Veterinary Vlog: Episode 12 - Dr Belinda is now a Fear Free Certified Practitioner
What may you ask is a Fear Free Certified Practitioner?
We are veterinary professionals who consider both your pets physical and emotional wellbeing during their veterinary visit. We have completed 8 hours of continuing education and testing, taking a pledge to hold each pet's emotion as well as physical wellbeing in mind at all times as I provide care for them, realising it's not possible to treat one without the other.
Why do I think being a Fear Free Certified Practitioner is important?
Being the mum to two anxious dogs I am more acutely aware of just how stressful it can be bringing an anxious pet to the veterinarian. Fear Free vets are constantly assessing your pet's fear, anxiety and stress levels and using a considerate approach and gentle control to help provide your pet with fear free veterinary care.
Watch my vlog below to find out more about my boys and more details about fear, anxiety and stress in your pets.
Dr Belinda's Veterinary Vlog: Episode 12 - Dr Belinda in now a Fear Free Certified Professional - YouTube
For more information about Fear Free Certified Veterinary Practitioners or to find a Fear Free vet near you visit www.fearfreepets.com
For great resources on the signs that your dog might be affected by fear, stress or anxiety visit www.vetbehaviourteam.com/client-handouts/
Veterinary Vlog: Episode 10 - Kendrick eats a sock & Emily needs a caesarean
Wednesday 24th January 2018 was no ordinary Wednesday. It started out much like any other Wednesday. I was busy in the office making plans for our Wednesday meeting and training session. My head nurse, practice manager and I were discussing the nurse roster and filling our vacant positions. All was well until one hour before the meeting was due to start.
Dr Stella came to me to let me know she had a 12 week old puppy (Kendrick) who ate a large sock yesterday and had been vomiting and unwell this morning. Quickly our plans changed from meetings to radiographs and an exploratory laparotomy.
From this point the afternoon seemed to descend into chaos with three vets fully booked with four hours of consulting and a phone call midway through consults that Emily was having trouble giving birth and would need to come in. We quickly established that medical management alone would not save Emily's puppy and so we got her prepared for surgery and off we went into an emergency caesarean.
The veterinary vlog below captures the action as we retrieve socks and puppies. Enjoy!
Warning: Graphic surgical content ahead
Dr Belinda's Veterinary Vlog: Episode 10 - Kendrick eats a sock & Emily needs a caesarean - YouTube
CONGRATULATIONS! You are now fully qualified vets! Chances are you have been working for a few weeks or are having a much earned break before jumping into you working lives. Either way I'm so excited for you and want to welcome you once more into our fabulous veterinary community.
You have chosen a profession that is as diverse at the species we treat, that will take you in off in any direction you desire, you will make lifelong friends and have countless memorable experiences both good and bad, it will enrich your life in more ways than you can currently imagine and you will both directly and indirectly have a positive impact on your patients, their families and the community.
Like many of you I was the child that always dreamed of becoming a vet. Nearly every school has one and I was it. At age 14 on Year 10 work experience I met my veterinary role models. They were the most amazing team of female vets and nurses who were absolutely kicking ass in the veterinary industry. I observed a kookaburra getting it’s wing pinned, heard stories about surgical repairs of fractures in ferrets and was able to breath in many aspects of small animal vet practice. From that moment my destiny was set in stone. Nothing was going to stop me from achieving my dream of becoming a vet.
Meet my first work family (and our gate crashing partners). Dr Linda is holding the award. She was my first veterinary role model. She was a small business owner, grew her practice from a one woman practice to a fantastic 3 vet hospital on her own. She encouraged me, challenged me and let me believe in myself.
So much of who I am today was formed during my time here at Sydney Uni. I developed a good understanding of accountability and consequences after spending too much time drinking beer and skipping lectures in first year. After first semester results came out I never skipped lectures again.
Here I am in final year in 2004 on placement at Kulnura Veterinary Clinic. Hands down my favourite rotation of final year. Thanks for all of your wonderful support Dr Anna!
I struggled with social anxiety and forced myself out of my comfort zone and into VetSoc Harbour Cruises, Vet Pub Crawls, BBGrog’s and Vet Balls. I battled feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome – partially due to my full fee paying status.
I learnt about resilience when my dad was diagnosed with terminal melanoma during study vacation at the end of second year. My family and I was with him during his 13 months of treatments and finally when he passed away. Resilience is what kept me coming back to uni, sitting my exams and taking steps towards achieving my dream. It taught me about grief and loss, it provided me with clarity around what was important to me and increased my compassion surrounding end of life.
My dad was the best! He died at age 52 from Metastatic Melanoma.
Resilience is what helped me bounce back from burnout, depression and crippling anxiety throughout my career. More importantly it has allowed me to talk openly about it, provide honest dialogue with my staff and allows me to use my profile to shed light on such an important topic. In fact if I could gift you all one thing, it would be the gift of resilience. There are going to be tough times during your career however you will come through them and you will learn from them and what I’ve found is that you often come out the other side stronger and better.
Resilience also means that I am able to talk about the Tiger B incident and use an objective lens to assess what went wrong. Tiger was a mature age, entire male German Shepherd. I was a new grad. He came in for a castrate. I performed an open castration and sent him home pretty chuffed that it went well. I continued to believe this delusion for a good seven days. On the 8th day he returned with what can only be described as a water melon sized scrotum hanging painfully between his back legs. I was devastated. What on earth had I done wrong? How did this happen? Why am I such a bad vet?
Castrating a dog as a vet student. This is not Tiger
I’ll let you in on a little secrete here – like many vets I was about to discover that I had a God complex. I always thought I was pretty humble but after I had three patients die unexpectedly in a week, I felt an all-consuming responsibility for their deaths, I emotionally broke down and carted myself off to my psychologist. It was there she directly shattered my sense of self-importance for the better. She asked “Belinda, who made you so special that you are the only factor that affects whether or not a patient lives or dies…”
She then introduced me to the most valuable pie chart I’ve ever come across and tonight I’m going to share it with you. My hope is that when you have a patient die or there is a shitty outcome that you will not only think about Tiger’s scrotum, but that you will also think about the other factors that were at play.
If this pie chart makes up all of the different factors that can affect whether or not Tiger will have a giant water melon scrotum post castrate how much do you think is;
How long the owners waited to bring him into the clinic?
Next – how much is the amount of exercise that Tiger was doing at home?
Right and how much do you think is the owners not reading the discharge paperwork you gave them?
What about the owners not listening to the nurse when they told them to keep him quiet
And what about your surgical technique – how much do you think was that you performed an open castration vs closed or that you didn’t specifically tie off the tunica.
His age – was that a factor
Now this simple exercise allowed me to see that I was in fact NOT the only factor that affected the state of poor Tigers scrotum. This has been invaluable to me over the years. To get my head around patient deaths or unexpected outcomes, sitting down and looking at all of the potential factors and seeing that I am not the one single reason has saved me so much anxiety and self-induced heartache and stress.
Since graduating I’ve become a certified veterinary acupuncturist, I’ve felt like I’ve made a difference to our profession by being the leader I always wanted, I’ve created my own personal brand Dr Belinda The Vet, found a passion for blogging and sharing this brilliant profession with the world, discovered that there are very few social media platforms that can’t be used to show off behind the scenes footage of the vet hospital and feel grateful that I am able to connect with vet students, vet nurses and aspiring vets all of the globe.
Now you will all have your own Tiger's. My advice is to find a supportive workplace. If you find yourself in one that doesn’t have a good “feel” then don’t put up with it. Leave. Life is too short to miserable and trust me it’s liberating. If the right environment doesn’t exist then what is stopping you from creating it? You don’t have to be the boss, the business owner or a senior vet to create change. If the people surrounding you don’t agree with being a part of supportive workplace then look for people who are.
Meet my gangsta support network and wonderful work family. They are my people, my colleagues, my friends and my work family
And finally I want to share one of my most memorable patients with you. His name was Rodney, he was a Guinea Pig who travelled in to the vet on the back of a motorbike for his acupuncture appointment. And that my friends is why being a vet is AMAZING! May you meet many Rodney’s and very few Tiger B's.
Introducing Rodney! The motorbike riding little bad ass of a Guinea Pig who loves acupuncture.
Love Dr Belinda
Modified from my speech at the University of Sydney Veterinary and Animal Science Students and Alumni Awards night.
How noise phobia resulted in toxic plant ingestion in a dog
My first case of the new year was one that scares most pet parents. It involved a much loved furbaby eating an entire plant... a entire plant that is toxic to pets.
Poor Bettie has a noise phobia, and as her pet parents noticed, her noise phobia has gotten worse over time. It is incredibly common that noise phobias get worse over time rather than better (particularly when you don't have the counter conditioning tools and sometimes medication needed to help reduce the symptoms).
Sunday night was New Years Eve, and NYE in Sydney means one thing - AMAZING fireworks across our beautiful harbour city. Now, whilst those of us with two legs love watching the fireworks, our four legged friends find it much more stressful. And if they are like Bettie it will induce a full blown panic attack.
I don't know for sure what Bettie was thinking as the fireworks were going off around her but my best guess is that in her panicked state she attempted to soothe herself by chewing. Chewing is known to be a self soothing behaviour (think of kids/adults who chew on their nails when they are anxious), however when it is done to excess it is a sign that your pet is feeling very stressed. Consuming an entire toxic plant would be considered to excess. Excessive chewing is how my boy Charlie shows his anxiety. I know when he's feeling anxious, there is always something being chewed up and destroyed.
More information: http://www.ava.com.au/sites/default/files/AVA_website/Noise%20phobias%20in%20dogs.pdf
Moving onto the toxic plant. Unfortunately for Bettie, she chose to chew on an Elephant Ear Plant (Colocasia). This is an insoluable calcium oxolate containing plant which when chewed releases crystals which damage any tissue they come in contact with. The most common signs of ingestion are:
Lack of appetite
Pawing at mouth
Swelling or edema of the upper airway can occur in severe cases resulting in difficulty breathing
The mainstay of treatment for Bettie is going to be supportive care whilst the ulcerations to her mouth and likely her oesphagus heal. She has been painful, drooling and vomiting. I have everything crossed that Bettie has a swift recovery.
It is also vital that her noise phobia is addressed. As her reaction is escalating as time goes on, we need to help prevent this from happening again. My own boys (Charlie and Elmo) have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Management of such a severe anxiety case is likely to involve a referral to a Behavioural Veterinarian (Veterinary Behaviour Team have helped me with my boys), medication, training and home management tactics.
If you recognise that your furbaby could have a similar problem to Bettie your best first step is consultation with your veterinarian who can refer to you to right Veterinary Behaviouralist in your area. Your furbaby does not have to suffer with severe anxiety. Behavioural medicine has come a long way and can make a huge positive impact on their quality of life.
How do you help your furbaby feel better during fireworks and storms?
From puppies to pyometras, 2017 has been a year full of adorable patients, making sore mouths feel better, helping Frenchie's breathe better, introducing a new family member, appointments with veterinary behaviourists and many many laughs.
I am looking forward to sharing more of my patients stories and what it means to be the General Manager of a busy Western Sydney Veterinary Hospital with you in 2018.
Dental disease affects over 80% of dogs and cats over the age of 3. In the Parsons house, dental disease affects 100% of dogs owned by Dr Belinda. So, as one of Charlie's many birthday presents, he received his annual dental clean.
Follow Charlie's dental from start to finish in this vlog. You will see him arrive in the clinic, go to sleep under the anaesthetic and have his teeth cleaned. Prophylactic dental care (early teeth cleaning) is important in maintaining dental hygiene and will help him to have a pain free mouth.
I can't believe it has been 12 months with Charlie in our home. It has been a roller coaster of a 12 months. He arrived on his 1st Birthday last year and came at us with all he's got - in a way that only Charlie can.
On his first night with us he ran straight through the back screen door like a tornado proudly bursting into our living room and our lives. The tornado continued with him rampaging around the living room for the next 3 hours. We quickly learnt that Charlie was no normal dog.
Charlie 12 months ago when he first arrived with us. He had NEVER had a hair cut, spent most of his life alone in the backyard and didn't know what to do with human interaction. 2 days later I took him into work, shaved him (his coat was so matted it came off in one giant matt), castrated him and gave him his first dental procedure.
Charlie suffers from anxiety triggered mostly by human interaction and displayed by hyperarousal. AKA he doesn't settle around people, he gets over excited, he mouths you, he licks you and when totally over-stimulated he nips you. The best way that I can describe his behaviour is it's like when your dog gets excited to see you and they jump and run around doing zoomies, well Charlie is like that... but he never used to settle down. It would last hours until we finally would have to put him outside so that he could rest.
Cue the help of some of my wonderful colleagues with further training in veterinary behaviour and my amazing friend Casey who is a fantastic dog trainer. Charlie was started on prozac and clonidine and was a new dog. With the physical symptoms of anxiety fading Charlie was able to learn and finally become the dog he was under the whirlwind. He's still hyperactive, he still loves nothing more than to jump but he can come inside and settle down for a cuddle or just lay on the couch without taking 3 hours to do so.
Charlie eating his birthday biscuit
It has been a long and slow road at times but it has been so rewarding. It took 6 months for Charlie to fall asleep inside the house without being inside his crate. I have never owned a dog that has come so close to breaking me. Whilst in the early days it came close, we never gave up on each other, I kept asking for help and changing what needed to be changed to make Charlie's life easier. I have become a better more understanding vet since Charlie came into my life. I am able to relate to my clients who are experiencing similar challenges at home.
As you can see from his birthday celebration this morning he is calmer and happier. We love him unconditionally and have accepted that he's not a "normal" dog. His brain is wired differently and we love him just as he is. He is still taking his prozac daily and will continue to do so as long as he needs it (that may well be the rest of his life, but if that is what it takes to keep him from suffering from his anxiety then we won't think twice about it).
Charlie eating his birthday pup cake
His little-big brother Elmo also suffers from anxiety. They have become great buddies and Charlie absolutely loves having a brother.
For Charlie's Birthday we thought he deserved his own pup cakes made from a big mince ball, sprinkled with their favourite chopped up Savour Life kangaroo treats. The cheeky boy did try to jump up on the table to steal it before we were ready. A standard Charlie move.
Charlie's little nose can smell the pup cakes and can't wait to get it into his belly
I often think what would have happened to Charlie if he didn't go to a family that was prepared to provide him with daily medication, put up with him chewing up/out the entire irrigation system in the garden, chewing on his new kennel, ripping a giant hole in the trampoline so that it could become a doggy bouncing ring, requiring an endless supply of toys to destroy, having to put baby gates up to block him from having free range around the house, having to employ a dog walker twice a week to help keep him stimulated when I work two long days a week at the clinic, being ok with him chewing a hole in bottom of my work trousers and working a full morning consulting shift before realising said hole was made, no longer being able to hang the washing outside after Charlie would parade past the back door with our clothes in his mouth running full speed having them trail behind him like a flag and of course despite all of the chewing him still developing dental disease requiring a special diet (no Charlie my clothes are not a special diet) and regular dentistry.
So Happy Birthday my crazy happy boy. I couldn't imagine my home without you. You challenge me, you drive me slight more nuts than I already am but you complete our family xxx
Charlie and Elmo demonstrating their excellent "wait" skills
12 lessons learnt in the 12 months since the loss of my heart dog Jack
It hurts. My heart ached for the loss and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To hurt less would have meant he meant less. Loving him was worth every bit of pain that came from losing him.
This was one of our last photographs together - it broke my heart saying goodbye but at the same time I was so thankful that I was able to be with him and put my feelings aside and give him the gift of not letting him suffer.
Loving a new furbaby or two doesn’t mean that I loved Jack any less. If anything, with the challenges of Charlie integrating into our home, it made me love Jack more for the seamless way he integrated in our lives.
Charlie came into our lives nearly 1 year ago. He has been a huge challenge. He has considerable behavioural issues and requires medication to help with his anxiety. Elmo has been with us for 2 months and also suffers from anxiety. I love them both dearly. Fortunately for Jack he did not suffer the anxiety that both Charlie and Elmo do.
For me a home without a pet is empty.
After Jack passed away, it was the first time in 16 years that we didn't have another fur baby in the house. I felt so empty without the presence of a pet.
Jack, even in passing, is still able to help me improve the lives of my patients. By sharing his experiences with anaesthesia, dentistry, kidney failure and heart disease I am able to ease the anxiety of my clients and explain how we can safely provide their pet with the treatments that are needed.
Jack had many dental procedures throughout his life. It was very important to me that I kept his mouth free of pain and that meant regular dental cleanings and examinations under a general anaesthetic.
Sometimes seeing his face makes me sad, sometimes it makes me happy. And that is ok.
This picture of Jack, Cassie and I makes me smile. His goofy long hair and Cassie's happy little face make me smile. I was also super proud in this picture - my first staff photo as a vet nurse which included my dogs. #dreamscomingtrue
Some reminders are too sad (like his kennel – I donated it to Pets In the Park) and other reminders are ok (like his little brown dog couch).
Jack sitting proud on his little dog couch - we had to take the legs off so that he could get up on his own.
Jack’s photographs are littered throughout my life. He’s all over my social media, in nearly all of our family photographs, in frames, in our vaccination booklet at work and all over my phone.
This is one of my favourite pictures of Jack. He was sleeping on the couch in his favourite position. It looks like the light is shining out of him. I have it framed on my wall at home.
I’m not quite ready to place his ashes in their final resting place. His ashes are in my wardrobe. They were on the chair in my room for nearly 8 months. My plan is to have my girls to decorate his stone in bright colourful paint (his ashes were placed in a stone) and then take his ashes out to the cemetery where my dad’s ashes are buried so that they can rest together.
Jack loved the girls and they loved him. He was also my dad's dog until he died of cancer in 2003 and then I inherited him. He has a place put aside at the cemetery where his ashes can sit with my dad's ashes. When we are ready, we will decorate his stone and place him with my dad.
No dog will ever replace Jack. As much as I love Charlie & Elmo they will never be there to support me through the things that Jack supported me through and that is ok. They will be there to support me through things that I can’t foresee in my future in ways I can’t imagine yet.
Jack was with me when I got into vet school, with me when my dad got sick and died from melanoma, he was with me when I met my husband, when we bought our first house and when we had both of our children. He has been there for me during the highs and the lows. He's been a non-judgmental shoulder to cry on and a constant joyful spirit to come home to. He even like to chill in the pool with me over a glass of wine.
Old chilled out dogs are much easier to photograph than hyperactive young dogs.
There is no way I could take this picture with Charlie. Charlie doesn't believe in sitting still - Jack just took it all in his stride.
Jack was the perfect dog to help my girls find their own love of dogs. He was gentle, calm and quiet. He gave them the perfect amount of space and love at the same time.
My daughter Georgie is proud as punch getting to show off Jack when we went for a vet visit to a local preschool. He was super gentle and took it all in his stride.
Jack made the perfect aspiring vet student’s dog, vet student’s dog and finally vet’s dog.
Such a sweet boy - whenever I needed a new photo taken for my blog, he always obliged.