La Importancia de los Cultivos de Orina en las Infecciones del Tracto Urinario y Consejos Para Prevenir

grumpy cat in litter box

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Las infecciones del tracto urinario (ITU) son una preocupación común en la medicina veterinaria. Estas infecciones pueden causar una serie de síntomas incómodos y potencialmente graves en nuestras mascotas, incluyendo micción dolorosa, aumento de la frecuencia urinaria, y en casos más severos, fiebre y letargo. Aunque los síntomas pueden sugerir una ITU, otras condiciones, como las piedras en la vejiga o las enfermedades renales, pueden presentar síntomas similares. Por eso es crucial que la mascota sea examinada por su veterinario antes de empezar tratamiento.

Para diagnosticar y tratar eficazmente una ITU, uno de los pasos más críticos es realizar un cultivo de orine. Una vez que se identifica la bacteria causante, el cultivo de orine también suministra información crucial sobre qué antibióticos serán efectivos. Algunas bacterias pueden ser resistentes a ciertos antibióticos, y el uso de un medicamento ineficaz no solo retrasa la recuperación, sino que también puede contribuir a la resistencia bacteriana.

Infecciones Crónicas o Recurrentes

En algunos casos, las infecciones urinarias pueden ser crónicas o recurrentes. Esto es especialmente común en mascotas con condiciones que predisponen a las infecciones, como la diabetes o las anormalidades anatómicas del tracto urinario.

Para estos animales, se recomienda evaluación por un veterinario por lo menos dos veces al año. Es aun mas importante los cultivos de orine regulares para estos pacientes para monitorear la efectividad del tratamiento y ajustar la terapia según sea necesario. Esta vigilancia continua ayuda a prevenir complicaciones graves y a mantener la salud a largo plazo de la mascota.

Consejos Para Prevenir ITUs

  • Hidratación Adecuada: asegúrese que su mascota siempre tenga acceso a agua fresca y limpia. Nunca debe prevenir que su mascota tome más agua. Hidratación adecuada ayuda a eliminar las bacterias del tracto urinario.
  • Descansos Regulares para Orinar: Permite que tu perro orine con frecuencia. Retener la orina durante períodos prolongados puede promover el crecimiento bacteriano. La regla de las cajas de arena para los gatos es una caja por gato más una extra.
  • Dieta Adecuada: Una dieta equilibrada es importante para mantener la salud general y fortalecer el sistema inmunológico. Su veterinario puede aconsejar en una dieta para su mascota.
  • Higiene: Mantén limpia el área genital de tu perro. Los gatos son muy buenos en mantener su propria limpieza, pero pueden tener dificultades si están sobrepeso o si tiene artritis. Recorta el pelo alrededor del área genital para evitar que las bacterias se adhieran al pelaje. Limpia la parte trasera y luego la vulva después de ir al baño.
  • Mantener un Peso Saludable: Las mascotas con sobrepeso son más propensos a las ITUs. El ejercicio regular y una dieta adecuada pueden ayudar a mantener un peso saludable.
  • Monitorear los Síntomas: Observa los signos de una ITU, como micción frecuente, esfuerzo, sangre en la orina o comportamiento inusual. La detección y el tratamiento tempranos pueden prevenir problemas más graves.
  • Evitar el Estrés: El estrés puede debilitar el sistema inmunológico. Trata de minimizar las situaciones estresantes y proporciona un ambiente calmado y estable.

Y como nota final, vamos a estar cerrados el 19 de junio por Juneteenth. Regresamos de 7 am – 7 pm el próximo día.

Ana Valbuena (she/her/ella), DVM

Urinary Tract Infections: Why We Culture, Tips for Prevention

dog squatting in grass

Leer en español

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common concern in veterinary medicine. These infections can cause a range of uncomfortable and potentially serious symptoms in our pets, including painful urination, increased urinary frequency, and in more severe cases, fever and lethargy. Although symptoms may suggest a UTI, other conditions, such as bladder stones or kidney disease, can present similar symptoms. This is why it is crucial that the pet is examined by a veterinarian before starting treatment.

To diagnose and effectively treat a UTI, one of the most critical steps is performing a urine culture. Once the causative bacteria are identified, the urine culture also provides crucial information about which antibiotics will be effective. Some bacteria may be resistant to certain antibiotics, and using an ineffective medication not only delays recovery but can also contribute to bacterial resistance.

Chronic or Recurrent Infections

In some cases, urinary infections can be chronic or recurrent. This is especially common in pets with conditions that predispose them to infections, such as diabetes or anatomical abnormalities of the urinary tract.

For these animals, evaluation by a veterinarian at least twice a year is recommended. Regular urine cultures are even more important for these patients to monitor treatment effectiveness and adjust therapy as needed. This continuous monitoring helps prevent serious complications and maintain the long-term health of the pet.

Tips for Preventing UTIs

  • Adequate Hydration: Ensure your pet always has access to fresh, clean water. Never prevent your pet from drinking more water. Adequate hydration helps flush out bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Regular Bathroom Breaks: Allow your dog to urinate frequently. Holding urine for prolonged periods can promote bacterial growth. The rule for litter boxes for cats is one box per cat plus one extra.
  • Proper Diet: A balanced diet is important to maintain overall health and strengthen the immune system. Your veterinarian can advise on a diet for your pet.
  • Hygiene: Keep your dog’s genital area clean. Cats are very good at keeping themselves clean, but they may have difficulties if they are overweight or have arthritis. Trim the hair around the genital area to prevent bacteria from clinging to the fur. Wipe the rear and then the vulva after going to the bathroom.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Pets that are overweight are more prone to UTIs. Regular exercise and a proper diet can help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Monitor Symptoms: Watch for signs of a UTI, such as frequent urination, straining, blood in the urine, or unusual behavior. Early detection and treatment can prevent more serious problems.
  • Avoid Stress: Stress can weaken the immune system. Try to minimize stressful situations and provide a calm and stable environment.

And as a final note, we will be closed on June 19 for Juneteenth. We will be back from 7 am to 7 pm the next day.

Ana Valbuena (she/her/ella), DVM

Worms and Fleas and Ticks, Oh My!

Common External Parasites in Dogs: Fleas, Mites, Ticks; Common Internal Parasites in Dogs: Roundworm, Heartworm, Tapeworm

Our clinic is switching from Sentinel Spectrum to Interceptor Plus. So what does that mean for your pups?

To say that it can be confusing when it comes to knowing what preventative products your dog needs is a bit of an understatement. Does your pet really need this stuff? Is it just marketing? Is this a Coke vs Pepsi thing, or are there actual differences in these products?

It can be confusing even for us in the field trying to keep up with all the new options. That’s why we at Medical District Veterinary Clinic have curated a few products we believe in, so you don’t have to do all the research.

Here is what we have and why.

Product NameParasites CoveredProsCons
Heartworm/Intestinal Parasites
HeartgardHeartworm, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms+ Less expensive
+ Beef flavored soft chew
+ More palatable
– Does not cover tapeworms
Interceptor PlusHeartworm, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms+ More expansive coverage of intestinal parasites– Less economical than Heartgard
ProHeart 12Heartworm (for 1 year), hookworms, roundworms, whipworms+ One-time injection
+ About the same price as 12 months of Heartgard
– Hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm preventative only lasts for 1 month
Simparica TrioHeartworm, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, fleas, ticks+ Product closest to being an “all-in-one”
+ Less expensive than purchasing Heartgard and NexGard together
– Does not cover tapeworms
Frontline GoldFleas, ticks+ More economical than oral products
+ Topical (no concern with food sensitivities)
– Less effective against ticks than oral preventatives
– Topical (can be messy; need to keep pet away from children for a few hours after application)
NexGardFleas and ticks+ Works within hours
+ Soft chew
– More expensive than topicals
Simparica TrioSee aboveSee aboveSee above

So which products should you use for your dog? We recommend that all dogs are covered for heartworm, fleas, and ticks year-round, so here are a few combinations to consider:

  • Want the simplest way to have your pet covered? Simparica Trio
  • Want the most comprehensive coverage? NexGard and Interceptor Plus
  • Want to avoid any oral medications? Proheart 12 and Frontline Gold
  • Want the most economical year-round coverage? Heartgard and Frontline Gold

So why did we make the decision to transition away from Sentinel Spectrum and move to Interceptor Plus? Mostly to help keep costs down for you. Interceptor Plus is less expensive, and there is just a slight difference in that Interceptor Plus does not have Lufenuron, which stops the development of flea eggs. Lufenuron doesn’t kill adult fleas, so we recommend an additional flea preventative anyway.

If you are dead set on keeping your pup on Sentinel Spectrum, not a problem! We are happy to approve a prescription for you, as long as your pet is a current patient of ours and has an up-to-date heartworm test.

Dr. Alyssa Kritzman

Illustration from AdobeStock by Double Brain

Heart Murmurs in Dogs and Cats

Your veterinarian told you that your pet has a heart murmur, but what does that mean?

A heart murmur is an additional noise heard due to the abnormal flow of blood through the heart’s valves or chambers. This additional noise is then graded on a scale of 1 to 6 based on how loud the heart murmur is. A 1 means the softest and hardest to hear, and a 6 means the loudest.

How loud the heart murmur is does not necessarily correlate to the severity of heart disease. If your pet has a heart murmur, it is not an immediate cause for panic, but rather lets your veterinarian know that more investigation should be done to try and find the cause.

What Causes a Heart Murmur?

There are many causes of heart murmurs. Some heart murmurs are considered “innocent,” also termed “physiologic.” Other heart murmurs are a result of a disease, and these are known as “pathologic.” Pathologic heart murmurs can be caused by a structural problem with the heart or can be caused by disease not related to the heart itself, called functional heart murmurs.

Innocent Heart Murmurs

An innocent heart murmur means there is no heart disease that explains the presence of the heart murmur. In dogs, these murmurs occur most often in puppies. They can occur in cats of any age.

These murmurs are usually very soft. In puppies and kittens, these murmurs usually appear around 6 to 8 weeks of age and should go away on their own by the age of 4 to 5 months. In adult cats, stress may cause an innocent heart murmur.

Structural Heart Disease

An abnormal defect or structure that disrupts the normal flow of blood leads to structural heart disease. Examples of these include valve disease that causes the valves between the chambers of the heart to not close or open properly, a hole in the heart that causes two chambers or two arteries to be connected when they shouldn’t be, and narrowing or widening of the blood vessels.

Functional Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs can also be caused by disease outside of the heart, or extra-cardiac disease. There are many causes of functional heart murmurs, including anemia (low levels of red blood cells), fever, pregnancy, infection, obesity, being significantly underweight, and hypoproteinemia (low protein levels in the blood).

Signs, Diagnostics, and Treatment

In some cases, your pet may not be experiencing any signs of having a heart murmur. In others, you may have noticed signs of poor appetite, exercise intolerance, trouble breathing or fast breathing when resting or sleeping, collapse or fainting, weight loss, coughing, pale gums, and weakness.

If your pet is found to have a heart murmur, your veterinarian will discuss additional testing that may be beneficial in finding the cause of the heart murmur and to determine the severity of the condition causing the murmur. Diagnostics that may be suggested include bloodwork, chest X-rays, and blood pressure testing.

Your veterinarian will likely suggest referral to a veterinary cardiologist or an imaging center for an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart to get an idea of what the heart looks like and how it is functioning in real time. More specifically, an echocardiogram will provide information about the shape, size, and function of the heart’s four chambers, valves, and other surrounding structures.

Together, these diagnostics will provide your pet’s veterinarian with the information needed to determine what treatment and medication, if needed, will be necessary to help your pet live a longer, happy life.

By Dr. Jeanette Barragan

Illustration from photo by Gajus

What’s Urgent and What’s an Emergency?

Do any of the following sound familiar? Or have you ever contemplated what you would do if your pet became ill or injured when your primary care clinic is unavailable?

  1. Winnie cut her paw at the dog park. It is not a large cut but looks pretty deep and is bleeding quite a bit. Medical District Vet Clinic is closed or, unfortunately, fully booked. What do I do?
  2. Tiger has not been eating for the past three days. Now it’s Friday night and I am off work and would like her examined as I am getting worried. Where should I take her?
  3. Bowie has not urinated in over 8 hours. He is in and out of the litter box, trying to pee. Where should I go?

I am sure many of you have had similar questions and or situations. Fortunately, multiple options exist for care when you can’t bring your pet to a primary care clinic. To help our clients, we have created handouts listing options for emergency clinics and specialty hospitals in Chicago.

In this blog, I want to help explain the difference between the urgent care and emergency clinics here in the Chicago area and when I would recommend going where.

After-Hours Care Options

Urgent care facilities would typically not be set up to perform surgery or hospitalize overnight but could handle most cases of pet illness. Most cases can be treated as outpatient. If not, urgent care facilities may recommend transfer to a specialty emergency clinic.

Non-specialty emergency clinics are typically open 24 hours and have varied capabilities when it comes to both diagnostics and doctor capabilities. They can handle most emergencies, but do not have the luxury of referring to or consulting with a specialist on staff. In severe cases, they may recommend referral. If your pet is very ill, I suggest that you ask them about referral to a specialty hospital.

Specialty/emergency hospitals will have the capability of performing the most advanced diagnostics and have the benefit of specialty referral when needed. These hospitals have board-certified veterinary specialists, who have 4 to 6 years of specialty training beyond veterinary school.

Think about human medicine and all the specialties. Veterinary medicine is not quite as specialized. Still, our specialties include ophthalmology, surgery, oncology, internal medicine, dermatology, dentistry, radiology, emergency and critical care, and more. These doctors often work with the most complicated, severe cases of illness and disease and manage the cases while hospitalized.

What’s the Cost?

How much do these hospitals cost? I am sure many of you are contemplating this question.

First, I want to point out that Medical District Vet Clinic is not associated with any urgent care or specialty hospitals in Chicago. For this reason, I have limited knowledge of fees. If we refer a case from our clinic directly to an ER/specialty hospital, they will often give a rough estimate.

From my experience with the specialty hospitals and emergency clinics in Chicagoland, I would say they are similarly priced. However, in some cases, the (non-specialty) emergency clinics seem to be more expensive than the specialty hospitals, despite lacking specialty referral.

All these clinics should provide an estimate for care after examining your pet. Do not be afraid to speak up if the cost is out of budget. In some cases, diagnostics can be prioritized, and doctors can discuss options if their first recommendation is not financially feasible.

Dr. Sullivan’s Recommendations

Circling back to the questions posed initially:

Winnie’s cut paw: Any of the urgent or emergency clinics should be able to handle Winnie’s cut paw.

Tiger’s three days of not eating: If your cat hasn’t eaten in three days, take her to see a veterinarian. I would suggest going to an emergency clinic or specialty hospital.

Bowie’s inability to urinate: I would highly recommend a 24-hour specialty hospital. Bowie will likely need a procedure followed by a minimum of 48 hours of hospitalization. I believe the quality of care should be superior at a specialty emergency clinic and the cost similar to that of a non-specialty ER.

—Dr. Drew Sullivan

The State of the Medical District Veterinary Clinic

(from Dr. Sullivan’s perspective)

two smiling, alert corgis
Perk up your ears, because Dr. Sullivan has some important information to share about changes that are impacting veterinary practices across the country and what those changes mean for the Medical District veterinary family.

We’ve Seen Some Changes

Change was happening within the veterinary profession even before the pandemic, but change has drastically accelerated over the past four years.

Today, there is a veterinarian and veterinary staff shortage, expenses have increased more than inflation, and the demand for veterinary care has increased. This has resulted in overworked and tired veterinary professionals.

At Medical District Veterinary Clinic, we have always striven to maintain a healthy work-life balance for our staff. Despite these recent challenges, we remain committed to that goal. This blog post shares the facts about the impact of changes on our clinic and what that means for our clients.

Lots of Growth in Veterinary Medicine

Since the start of the pandemic there has been:

  • An increase in demand for veterinary services (and an increase in consumer spending overall)
  • An increase in pet ownership in the US, from 67% of households to 70% of households (according to US News and World Report)
  • An increase in spending on pets in the US, jumping 19% between 2020 and 2021 for a total of $123.6 billion annually (according to Forbes)

On grooming, pet food, veterinary care, and luxury pet items, households are spending more than ever before. The largest group of pet owners is millennials, making up 32% of pet owners, followed by baby boomers at 27%.

While on the surface, this sounds great for the veterinary industry, it has resulted in stress across the profession. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and support staff have been stretched thin. The staffing issues that already existed within the profession were made worse by the acute, dramatic change in demand.

Growth at Medical District Vet Clinic

Things were no different at our practice. At the height of the staffing challenges, we had veterinarians and support staff seek positions at other practices, leaving us short-staffed and unable to meet our client demand. Unfortunately, this resulted in our inability to meet all our patients’ needs, and we had to deal with many frustrated and upset clients. As a result, staff and veterinarians were further discouraged and facing burnout.

Fortunately, we were able to recruit and hire three veterinarians and three certified veterinary technicians. We are very lucky to be in a position to offer competitive salary and benefits packages to aid in recruitment. We are now fully staffed and able to provide staff with work-life balance while also having availability to see patients in a timely manner.

But Also Some Negative Developments

Negative effects on the veterinary industry since COVID include large increases in both overall expenses and no-show appointments.

A trend for increased veterinary expenses over the past few years saw the biggest bump up in late 2022/early 2023. Drug and medical supplies, laboratory costs, and staffing costs have all increased. Total costs have increased at a rate higher than US inflation.

We have also seen a disappointing client trend, at our clinic and across the industry: a large increase in no-show appointments. We noticed this trend months ago and started tracking no-shows. We changed our confirmation protocol to help owners remember upcoming appointments, but that did not seem to make much difference.

March 2023 was by far our worst month: we had 92 no-shows. This is 92 more patients we could have helped or not had to refer to an emergency clinic if clients would have just called to let us know they would not be coming. As an existing client, you might be thinking this issue must be related to new clients, and you are partially correct. However, almost two-thirds of our no-shows are existing clients.

To combat this alarming new trend, we and other practices have implemented measures including cancellation/no-show fees or deposits required to book appointments.

How We Are Responding to These Trends

So what changes you can expect at the Medical District Veterinary Clinic? We will continue to strive to provide exceptional, high-quality veterinary care, while also providing our staff with the support to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Because of the overall increase in expenses, we must increase prices to meet our costs. However, our prices for long-term medications will continue to match PetMeds’ online prices (see chart). Offering these medications at competitive prices provides convenience to our clients and allows us to help with clients’ issues or questions regarding pharmaceuticals. You also help us maintain that revenue stream when you purchase your pet’s medications from us instead of online.

PetMeds Price-Matched Medications
Heartgard Plus (6/12 packs)
Sentinel Spectrum (6/12 packs)
NexGard (6/12 packs)
Simparica Trio (6/12 packs)
Senergy Cats (6/12 packs)
Rimadyl Chewable Tablets (60/90/180 count)
Deramaxx Chewable tablets (30/60/90 count)

Beginning in May, we will also be instituting a deposit to book an appointment for all new clients as well as for existing clients who have a history of no-show.

We understand that sometimes life gets in the way, things happen, and clients may occasionally miss appointments. Unfortunately, the trends we are seeing have left us without another option. The deposit will be refundable if the appointment is canceled prior to 24 hours before the scheduled appointment. Please see here for the complete policy.

Thank you!

Lastly, I want to thank you all for trusting us in caring for your pets. I can speak on behalf of all the staff at Medical District Veterinary Clinic: We truly love what we do and daily have your pet’s best interest in mind.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. Or compliments! Compliments for staff and doctors are always greatly appreciated.


Drew Sullivan, DVM
Director, Medical District Veterinary Clinic

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.


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 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:

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

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

Make Room for Kitty

The spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only do I look forward to the beautiful weather, but I also look forward to seeing lots of adorable, newly adopted kittens. I can’t help but smile from ear to ear whenever I see them! I have been saying for months that I have kitten fever. Every day it is getting more difficult not to adopt one of my own.

Next month is the height of “kitten season.” It’s when litter after litter of kittens are born, taken to shelters and rescues, and in need of new homes. Unfortunately, there are far more pets than available homes, which further adds to pet overpopulation. American Humane celebrates Adopt-A-Cat Month each June to bring awareness to this situation and in hopes of encouraging more people to adopt cats in need of a loving home.

The pandemic has made the operations of shelters and adoptions more challenging, which makes Adopt-A-Cat Month even more important. While many people have already welcomed new four-legged family members into their families, there are still many precious and loving cats in need of a forever home. To find your forever feline, check out the websites of shelters and rescues and visit to see them in person. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the cuteness overload, and potentially leave with multiple cats!

To help with this process, there are many resources available to help you. Many organizations provide information to guide you through this process. For example, American Humane provides literature on their website including A Cat Adoption Checklist and Introducing Cats (And Dogs) to Cats. You can also contact us if you have any questions regarding adoption. We will do whatever we can to help you find the right cat for you!

If you are unable to adopt, there are other ways to help the many pets in need. Donations (such as monetary gifts and food)can be made to local shelters and rescues. Volunteer opportunities are often available.

Adopt-A-Cat Month is almost here, so you have plenty of time to find your purrfect feline companion!

Amber Slaughter, DVM

Photo from our Instagram account.