calming Supplements and Sedatives

  • If your pet has had bad reactions to fireworks or other noises in the past, reach out to discuss available supplements or sedatives to help keep them calm!

Signs of anxiety can include shaking, panting, drooling, excessive vocalizing, hiding, packing, and bolting. Escape attempts usually involve hiding in the home but the source of noise can be very confusing, so some dogs may want to escape to the outside. In fact, American pet advocacy groups point out that Independence Day is the busiest day of the year in shelters with pets getting lost or hurt. 

Tags and Microchips

  • 1 in 3 pets go missing in their lifetime. Ensure they are wearing a collar tag and microchip with up-to-date information.
  • Don’t know your pet’s unique microchip number? Check your veterinary or adoption paperwork or call a nearby shelter or veterinarian to have your pet scanned!
  • If you do not know the brand of the microchip, visit the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Universal Pet Microchip Lookup to find the manufacturer so you can contact them to provide accurate contact information. 

And remember, firework debris can be present the morning after – and can be toxic! Watch out for debris and other items on the ground.

Lastly, Medical District Veterinary Clinic will be closed in observance of Independence Day on Monday, July 4, so please make sure to note the number and address to the closest emergency clinic.

We wish you and your beloved companions a happy and stress-free holiday!

Dr. Valbuena

Around the World with Fluffy and Fido

As most of us start returning to normal (well, at least a “new” normal), a lot of us are starting to make plans for new adventures to new places. For those of you who want to take your furry family members, your first thoughts may be about what size carrier you will need, or if your pets will need something to calm their nerves. But first and foremost, you should familiarize with yourself with this website:

https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel

That’s because the almost every animal that crosses international borders needs approval from the federal government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to be specific. Each nation on the planet has its own set of requirements for an animal to enter that country, and a USDA-certified veterinarian needs to sign off that your pet has met those requirements.

This process can be as simple as keeping a rabies vaccine up to date (Germany) or as complicated as sending blood samples across the globe to be tested for certain diseases well before their little paws get anywhere near the airport (South Africa). It can sometimes take months of preparation (Hawaii and Australia), or strict time frames that require multiple pet visits (England).

Luckily, all the doctors at the Medical District Veterinary Clinic have USDA certification to complete these health certificates, and we can help guide you through the process making sure you cat or dog can safely travel.

But there are a few things that we ask of you:

  1. Notify our clinic as soon as you have any inclination that you may want to travel with your pet. This process is T-E-D-I-O-U-S, it takes a lot of our time to ensure that your pet has everything it needs, and especially if you have let your pet become overdue for vaccines, it can add months to prepare your pet for travel.
  2. Understand that this can be costly. It takes a lot of people and time to ensure that your pet qualifies to travel. The bureaucracy can be very frustrating, but remember that it is in place to ensure the same transport for not only your pet, but for the public as a whole. Plus, some countries require tests that can cost several hundred dollars (Aloha, Hawaii and Australia!).
  3. Plan to do some legwork on your own. Since COVID, the USDA APHIS office has gone digital in many ways. All paperwork has to be submitted electronically and then mailed back to you. That means you’ll have to provide a rabies certificate (if we haven’t vaccinated your pet) and a pre-paid shipping label in PDF form to be digitally submitted.

Finally, if all of this makes you go cross-eyed, there are companies that will help you through this whole process. They can make your life and ours a lot easier too.

Happy travels and, before I sign off, I’d like to say “Welcome!” to our new doctors, Dr. Valbuena, Dr. Barragan, and Dr. Calderon! I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to work with these exceptional veterinarians.

— Dr. Alyssa Kritzman

Welcome, Dr. Barragan!

The Medical District Veterinary Clinic is excited to introduce Dr. Jeanette Barragan, who joins our practice on June 15. Dr. Barragan has lived on the southwest side of Chicago her whole life – except for the nine years she attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for a bachelor’s degree in integrated biology, a minor in chemistry, and to earn her veterinary degree.

For the past two years she has practiced in a Naperville clinic, and she is looking forward to becoming part of the care team at the Medical District Veterinary Clinic.

“I have actually been bringing my own cats to the Medical District Veterinary Clinic since before I entered my veterinary studies,” she says. “I was always impressed by the friendly staff and the high standards of care the doctors provided.”

My focus as a practitioner is to provide outstanding preventative and medical care, and to develop lifelong relationships with my patients and their families.

Dr. Jeanette Barragan

The collaborative atmosphere of a multi-doctor practice will be a welcome change for Dr. Barragan, who has been the sole veterinarian at the clinic in Naperville. She’s also eager to see a more diverse clientele at the Harrison Street location, which will reflect the neighborhood she grew up in.

“My focus as a practitioner is to provide outstanding preventative and medical care, and to develop lifelong relationships with my patients and their families,” she says. “My goal is to build trust with pet owners by ensuring the best experience for them. That means offering a variety of treatment options and supporting my clients as they choose what’s right for their family.”

Dr. Barragan’s dream of becoming a veterinarian started when she was just a child. As she pursued this goal, she realized that community outreach and serving pet owners without access to quality veterinary care was something she wanted to incorporate into her professional life. She also hopes to get involved at animal shelters in her time away from the clinic.

Her own pet family currently consists of three cats: Mia, Finn, and Dory. “Of course, I love caring for all dogs and cats, but I am partial to cats,” she admits.

COVID and Pets: An Update from the Frontline

dog lying on bed with box of tissues
We believe that transmission to pets is from contact with a positive human within the household. Transmission from pets to humans is considered extremely low. The occurrence of severe illness in pets is rare.

After two long years of this pandemic, we still do not know much about pets and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), but over the last few months I have learned a lot. I am writing this blog as I am isolated in my basement with COVID-19. I am thankful for the protection I have received from vaccines as I am only experiencing very mild signs.

I hope to tell you what I have learned working firsthand with the first Illinois COVID positive dog over the past few months. According to the USDA there have only been 39 Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) positive dogs within the United States. The first dog in Illinois confirmed to be positive was a patient at Medical District Veterinary Clinic and was first tested in January 2022. He was positive on PCR, and viral sequencing information was obtained at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

Since that time, I have had multiple other patients that are presumptive positives. A presumptive positive is when there is detection on a PCR test, but it is not confirmed positive with either virus sequencing or evidence of virus neutralizing antibodies. Obtaining sequencing data is challenging, most likely because the dogs have low viral load and very mild clinical signs.

Transmission

We believe that transmission to pets is from contact with a positive human within the household. Transmission from pets to humans is considered extremely low. Due to the risk of transmission to pets, the CDC recommend avoiding close contact with pets if you are ill. The occurrence of severe illness in pets is rare, but transmission is possible. Pets presumed positive should remain isolated from other pets until clinical signs have resolved.

Clinical Signs

It is important to remember this is a human pandemic. We know that by comparing the large number of human cases of COVID 19 and the very few cases documented in pets.

I truly believe that most pets do not acquire the virus. If they do, they are typically asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. The clinical signs I observed in these presumptive positive cases were upper respiratory signs: nasal congestion, sneezing, reverse sneezing, and gag-like cough. These signs were odd and did not fit with classic tracheobronchitis (canine cough). When I examined these dogs, they did not cough when I touched their neck to palpate their trachea, which is the typical response during a physical exam when the patient has classic canine cough.

We have seen patients with clinical signs suspected to be secondary to SARS-CoV-2 in the past 2 to 4 weeks.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no approved or documented treatment for COVID in dogs or cats, but in most cases, they do not need treatment. For those pets with more severe clinical signs, I have found that corticosteroids seem to provide the most relief. The brachycephalic breeds seem to have more nasal congestion and difficulty breathing. In these pets, I have started anti-inflammatory doses of steroids and they seem to respond well.

In a few of these cases, chronic rhinitis (irritation/swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose) and sneezing has lasted for weeks to months. Home care for pets is similar to home care for most human COVID-19 cases. The virus needs to run its course. Be sure your pets continue to eat and drink. You can also put the pets in the bathroom with the shower running; the warm humid air can be soothing for the upper airway.

Testing

SARS-CoV-2 testing is not widely available for dogs or cats, but most large veterinary laboratories are offering PCR testing. Antibody testing is not widely available at present. If you feel you dog or cat has signs of SARS-CoV-2 after exposure to an infected person, I recommend contacting your veterinarian.

If you are a client at Medical District Veterinary Clinic, feel free to reach out to me and I may be able to assist in testing as I am collaborating with Dr. Ying Fang, a virologist, at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

– Dr. Drew Sullivan

What Does Earning a DVM (Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine) Entail?

Should I go to veterinary school? Although there’s no right or wrong answer, if it’s something that you’ve always dreamed about, if you have passion and drive and can’t see yourself doing anything else because that is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do since you were little, then the answer is ABSOLUTELY.

Yes, it will be hard. Yes, it will be exhausting at times. And yes, you will have to give it your absolute all, but I promise that after all of that hard work, it will be one of your proudest moments when you finally say, “I did it, I AM a veterinarian.”

School, School, and More School

Now, of course, having passion and drive is great, but how do you really get there? Well, if I count the number of years that I have spent in school (starting from my very first day in kindergarten; yes, that counts too!), it would be about 4/5ths of my life. To be exact, I have spent 22 years at an educational institution of some sort.

Supe que quería ser veterinaria desde muy joven, por eso decidí asistir a la Escuela Secundaria de Ciencias Agricultural de Chicago.

Dra. Angélica Calderón

Let’s take this way back. Now that you got through elementary school and graduated high school, you need to go to college and complete various prerequisites needed for veterinary school. (Prerequisites include the dreaded subjects of physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, anatomy, and biochemistry, just to name a few). Every veterinary school is different so it is important to keep up with the admissions websites and keep track of what is required for their application process.

There is no specific major required, as long as all of the prerequisites for the veterinary school you are applying to are met. And finally, the GRE—the Graduate Record Examination—is required for most veterinary schools. The GRE tests students on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills.

Although getting good grades is very important and obtaining a high GRE score will certainly be very appealing to the admissions committee, the application process entails much more.

Grades Aren’t Everything

Yes, you heard that right. Let’s just say that you don’t have to be #1 in your class to get into veterinary school. During the application process, experience, extracurricular activities, and most important letters of recommendations are aspects that can be of great value. It is very important to start working on these parts of the application very early.

I knew that I wanted to be a veterinarian at a very young age. That is why I decided to attend the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Did you know they have one of the last standing farms in Chicago? I was fortunate enough to take animal science at CHSAS for two years and even attended veterinary camp at Michigan State University with my class. My animal science teacher was actually a U of I veterinary graduate, and she wrote one of my letters of recommendation.

During my time in college at the University of Illinois-Chicago, I was part of a club called ASB (Alternative Spring Break), where we traveled to various states and participated in volunteer projects. I traveled to Kentucky on two separate occasions. The first trip was to Independence, Ky., where I worked with the Milestones Equestrian Achievement Program. There I learned and cared for their horses and assisted in their equestrian program. The second trip was to Mammoth Cave, Ky., where I was able to cave dive and count bats as they were undergoing a bottleneck due to poor water conditions from local landfills. I was also able to test the water from various caves and educate elementary school students on the importance of keeping local waters clean, as water quality has a big impact on local animal populations.

My favorite trip was to Emerald Coast Zoo in Crestwood, Fla., where I was able to help a very passionate family restore an old zoo they had purchased. During my time at UIC, I also worked at Archer Animal Hospital for two years where I had various duties, as I was one of only two employees in the whole clinic. Working alongside Dr. Vinu made my passion for veterinary medicine even greater.

As you can see it is important to start early, not only with the educational requirements for veterinary school but also with animal experiences and resources for letters of recommendation. In high school I was able to get farm animal experience, during college I was able to get exotic animal experience, and while working as a veterinary assistant I was able to get small animal experience. All of these experiences also led me to great resources for letters of recommendation.

Finally Got into Veterinary School!!! Now what?

If that sounded hard and complicated, well, that was the easy part.

You got into veterinary school. Congratulations! Now things are going to get interesting. Different schools have different curriculums, but I’ll talk about my experience. First year was quite tough for me. It was a new experience being away from home and there was so much information to absorb.

First year consisted of learning the “normals” for various species, second year consisted of learning the “abnormals” of various species, and third year was clinical applications and putting the big picture together.

As a veterinary student, Dr. Calderon spent time at Medical District Veterinary Clinic and even worked here during her breaks from school.
Read more about her.

Not only did we have to learn anatomy, physiology, neurology, pharmacology, oncology, ophthalmology, and all the other “ology’s” you can think of, but we had to learn them for various species. That not only included cats and dogs, but also horses, cows, chickens, other farm animals, exotic animals like reptiles, guinea pigs, rabbits, pet birds, etc.

Fourth year was my favorite year in veterinary school, apart from having to take the NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licensing Exam), which is the veterinary national boards exam required to get licensed to practice veterinary medicine. Things finally made sense and I was putting all of my hard work into practice. Everything that I had studied and learned paid off, and it was the best feeling ever. I was finally a veterinarian.

A Beautiful Career

I always knew that I wanted to work in small animal primary care, which is why I decided to start working after graduation. However, that’s not the case for everyone. Some of my classmates have a passion for exotic animals or want to specialize after graduation. That calls for additional schooling. Not only do they have to do a rotating internship, but they also have to do a three-year residency and take another board exam to become a specialist. That’s another 4+ years of school, but I won’t get into those details.

Veterinary medicine is a very beautiful and rewarding career. It takes a lot of work, motivation, passion and drive to get to the finish line, but with the right mindset, anything can be accomplished.

– Dr. Angelica Calderon

Welcome, Dr. Calderon!

Dr. Calderon celebrated entering her final year of veterinary college after the White Coat Ceremony.

Dr. Angélica Calderón has been a proud U of I student ever since attending the University of Illinois at Chicago and obtaining her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and psychology. She went on to attend the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Urbana-Champaign to obtain her doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Born and raised in Chicago—and not scared away by the snow (yet)—she is excited to practice veterinary medicine at the Medical District Veterinary Clinic starting June 15.

Dr. Calderón spent a week learning at our clinic when she was a first-year veterinary student and later worked here as an assistant on her spring and winter breaks during veterinary school.

“I loved everyone at the clinic so much,” she says. “I knew that was where I wanted to practice once I graduated from veterinary school.”

As she starts her veterinary career, Dr. Calderón proudly states, “This is a very exciting time in my life. I’m living the dream I had always wished for and want to make a difference in the lives of many pets out there.”

She has a passion for small animal medicine and is very interested in small animal dentistry and imaging, including ultrasonography and radiology. In veterinary school she volunteered at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, and she also has an interest in small exotic companion animals.

“I’m very excited to start my career and see where life takes me,” she says.

Dr. Calderon with just a few of the furry, finned, or feathery friends she shares her home with.

In her free time Dr. Calderón enjoys spending time with her family and significant other. “It has been very hard to be away from them for the past four years since starting veterinary school,” she says.

She also enjoys cuddling next to her various fur babies (Daisy, Wendy, Simba, Mickey, Nino, Princess, and Bebe).

“They’re all chihuahuas, so it’s basically one large dog,” she jokes.

And if seven chihuahuas wasn’t enough, she also cares for various other pets, including Sparky, a red Amazon parrot; Cotorrito, a Quaker parrot; two cockatiels; four parakeets; and a 20-gallon fish tank filled with mollies, guppies, snails, ghost shrimp, and an albino catfish. When she’s not at her personal home zoo, she’s catching a baseball game or out enjoying the city.

Dra. Angélica Calderón siempre ha sido una orgullosa estudiante de la Universidad de Illinois desde que asistió a la Universidad de Illinois en Chicago y recibió su bachillerato de Biología y Psicología, a asistir y graduarse del Colegió de Medicina Veterinaria de la Universidad de Illinois en Urbana Champaign.

Nacida y criada en Chicago, Illinois y no asustada por la nieve (todavía), se quedará en el área de Chicago para ejercer la carrera de medicina veterinaria en la Clínica Veterinaria del Distrito Médico. Ella visitó nuestra clínica en su primer año de ser estudiante, e incluso trabajó aquí como asistente en sus vacaciones de primavera e invierno.

“Quería tanto a todos en MDVC que sabía que era allí donde quería trabajar cuando me graduara de la escuela de veterinaria”.

Siendo una recién graduada y ahora comenzando su carrera veterinaria, Dra. Calderón dice con orgullo, “Este es un momento muy emocionante en mi vida. Estoy viviendo el sueño que siempre había deseado y quiero marcar la diferencia en la vida de muchas mascotas”.

Dra. Calderón cuidó un águila calva en la Wildlife Medical Clinic.

Dra. Calderón tiene una pasión por la medicina de animales pequeños y está muy interesada en la odontología y radiología incluidas la ultrasonografía. Mientras estaba en la escuela, fue voluntaria en la Wildlife Medical Clinic y desde ahí tuvo interés en los animales de compañía exóticos.

“Estoy muy emocionada de comenzar mi carrera y ver a dónde me lleva la vida”.

En su tiempo libre, disfruta pasar tiempo con su familia y su pareja, ya que ha sido “muy difícil estar lejos de ellos durante los últimos 4 años desde que comencé la escuela de veterinaria”.

También le gusta acurrucarse junto a sus varias mascotas (Daisy, Wendy, Simba, Mickey, Nino, Princess, Bebe) “todos son chihuahuas, así que básicamente es un perro grande”.

Y si eso no fuera suficiente, también cuida a varias otras mascotas, como Sparky un loro rojo del Amazonas, Cotorrito un loro cuáquero, dos cacatúas, 4 periquitos y una pecera de 20 galones llena de mollys, guppys, caracoles, camarones fantasma y un bagre albino. Si no está en el zoológico personal de su casa, está viendo un partido de béisbol o disfrutando de la bella ciudad de Chicago.