AAHA Certification: The AMC Takes the Test to Meet Veterinary Practice Standards of Excellence

July 30, 2014

AAHAlogoDedicatedThe Animal Medical Center undergoes a triennial accreditation evaluation by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). The AAHA is an industry leader that sets the standards for small animal hospitals in North America, standards which are often emulated internationally. For example, in Japan, the Japanese Animal Hospital Association (JAHA) serves a similar role to AAHA in the United States. Recently, AAHA has added new accreditation categories for referral hospitals and university hospitals.

The Benchmarks
Over 900 different standards are assessed during the accreditation evaluation. The standards focus on the quality of care in the areas of: anesthesia, contagious diseases, dentistry, pain management, patient care, surgery and emergency care. The standards are grouped into 20 large categories covering quality of care in diverse areas such as contagious disease, dentistry, diagnostic imaging, emergency and critical care, and pain management. Mandatory standards detail 46 critical/crucial hospital functions required of every AAHA accredited hospital. These “deal breaker” standards include the requirement that dentistry is performed under general anesthesia with tracheal intubation, and all patient care is provided under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The standards require hospitals to provide diagnostic services (x-ray and laboratory) facilitating quick and accurate diagnosis of your pet’s illness. Accredited hospitals must dispense medications so treatment can begin immediately.

The focus of the benchmarks is not just on patient care, but on how the veterinary team interacts to achieve high quality patient care. Standards pet owners might not expect as part of the evaluation process include an assessment of confidentiality, security and integrity of medical records, fire safety, diagnostic image archiving, continuing education, and referral standards. While not exactly medical standards, these functions are clearly critical to an accredited hospital’s ability to provide top-notch patient care.

Exam Prep
The AMC is continuously prepping to meet the AAHA accreditation standards. Our accreditation team reviews the benchmarks and educates the staff regarding their responsibilities in implementing each standard. When a new standard is issued, the appropriate hospital team writes our policy to ensure the new standards are met. That policy is then distributed to the implementation teams. Each new standard improves the quality and safety of The AMC’s patient care.

A Pop Quiz
On-site examiners perform a full-day thorough and comprehensive review of the hospital. Preparing for an AAHA evaluation is like preparing for a pop quiz; they can ask questions about any of the 900+ standards and they don’t have to give you a heads-up as to which ones are on the quiz. The examiners speak with a variety of staff and review hospital policies to ensure standards are met. If any deficiencies are identified, they suggest methods of improvement.

Perfect Scores
The accreditation process is rigorous and encompasses all aspects of pet healthcare. Only 15% of all veterinary hospitals meet these stringent quality standards. The AMC is proud to say it has been an AAHA accredited hospital since 1976 and passed its most recent evaluation with flying colors. We achieved a perfect score in six of the 20 categories of standards. All of the standards ultimately affect the care pets receive at The AMC, but most important to pet owners are the A pluses The AMC received for management of contagious diseases and emergency and critical care medicine. Overall, we received a solid A, or 94%, which does not mean we got six questions wrong. We scored 30,250 out of a possible 32,310 points! No wonder it took weeks to prepare for this evaluation.

Standards Met
For over 100 years, The AMC has been a leader in veterinary teaching, research and exceptional clinical care. The AAHA is another leader in veterinary medicine whose opinions and stance are relied upon for setting high hospital standards. Achieving AAHA certification is just one way we continue to provide the highest quality of medicine and surgery to nearly 40,000 patients every year.


The Year in Veterinary Medicine

December 31, 2013

year-in-review-revisedAs 2013 comes to a close, we have put together a review of some of the interesting veterinary and animal-related highlights of the past year. We hope some of these tidbits will bring a smile to your face, a tear to your eye or spark some conversation at a holiday party.

January
Several articles reported the veterinary profession turned 150 years old in 2013. A misnomer in reporting, it was the American Veterinary Medical Association which turned 150 years old, celebrating with a traveling Smithsonian exhibition and a commemorative book. (Cavalry horses during Roman times were cared for by practitioners known as veterinarii, suggesting the profession has existed for much longer than 150 years!)

February
The Animal Medical Center created AMC TO THE RESCUE, a new fund to support specialist level treatment of pets that are currently under the care of rescue groups. The goal of the fund is to use AMC specialists to treat correctable medical conditions, making pets, like Frankie, more adoptable into a forever home.

March
In a year without much bipartisan cooperation, two veterinarians, Kurt Schrader, a Democrat, and Ted Yoho, a Republican, joined forces to increase awareness of the role veterinary medicine plays in research, public health, animal health and welfare, food safety, and the economy.

April
Starting in April, therapy dogs were almost continuously in the news. They arrived in Boston to comfort survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. Later in the month, therapy dogs were called to Texas in the aftermath of a fertilizer plant explosion. Finally, therapy dogs took up residence at LAX to de-stress airline passengers.

May
If April was for dogs, then May was for cats. The Cannes Film Festival is always newsworthy, but this year not because of a Hollywood starlet, but because of a small ginger tom cat who starred in the Coen brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis. Tama, a Japanese calico cat, was credited with saving a cat-themed train station from closure.

June
Therapy dogs made the news again in Michigan for supporting anxious victims of violent crimes during courtroom testimony.

July
Veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward sits in a hot car with the window cracked for 30 minutes while the temperature climbs to 116 degrees Fahrenheit to demonstrate how dangerous leaving your dog in a parked car can be.

August
Cat DNA, sent to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, became key evidence used in a 2012 British murder case. Scientists in the lab identified the hairs on fabric wrapping the body as coming from the murderer’s cat.

September
News of a new and potentially lethal dog virus spread like a contagion on the Internet. But by late fall, veterinary researchers determined circovirus was not a significant threat to canine health.

October
One of the most visible victims of the government shutdown was the National Zoo’s Panda Cam. Sixteen days later when the camera again rolled, one tweet rejoiced that “our long national nightmare is over.”

The Urban Resource Institute (URI) and Purina teamed up to support victims of domestic violence through URIPALS, New York City’s first initiative to allow victims of domestic violence to enter shelters with their pets. Purina donated much-needed welcome kits and educational materials for families entering URI’s largest domestic violence shelter.

November
The Animal Medical Center hosted the Third Annual Zoobiquity Conference, along with UCLA and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Conference explored the diagnosis and treatment of disease from the perspective of both physicians and veterinarians.

December
Rosie and Clarence, the first two official police comfort dogs, were honored at The AMC’s annual Top Dog Gala. These canine officers received the Top Dog Award for their support of first responders at critical incidents and traumatic events, including the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy and the Boston Marathon bombing.

…and, we “Pawse to Remember”
No end of the year retrospective would be complete without acknowledging the passing of those who led notable lives:

  • Tuxedo Stan, former Halifax, Nova Scotia mayoral candidate.
  • Kaiser, a World Trade Center search and rescue dog and 2011 AMC Top Dog Gala honoree.
  • George, who held the Guinness Book of World Record’s title of tallest dog.
  • Barney Bush, the AP reporter-biting former FDOTUS.
  • Brian Griffin, canine family member on Family Guy.

Wishing you and your families the very best this holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year!


Hurricane Sandy: The Animal Medical Center Story

October 31, 2012

The view down E. 62nd Street on Monday night

By Sunday night, the Governor and Mayor had shut down all mass transit in NYC, our schools were already closed for Monday, and by Monday morning even the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for the day. New York City was silent; everyone was indoors and the wind and rain of Hurricane Sandy had not yet arrived. Despite all the closures, The Animal Medical Center was open for business as usual.

As far back as anyone can remember, The AMC has never closed. We mean it when we say we are open 24/7. When a disaster is anticipated, the staff work together to determine how best to cover shifts and maintain adequate nursing and medical expertise for our patients. During blackouts, natural disasters, and human disasters, our staff comes to work prepared. Many employees came to work on Sunday with food, clothes, and bedding, planning to stay for the duration of the storm. The AMC stores inflatable beds for those employees sleeping at the hospital. The beds got blown up Monday afternoon since the electricity fluttered on and off during the day. Lucky for us, our favorite deli and neighborhood diner were still open.

It was a good thing we were open for business, as really sick animals needed care. Here is a sampling of the Sunday night admission list: a stray cat and a stray dog were brought to The AMC since the shelters were closed for the night; Harley, a cat, came in with complications of diabetes; Lexi, a bulldog, was admitted for serious vomiting; Gus the cat developed heart failure; Monkey, a Pekingese, required an emergency MRI and back surgery; a golden retriever named Aristotle became unconscious and he too required an emergency MRI ; Rysiu was admitted for feline bladder stones resulting in a urinary blockage. On Monday, he had an urgent surgery to remove the stones.

Visits to our emergency room were steady on Monday morning, but most scheduled patients cancelled their visits. The ER continued accepting patients overnight, even though there was at one point a foot of water in the first floor lobby. Our power went out from about 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., during which time our generator kicked in to run essential electrical equipment. Once the high tide began to recede, the lobby was squeegeed dry and, except for internet service that was slow to be restored, we were back to normal. The banners on the north side of the building are in tatters and our awning has a rip, but these are cosmetic only and we feel very fortunate to only be slightly damp around the edges.

New York pets were fortunate, too. For the second hurricane in a row, pets were allowed in evacuation shelters and in his Monday press conference, Mayor Bloomberg announced 73 pets had already been accepted into shelters.

Find more information about Hurricane Sandy and pets here.

For help in planning for the next disaster, click here.


Let’s Move: Simple Activities to Get Your Cats Moving

September 20, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama believes in physical activity as a way to combat childhood obesity in America. Her program, Let’s Move, aims to raise a healthier generation of kids.

Americans are also raising a generation of obese cats because most cats now live indoors. Research has shown that cats living in apartments and inactive cats have the highest risk of becoming obese. Cats with a bowl full of food available at all times are more likely to be obese when compared to cats fed at specific meal times. Many cat owners are unable to recognize obesity in their pet, so there is little early intervention. Here are my suggestions for simple, inexpensive cat activities to get your feline friend moving as part of a healthy cat lifestyle.

Going up, going down

One of the features lacking in most apartments, which may contribute to cat inactivity, is stairs. Using stairs is a good way to build strong muscles in your kitten or cat. My apartment doesn’t have stairs, but I have a step stool which I use to get to the top shelves in my kitchen. Some days I put the step stool out with a favorite treat or toy on top to encourage my kitten to move. The photograph shows my kitten playing on the step stool.

Cats recycle

Kittens don’t need expensive toys; in fact they find trash to be treasure. One of the favorites in my house is an empty toilet paper, paper towel or wrapping paper roll. They can chew, scratch and roll the tubes to their hearts’ delight and the toys are easily replaced when completely destroyed. Another great toy is a wide, sturdy ribbon. I saved one from a gift and tied it to the kitchen drawer handle. I pull the drawer out four or five inches so the ribbon flutters in a breeze. My kittens love to jump up and bat the ribbon and at the same time get excellent exercise.

Cats like shopping [bags]

A shopping day means a bonanza for your cat. Maybe they get a cute new toy, but what they are most excited about is the pile of shopping bags you bring home. My kittens adore a large shopping bag with a small cardboard box slipped inside. The box supports part of the bag where the kittens play king of the hill. The box also creates a space inside the bag for hiding, resting and planning a surprise attack on my ankles. If given a choice, they like bags with stiff paper loop handles which they slip through like children with a hula hoop. The photograph shows how I set up the bag and box and how much my kitten likes playing in it!

Do you have a favorite kitten or cat activity? Write back and let everyone else know how you keep your cat moving.


Soldier Dogs

March 15, 2012

Rufus and Sgt. Duke

The Wall Street Journal recently published an essay that caught my eye. It is an excerpt from the new book Soldier Dogs by Maria Goodavage. Touted as a tour of military working dogs’ extraordinary training, heroic accomplishments, and the lasting impact they have on those who work with them, the book will be released March 15, 2012.

For those of us who love and admire dogs, the extraordinary feats of military dogs are not surprising. What I found charming, touching, and extraordinary were the comments by the readers of the essay. The comments are aimed directly at the heart of what makes dogs great and clearly come from dog lovers. I have included three of my favorites.

War is different, dogs are not

One reader comments, “War has changed, but the human-canine bond has not. I have no doubt that today’s dogs do as much to support our soldiers’ morale and help them withstand the stress and horrors of war as those faithful dogs of long ago did for the Civil War soldiers they accompanied.”

The American Civil War is the only war fought entirely on American soil. There were over one million casualties, many of them from disease. Compare the Civil War to our current wars being fought far from home. The casualties are fewer, but no less wrenching for the bereaved families. Military dogs continue to play an important role for our soldiers. In addition to the military dogs, there are the family dogs that wait patiently at home. These dogs, shown in this video with nearly a quarter million hits, are jubilant when their solider comes home.

America’s number one dog

According to the American Kennel Club, the gentle, intelligent and family friendly Labrador Retriever continues to be the most popular dog in America. This reader understands how irresistible these lovable dogs are:

“That [having Labrador Retrievers trained to identify improvised explosive devices would appear to be a smart move, since a major facet of the counterinsurgency mission is to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous population. One can surmise that a Labrador Retriever accompanying combat troops conveys a…peaceful image.” What better ambassador for America and what better companion for our soldiers than American’s number one dog?

We love them even if they shed

Labrador Retrievers are notorious shedders; so much so that I have written about Labrador hair previously. The third comment comes from someone who is clearly a Lab aficionado. “Expect lots of hair in the MREs [Meals Ready to Eat]. My lab passed away this August, but I am still finding his hairs everywhere in the house.” I can tell from this comment, the author’s Labrador will always hold a special place in his heart. Soldier dogs are special, but what dog isn’t?

Soldier dogs can find explosives, function as a sentry, or take down an enemy soldier. For this we praise their courage and cunning. But the commenters on Maria Goodavedge’s essay see more in dogs than their clever minds. They see the heart and soul of the beast, the part we love and cherish most.

Photo: Sergeant Christopher Duke and his Afghan dog, Rufus, reunited back in the USA. Rufus was honored by The Animal Medical Center in 2010 for saving 50 American soldiers from a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Photo by Josh D. Weiss

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This may also be found in the Tales from the Pet Clinic blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Pet Stress Busters

January 26, 2012

In my last blog, I wrote about some of the situations that cause stress in pets. Today I will share my suggestions for relieving their stress.

Natural remedies
In addition to having adequate litter boxes and feeding special diets to control stress-related diarrhea mentioned in my last blog, the concerned pet owner can respond with environmental enrichment, exercise, and natural destressors, such as pheremones. When I have hospitalized feline patients at The AMC, I like to give them a cardboard box in their cage for hiding. I spray the box with Feliway, a feline pheromone, which signals comfort and reassurance to the cat.

Dogs have their own pheromone for stressful situations, called DAP. I find spraying it on a bandana and placing it around the dog’s neck often calms a dog stressed by travel or a clinic visit.

The popularity of lavender in candles, soaps and lotions is in part due to its natural stress reductions properties. One of my patients, a nervous terrier named Fred, benefitted from lavender oil daubed on the tips of his ears at the beginning of a clinic visit. This simple, safe stress buster immediately stopped Fred’s shaking and calmed him enough that he would snooze while I spoke with his family.

An intriguing new product is Pet Naturals of Vermont’s Calming for Pets treats for cats and dogs. This product contains natural ingredients to support stress reduction and comes in a variety of sizes to fit your pet. Last week I tried some on my patients who enthusiastically give these bone-shaped treats an all paws up rating.

Environmental enrichment
Providing an enriched environment helps to combat stress and is one way of providing activities other than lying on a sofa.

Challenge your pet with puzzle toys for feeding. Food puzzle toys will amuse your pet and will simultaneously help to control their weight by slowing their rate of eating. These puzzles are available for both dogs and cats at nearly every pet emporium.

Water fountains provide entertainment for your cat or dog and will encourage adequate water consumption for those pets with medical conditions requiring increased water intake.

Fresh air and sunshine improve everyone’s mood, cats included. If taking your pet outside is difficult, make sure it has a safe perch on a window ledge or piece of furniture so it can look beyond the four walls. Cats love to perch and if you do not have a good view from your windows, try a cat tower to add perching opportunities to your home.

What are your suggestions for decreasing stress in your pet? Please share them in the comments section below.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Pedigree vs. Muttigree

October 8, 2009

Being a New Yorker, I read the New York Times and being a veterinarian, I read about pets. So when the New York Times started a new online column, “The Puppy Diaries,” I was compelled to read it. “The Puppy Diaries” is a weekly series about the challenges and satisfactions of raising a puppy through its first year of life.

scout1The puppy star of “The Puppy Diaries” is Scout, a Golden Retriever. The first column generated over 100 reader comments, many criticizing the author’s decision to purchase a purebred dog rather than rescue a mixed breed mutt or adopt a dog from a shelter. Being a lover of dogs in general, and no breed in particular, this criticism swirled in my mind since the first column. I couldn’t decide who was right, the supporters of purebred dogs or the supporters of mutts. Both would bring happiness, companionship and challenges to their family.

jeans2I cannot think of an exact parallel, but I did think of some similar situations. Take for example, blue jeans. One can purchase wildly expensive designer jeans or much cheaper no-name jeans. Both types provide coverage and comfort, but owners of the designer jeans swear they are better and those with no-name jeans would never think of spending a large sum on blue jeans. The same is true for other apparel, such as shoes, scarves and handbags. Possibly a better example is children. Some families have children of their own and complete their family by adopting even when they could have more children of their own. Some families adopt, because they want to provide a good home for a child without one.

Similar reasoning may explain prospective dog owner’s choices. Some families, like Scout’s family, want the experience of raising a puppy and other families prefer to skip the puppy stage and adopt an older dog. Because of the dependable characteristics (size, personality and coat) of purebred dogs, selection of a particular purebred dog may be required. (Think Obama here, whose children required a hypoallergenic dog.) A mutt may fit better into a family wanting to share life with a canine companion.

dogsBe it shoes, children or dogs, it is all about what you like, what is best for your family and how you chose to spend your money.

In the end, I think the two sides, mutts and purebreds, will need to agree to disagree on this topic. But in our disagreement, let’s not lose sight of what’s important. All pets should have a loving home, nutritious food, quality healthcare and an education so they become good members of society. Hey, but isn’t that true for humans and canines, alike?

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts.  Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


“First Dog” Update – The AMC Weighs In

January 20, 2009

                                                                                                                                                   

The following article, about the latest developments in the Obama’s puppy selection process, originally ran on PetStyle and quotes Dr. Ann Hohenhaus of The Animal Medical Center. You can read the original posting by clicking here.

The Race Is On: Which Pup Should Obamas Pick?
By Kathleen Roberts, PetStyle

obama_pup_articleDecisions, decisions. Picking the right family dog is no easy task, even for soon-to-be-president Barack Obama and his family. But they are making progress! After much research, they have finally been able to narrow the choice down to two breeds the Labradoodle and the Portuguese Water Dog according to an interview that aired on ABC’s “This Week” on January 11.

Both breeds with presidential pup potential are considered to be hypoallergenic, an essential quality for 10-year-old Malia Obama, who has allergies. With that requirement met, it would seem that it is all down to temperament and personal preference, though there are no guarantees that she won’t have a reaction to either dog, according to one expert.

“Although both dogs are touted as being hypoallergenic, which is probably why they made the Obama’s short list, human allergists do not consider any dog 100% allergen free. The best dog for the Obama’s will depend on Malia’s reaction and may come down to trial and error,” said Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, Director of Medicine Chair at The Animal Medical Center in New York.

So which breed is best? That is the question.

The Portuguese Water Dog
portuguese-water-dogEach dog has traits that make them worthy of becoming the next White House companion. The Portuguese Water Dog is described as “spirited but obedient,” according to the AKC. These are great qualities for a busy family with children. The Portuguese Water Dog is a well-established breed that has been around since at least 1297 with some believing it can be traced as far as 700 B.C. As the name suggests, they love the water and even have webbed feet, making them excellent swimmers. Their non-allergenic coat is also waterproof and non-shedding.

goldendoodle1The Labradoodle
The Labradoodle is considered a hybrid or “designer dog” to many dog lovers. They are created by crossing a Poodle (standard or miniature) and a Labrador Retriever. First created by breeder Wally Conron of Australia for Guide Dogs Victoria in 1989, this dog does not have as much history as the Portuguese Water Dog. But supporters of this cross think they are perfect just the same.

Crossing two established breeds, typically considered a no-no in the world of dog breeding, had a very noble goal to create a dog that had the low-shed coat of a Poodle and the gentleness and trainability of a Lab. The resulting pups would hopefully be ideal guide dogs for people with allergies. Since this is a fairly new breed in the world of dogs, puppies do not always have the desired traits and critics point out that the results of such a cross are unpredictable, unlike the Portuguese Water Dog.

However, like the Portuguese Water Dog, the Labradoodle loves the water. They are healthy and easy to train and are loved world-wide by families like the Obamas.

A Cat’s Meow?
Although the race for that special seat in the White House is on, some folks say that there has been one candidate missing from the platform our feline friend.

A spokesperson for the CFA-Iams Cat Championship had this to say:

Cat owners, such as Whoopi Goldberg and her Russian Blue cat, would be delighted if the President-elect would consider getting a cat. After all, 11 American presidents including Lincoln (a big cat lover) and Clinton had cats. So did our current president who lost his kitty India recently.

bombay-cat-obamaAt the CFA Iams Cat Championship, held in early October in Madison Square Garden, thousands of visitors voted two-to-one for a real Bombay cat named Barack Obama (the father was Bombay cat Colin Powell but that’s another story) over a British shorthair named Renegade that was representing John McCain.

If the daughters are allergic, then they should consider a Devon Rex or a Sphynx.

For the sake of Cat Karma, the White House needs a cat.

An Expert’s Perspective
So, what do the experts think about the right dog for the Obamas? Mychelle Blake, Communications Director for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and Editor-in-Chief of The APDT Chronicle of the Dog, had this to say, “I think that there’s been too much focus on breed in the media discussions about the choice of dog for the President-Elect’s family and not enough on temperament and exercise needs/activity level.

“For example, I’ve known some Labradoodles that are quite mellow and others that are really high-strung and incredibly energetic. Likewise PWDs are nice dogs, but they should keep in mind that this was a breed bred to work, and therefore requires a lot of exercise and stimulation. ” That said, Blake’s recommendations lies with the Labradoodle.

obamasSo, if I was given the choice to pick between the two for an active family with two young girls, and considering they want to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, my first choice would be an older dog, around two to three years of age, who has an observable, developed personality that is friendly, outgoing and whose energy level is moderate. I would suspect that they will have an easier time locating a Labradoodle up for adoption than a PWD so for that reason I would lean toward a Labradoodle.”

“I would also urge the Obamas to engage the girls, as well as the whole family, in training their new canine family member to develop a harmonious and happy relationship in The White House, and the APDT would be happy to help them with the transition of the “First Dog” into their lives.”

A surprising perspective was offered by Paul Owens (http://raisewithpraise.com/), author of “The Dog Whisperer” and “The Puppy Whisperer,” as well as a PWD owner for 16 years. “It’s important to find the right dog rather than the breed. Both are very sweet breeds. If I were to suggest a family dog that is easy to get along with, I would suggest the Labradoodle. They are a softer dog.”

Mr. Owens said that the PWD is a rugged dog who will quickly become “self-employed” if it is not given a job. So for an active family like the Obamas, a Labradoodle would be the best fit. “And I hope against hope that they choose a trainer who uses positive training methods.”

So, which dog will the Obamas choose? We’ll just have to wait and see.


Selecting the First Pooch…and the First Vet

November 12, 2008

The selection of the First Family-elect’s new canine addition has created much excitement and media buzz. Reporters and bloggers speculate daily on the type of dog the Obamas may choose when they move into their new abode in January. 

In the days ahead, the President-elect’s abilities as statesman will surely be tested as he makes tough decisions about the economy, healthcare, and conflicts abroad.  But what will require an equal amount of detente is the final decision about which new puppy his family will select. 

Like anyone making an important choice, discussion and compromise will surely be required. First daughter-elect Malia has expressed her opinion in favor of a Goldendoodle (a hybrid of the Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle), while President-elect Obama is leaning toward “a mutt like me.” 

We at The Animal Medical Center are aware that choosing the perfect dog is only the beginning. Equally as important as their choice of pedigree will be the selection of their new pet’s veterinarian. Even though the Obamas may need to compromise on which dog they choose, they should not compromise on their new pet’s veterinary care. 

The Obamas are no different than any American family in this regard. Because our pets are members of our families, keeping them healthy is a priority. Veterinarians can be our partners in helping each of us keep our pets in top physical condition — leading to longer, better quality lives both for the animals and for us. 

The Animal Medical Center recommends that every dog or cat owner consider these important tips when selecting a veterinarian:

  • Identify your veterinarian before you get your pet. Your new puppy or kitten should see a veterinarian as soon as possible, preferably within the first few days after arriving in its new home. 
  • Do your homework. Talk to your friends about the veterinarians they use. Check out the Web sites of several different veterinary clinics. This will give you information about hours and services to help you determine if you will be able to schedule routine appointments conveniently. Web sites usually give information about access to emergency services, which need to be readily accessible. 
  • Choose a vet in a convenient location. If you are lucky, you can find a high-quality veterinarian in your neighborhood. Like babies, new puppies or kittens need frequent veterinarian visits until they are about 1 year of age.  
  • Listen for good communication skills. Although the comforting presence of a gray-haired family physician (à la Marcus Welby, MD) has its appeal, there is more than just experience to be considered when choosing a veterinarian — such as his or her ability to explain your pet’s diagnosis or an upcoming procedure.  
  • Referral to specialists. A good veterinarian knows his or her limits and when to refer a problem to a specialist. Find out how your veterinarian makes referrals to a specialist and for what conditions. 
  • Talk to your children about what to expect on a visit to the veterinarian.  If you plan on bringing your children with you when you take your pet to the vet, spend some time preparing them. Puppies can be stubborn and determined to have their own way. Puppy-style tantrums occur during nail-trimming, dental examinations, and the taking of body temperature. Squealing, yelping, and howling by the puppy are common during routine vaccinations to prevent infectious diseases, and may upset unprepared children. After a visit to a veterinary clinic, puppies are typically very tired and should be allowed to rest for a few hours. 
  • Get a book. Head for the library and check out some of the many wonderful books written about caring for a new pet.

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