News & Updates
Why is a Licensed Veterinary Technician so important to the care your pet receives?
What is an LVT? What does it take to become an LVT? Why is an LVT so important to the quality of care your pet receives? We hope to answer all of these questions here.
An LVT is a Licensed Veterinary Technician. The best way to describe an LVT is as an RN for animals. An LVT does everything an RN does but on animals instead of people. An LVT is a person who has passed the state and national veterinary technician exam held by the Veterinary Board of Governors. In order to qualify to sit for the exams the person has to have either received a formal education (either a 2-year degree or a 4-year degree) in a Veterinary Technician program accredited by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) or has worked in a Veterinary Hospital for 5+ years and completed a very long, arduous list of skill assessments.
Licensed Veterinary Technicians are legally allowed to perform a number of treatments and skills. This can include but is certainly not limited to:
- Rabies administration
- Blood draws
- Administration of injectable medication
- IV catheter placement
- Anesthetic induction
- Dental cleaning and polishing
- Anesthetic monitoring
- Urinary catheter placement
- Client Education
- Behavior training
LVTs can also be certified as specialist in a variety of areas of veterinary medicine including behavior, dentistry, and anesthesia.
It used to be that LVTs were not as common in the clinic setting and a lot of clinics didn’t employ them because they did not see the need for someone so highly trained and skilled. However, in the last 20 years that perspective has significantly changed! With training in animal behavior, pharmacology, anatomy & physiology, surgical assisting and anesthesia (not to mention many other topics), LVTs are really the “right-hand man” of a veterinarian! It is also now the most difficult position to fill in a veterinary clinic because there are often not enough experienced LVTs looking for jobs.
Having an LVT monitor your pet under anesthesia is incredibly important. An LVT knows the normal values for blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood gasses in both cats, dogs and a number of other species (yes, they are different). They also know how to adjust the amount of gas anesthetic that a patient is receiving to affect those values as needed during the procedure to keep them within health ranges for the pet. Sure, the veterinarian knows these things too, but wouldn’t you rather have your veterinarian completely focused on the surgical procedure rather than have their mind divided between the surgery and the anesthesia? Having an LVT monitor your pet while they are under anesthesia helps improve the health of your pet and helps to further reduce the risk of anesthetic complications.
Veterinary assistants are often confused with LVTs. There are various training programs for veterinary assistants but the majority of them are trained on the job. Veterinary assistants also do not have to pass a board exam like LVTs do. Veterinary assistants do receive a great deal of training in animal behavior and various medical skills. The best way to describe a veterinary assistant is as a CNA for animals. They are very valuable members of the team and we couldn’t do this work without them.
At Kitsap Veterinary Hospital, we take your pet’s health so seriously, that we have employed 4 LVTs and 4 veterinary assistants. These team members work together to support our veterinarians in the care that we provide your pets each and every day! Every day we have one LVT who runs the lab and makes sure the rooms are running smoothly. We also have another LVT who is in charge of surgery each day. The two LVTs work in tandem to make sure that communication within the hospital is smooth and to ensure that each pet gets the full level of care that they require and deserve. If you would like to know more about our LVTs and what makes them so valuable, please let us know!
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Dental disease affects 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats over 3 years of age. It is one of the most common health issues seen in our pets and is a source of pain and infection.
Dental health is important for not only the health of the mouth but the entire body. Infection in the mouth can spread through the body affecting the heart, lungs, kidneys, and/or liver. Some of the diseases that can be seen in organs affected by the dental disease are: heart valve infection, endocarditis (infection of the heart muscle), pyelonephritis (kidney infection), hepatitis (liver infection), bronchitis (airway infection/inflammation), and pneumonia. There are also health conditions (such as diabetes, feline leukemia, FIV) that can predispose a pet to periodontal disease. In turn, that periodontal disease can cause issues with management of the health condition.
Periodontal disease occurs in progressive stages. Plaque forms on the teeth trapping bacteria in the mineral formation above and below the gum line. The plaque hardens into tartar. Periodontal disease starts with gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) occurring due to the tartar formation. The gingivitis progresses to infection and inflammation of the tooth structure below the gum line. As the infection and inflammation extends along the entire tooth structure, instability results and there is permanent loss of the tooth.
Smaller breeds are more predisposed to periodontal disease due to a higher rate of overcrowding of their teeth, malocclusions (abnormal bites), and because their teeth have shorter roots than larger dogs so less bone loss has to occur before the tooth becomes mobile. Larger breed dogs that have malocclusions are also predisposed to periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is treatable, but most importantly it is preventable. Dental care takes place in two forms: professional care and home care. Professional care includes: an oral examination by your veterinarian to assess the health of the mouth, gums, tongue and teeth, professional prophylaxis with scaling and polishing if tartar formation is seen, and treatment of any disease process seen. Home care includes: brushing teeth on a daily basis to slow the progression of plaque and tartar formation, use of dental chews to slow the progression of plaque and tartar formation, and minimize the feeding of treats high in sugar content that will promote plaque and tartar formation. Home care should be a maintenance regimen that occurs between the periods of professional care.
For pets the professional cleaning must occur under anesthesia. The professional cleaning includes: scaling of the tartar from the teeth above and below the gum line with an ultrasonic scaler that vibrates, probing around each individual tooth assessing for evidence of underlying disease, dental radiographs to assess the underlying tooth structures, and polishing of the teeth to remove micro-etches which serve as scaffolding for the tartar to easily re-attach to the tooth. All these sounds and procedures would be difficult to perform thoroughly and safely on an awake pet. Performing dental cleanings without anesthesia usually results in oral disease going unnoticed and untreated. This can prolong discomfort and health risks for the patient. Non-anesthetic cleanings also result in a partially clean mouth, normally with only part of each tooth fully cleaned and returned to maximum health.
Dental disease is expensive to treat. In the long run it is less expensive to prevent dental disease, and your pet is happier and healthier.
Why does your pet need a semi-annual examination?
Your pet seems fine. He is eating and drinking and playing as usual. Nothing has changed. So why did your veterinarian recommend an examination every 6 months, instead of once a year? And why is blood work needed?
Most pets do a good job of staying healthy with minimal intervention so long as they are provided quality nutrition, a safe environment, and a lot of love and affection. With young patients who are not on chronic medications, an annual veterinary examination may be all that is required to ensure that everything is as it seems at home. However, there are some exceptions that make it advisable, or even necessary, to bring your pet in more often.
In general, dogs over 8 years of age, and cats 10 years and older, are considered “senior”. This can vary by breed and life expectancy, so it may be different for your pet. As animals age, changes can occur that are not detectable at home. By examining these pets more often, your veterinarian may be able to pick up on subtle changes that occur over time. This older population of patients is at risk of chronic, slowly progressive diseases such as heart disease, thyroid hormone imbalance, kidney dysfunction, diabetes, and even cancer. Through systematic evaluation with a physical examination and lab work, many of these diseases can be discovered in the early stages, when treatment is most successful. Recently, one of our doctors saw a dog for its routine semi-annual visit and uncovered thyroid cancer that was completely curable in its early stages.
In addition to senior dogs and cats, any pet that is receiving chronic medications needs an examination every 6 months. Of course, this depends on what medicine is being given. Some drugs have the potential to cause serious side effects, but the benefit from the medicine far outweighs the potential risk. Some examples are anti-seizure drugs, heart medications, diabetes treatments and anti-inflammatory agents. If your veterinarian has prescribed a medication that requires routine lab work every 6 months, there is a reason for it. It is imperative that the directions be followed in administering the medication, as well as complying with the follow-up recommendations. Sometimes the dose of medicine will need to be adjusted over time as the body acclimates to it. Other times, the manufacturer of the drug has established guidelines for safety. For example, a patient at our hospital recently had to change medication because after being on a drug for urinary incontinence for quite awhile, it began to affect her blood pressure.
In all cases, your veterinarian will let you know what her recommendation is for your specific pet’s needs. Please keep in mind that we all have your animals well-being in mind and are doing our very best to keep our patients living long and healthy lives.
The Misadventures of Parvovirus
Having a pet that is sick is always heartbreaking and difficult, but it's always worse when they are a young puppy or kitten. Ronin, a 9-week old Red Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) and Dooley an 8-week old Retriever Mix both came to us lethargic and not eating. After diagnostics were run, both were found to have Parvovirus. Parvovirus is a potentially fatal disease, especially in young puppies.
Parvovirus was first discovered in the 1970s. The virus is spread between dogs through an oral-fecal route, where a dog is exposed to contaminated feces that the parvovirus is being shed in. Parvovirus is a hardy virus that can persist for many years in the environment. It is difficult to inactivate the virus with common disinfectants and detergents.
Once the virus enters the dog, the virus begins to replicate in rapidly dividing tissues (lymph nodes, thymus, intestines, bone marrow, and heart). Clinical signs appear within 1-5 days after exposure to the virus. As the virus destroys the intestinal lining, the dog presents with vomiting and diarrhea. Due to the loss of the intestinal lining, electrolytes are lost resulting in dehydration and the bacteria from the intestinal tract can be released into circulation causing sepsis. As the virus attacks the bone marrow, there is suppression in the white blood cells produced, resulting in the dog not having an immune system to mount a response to the bacteria being released from the damaged intestinal lining and viral infection. Typically the heart muscle is targeted in dogs 8 weeks or younger, resulting in a myocarditis leading to congestive heart failure and death in most cases. The congestive heart failure can occur within days or months after the heart was affected.
Parvovirus is diagnosed based on clinical signs and diagnostics. A positive ELISA test for the viral antigen in the feces confirms the diagnosis of canine parvovirus. A false negative on the ELISA test can be obtained if the test is performed before the virus is shed in the feces. It can take 3-5 days before the virus is shed in the feces after exposure. A complete blood count is performed to assess the bone marrow for any suppression, and to help with the prognosis for the patient. A chemistry panel is performed to assess the electrolytes and organ function.
Only supportive treatment is available for parvovirus infections. The patient is placed on intravenous fluid therapy to correct the dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhea. Electrolytes are supplemented in the intravenous fluids if there is a derangement noted on the chemistry panel. Intravenous antibiotics are given to help prevent or treat sepsis, especially if there is suppression of the bone marrow present. Antiemetic drugs are used to treat the vomiting and nausea associated with the parvovirus infection. The white blood cell count and electrolytes are monitored while the patient is in the hospital to assess response to treatment. Hospital treatment continues until the patient is able to eat without vomiting and their immune system has mounted a response to the virus, in order for treatment with oral medications to commence. The patient will continue to shed the virus in their feces for 7-14 days after recovering.
Parvovirus can be prevented with proper vaccination. A puppy should start the initial vaccine series at 8 weeks of age, and continue to receive vaccines every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Puppies are still susceptible to parvovirus infections while undergoing vaccines. Therefore, while puppies are undergoing vaccination they should not be exposed to areas where dogs congregate or pass through with unknown vaccines histories, and to areas where previous parvovirus infected pets have had access.
Thankfully both Ronin and Dooley have recovered nicely and are enjoying life once again with their families. Please be sure your dogs, young and old, are vaccinated against this nasty virus!
Insurance and Wellness Plans
Veterinary care has expanded in recent years to encompass advanced medical and surgical procedures as well as preventative measures that are helping our pets to experience longer, healthier lives. The team members here at Kitsap Veterinary Hospital are dedicated to ensuring that each patient receives the best care available in each situation and at every stage of their lives. Part of this effort includes offering options that help to make excellent care more affordable through medical insurance and wellness plans.
Veterinary medical insurance and pet wellness plans complement each other, but have a couple key fundamental differences. Both insurance and wellness plans are similar in that they can be secured through monthly payments. With insurance, you pay a premium based upon the coverage you prefer and the deductible you select. The monthly amount is paid whether you need to use the plan or not. With wellness plans, you make monthly payments for recommended services that are likely to be used throughout the term of the plan.
One main difference between insurance and wellness plans is that insurance is utilized when your pet is sick or injured, and wellness plans are used for preventative services when your pet is healthy. For example, insurance would be most beneficial when your dog has swallowed a rock and needs surgery to remove it. But, a wellness plan is helpful for your pet’s annual examination, vaccinations and dental cleaning. Also, insurance is provided through independent carriers and the savings is provided through reimbursement after payment is made for services. But wellness plans are administered directly through veterinary clinics like us, and the financial benefit is provided at the time of service.
Often, pets benefit from both an insurance and wellness plan together. With this approach, you have the best opportunity to provide optimal care without the worry of the financial aspect. The best way to determine what is right for your pet is to ask one of us at your next office visit. We will help you to decide what makes the most sense for your pet’s individual medical needs and stage of life.