St Francis: Questions & Answers

We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has provided feedback to us over the past two months. We have really appreciated your honesty and willingness to provide your perspective. We wanted to take this opportunity to share some questions and answers with all of you. We have structured this section to reflect the questions that we’ve heard voiced by you.

Questions & Answers

“We have a difficult time getting an appointment. Your schedule is always booked out so far. Will you ever stop seeing new clients so that it’s easier for us to get the care we need?”

We have had significant growth over the past four years. All of that growth has been word-of-mouth referrals from all of you – and we so appreciate that! We are honored by the love that you have shown us by recommending us to your family, friends, and neighbors.

However, St Francis has reached its capacity. We want to be able to continue to provide exceptional care to our existing patients and clients, so as of Monday, August 26, we will no longer be accepting new clients. This will allow us to focus on providing the best care to all of you.

“We have had a lot of difficulty reaching you on the phone. Most of our calls go to voicemail. Why? Will it always be this way? What are you doing to improve this?”

Our call volume has been extraordinary this year. On most days, we are averaging 300-450 calls per day. While we are doing our best to answer these calls, we can’t get to all of them. At any given moment, we may all be caring for a patient or helping a client and cannot answer the phone. Sometimes, all six of our phone lines are in use and calls automatically roll over to voicemail.

We are working with our telephone provider to revise our phone system. Our goal is to have a phone tree that will allow our callers to access our contact information, directions, and hours; leave a message with a refill request, leave a message for an appointment request; or leave a general message. Rather than being directed to voicemail immediately, you will have the option to stay in the call queue, or in the case of a life-threatening emergency for your pet, be connected directly to an emergency facility.

In addition, we have expanded our team to include a receptionist. We hope to continue to expand this area of the practice, potentially adding a call center in the future.

“If we can’t get through on the phone, are there other ways that we can reach you?”

Yes, for non-emergency needs, you may contact us through our website at www.stfrancisanimalandbird.com or via email at group@stfrancisabh.com. You may request medication refills or appointments by clicking the appropriate buttons on our website’s Home page. Our Contact Us page provides information about our clinic hours, fax number, and directions to both St Francis and St Francis Integrative Services. For patient updates, non-critical questions, refill requests, or appointment requests, feel free to email us at group@stfrancisabh.com. Please allow 24-48 hours for responses to emails.

“I used to be able to stop in at any time to pick up a prescription food or medication. Why do we have to call in advance now?”

When we dispense prescriptions or prescription food, we require two team members to prepare the medication or food and check the prescription label and invoice for accuracy. If we are working with patients, we may not be able to fill medications or prescription food immediately. To avoid extensive wait times, we recommend that you call us 24-48 hours in advance for all food and medication requests.

For controlled substances, only select team members are allowed to obtain, count, and handle these medications. These medications must also be logged into a monitoring database. All controlled substances require a 24-48 hour advanced notice to allow for these additional steps.

“My pet had an emergency and I was told to go to the emergency clinic. Why wouldn’t you see my pet?”

There may be a few reasons that we recommend going to an emergency facility instead of St Francis.

1) For some emergency conditions, your pet requires more advanced care, monitoring, or specialized equipment than we are able to provide in general practice. Examples include patients with:

  • Respiratory distress: If your pet is having difficulty breathing, he or she requires an emergency facility with an oxygen cage.
  • Heat stroke: Heat stroke can be an immediately life-threatening condition and requires an emergency care team, oxygen, and the option for intensive care.
  • Status epilepticus or prolonged seizures: If your pet is having ongoing seizures, he or she needs a 24-hour care facility and intravenous anticonvulsant therapy.
  • Acute trauma: For acute trauma patients (i.e. hit by car, dog attack, burns, extensive bleeding), your pet is best cared for in a 24 hour care facility with access to a criticalist, an internal medicine specialist, and a surgeon. Most of these patients will require hospitalization, specialized laboratory testing, and intensive monitoring.
  • Bloat or gastric dilation volvulus (GDV): Torsion of the stomach can be life-threatening and often requires emergency surgery performed by a board-certified surgeon. These patients also require ongoing emergency care both before and after surgery.
  • Urinary obstruction: Cats with urinary obstructions that are not stable may be referred directly to a 24 hour care facility. Regardless, most cats with a urinary obstruction will need to be transferred after we relieve the obstruction, so to eliminate the need to transfer, you may want to consider going directly to a 24 hour facility.

2) While we try to see as many of our own patients for urgent care as possible, there are some days where our facility is already at capacity when you call. We always have the patient’s best interest in mind. If we do not feel that we have the ability to provide the care that your pet needs, we will recommend that you go to an urgent care or emergency facility instead.

Veterinary medicine is similar to human medicine. You see your family practice physician for your preventative care and most ailments, but sometimes you need to visit an urgent care facility or an emergency department, either because of the nature of your illness, the immediacy of your needs, or the hours during which you need care. The same is true for veterinary care for your pets.

We work closely with the Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Oakdale (651-501-3766) and St Paul (651-293-1800) (www.aercmn.com) to serve as an extension of St Francis. We trust their team to provide the care your pet needs when we cannot. Afterwards, we will receive a comprehensive report and will follow up with you. In addition, the University of Minnesota offers urgent care during certain hours. To learn more, visit their website at https://www.vmc.umn.edu/about-us/specialties-services/urgent-care or call (612) 626-VETS.

“Why don’t you just hire more people to take care of our pets, answer the phones, or fill our pets’ medications?”

We would love this as much as you would. However, the veterinary industry is experiencing a staffing crisis. Currently, there are 197 openings for a veterinary technician or veterinary assistant in the Twin Cities. All but two of the schools offering veterinary technician degrees in Minnesota have closed down, meaning fewer individuals are graduating with the credentials needed to work in a veterinary practice. Experienced technicians are leaving general practice to join specialty practices where they can earn higher wages and have shorter work hours.

St Francis has always been a leader in this industry, and we are working on ways to set our practice apart from the rest. We have created directorship roles for our experienced technicians, providing them with more responsibility and areas of expertise within our practice. We offer competitive salaries and benefits to all of our team members as well as hiring incentives for our new members. We’re providing educational stipends for our veterinary assistants who go on to earn their Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) degrees. Most importantly, we are restructuring our hospital team to include receptionists and kennel assistants, allowing our veterinary assistants and technicians to focus on patient and client care.

You will be seeing a lot of new faces at St Francis as we create these new positions and add members to the team. Please be patient with us as we restructure and train each individual to provide the excellent care that you’ve always known. We are confident that we will once again be the veterinary practice that serves as a role model for others amidst this changing landscape.


Thank you again to everyone who shared their experiences with us, who provided us with insight and advice, and who provided honest feedback. We are so fortunate to have amazing partnerships with all of you in the care of your loved ones. We are always striving to improve and be the very best that we can be. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us at group@stfrancisabh.com or (651) 645-2808.

Employee Spotlight: Katie Cartledge, DVM

Each month, we will spotlight one of our team members in order of years of service at St. Francis Animal Hospital.

Dr. Katie Cartledge received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in May of 2009. She joined St. Francis Animal Hospital in September 2012. In 2018, she accepted the position of Medical Director and now plays a key role in the management of the practice.

Katie’s professional interests include preventative care, internal medicine, avian medicine and general surgery. She is a member of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV).

Katie also regularly volunteers her time with Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue and their spay/neuter and wellness clinics.

Katie and her wife, Colby, share their home with 4 cats, Ed, Louise, Marlow, and Chad; and their 2 dogs, Marta and Goose. In her spare time, she enjoys watching live music, traveling, camping, and occasionally brewing a batch of tasty beer.

Why do you love being a veterinarian?

What I really love about being a veterinarian is the variety that each day brings. I appreciate getting to know clients and their furry and feathered family members.

Why do you love working at St. Francis Animal Hospital?

St. Francis Animal Hospital has been a wonderful team to be a part of. Every one of us strives to provide the best care we can. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by so many caring and passionate co-workers.

Thank you, Katie, for all of your years of service at St Francis!

August: Itchy Pet Awareness Month

Many of you don’t need us to tell you that August centers around itchy pets. You know it firsthand. While the humans are sneezing and grabbing for a tissue, our pets are chewing on their paws, shaking their heads, scooting their butts, and itching all over. Welcome to August!

We are dedicating the tail end of summer to Itchy Pet Awareness. Join us in helping bring awareness to our itchy pets!

Itchiness may be caused by flea allergy, environmental indoor and outdoor allergens, atopic dermatitis, contact allergy, food allergy, parasites, bacterial infections, or yeast infections. Signs of itch include scratching, biting, chewing, rubbing, scooting, frequent licking, recurrent ear problems, hair loss, body odor, and skin changes.

Common over-the-counter medications may not address the cause of the itch and can prolong your pet’s suffering.

Seeking advice from a veterinarian is important to determine if itch is caused by infection, parasites, or allergies. We now have cutting edge therapies available such as Apoquel or Cytopoint to rapidly address your dog’s itching; Nexgard or Revolution Plus to address your pets’ parasites; Convenia to treat secondary bacterial infections; and prescription foods to treat food allergies. If your pet is itchy, reach out to us today – we can help!

Information courtesy of Zoetis Petcare

News Briefs

Happy Anniversary Abby Torok, CVT

Congratulations to Abby Torok, CVT for celebrating her Five Year Anniversary at St Francis. Abby recently accepted a role as our Director of Dermatology Services and will be working closely with Dr. Amy Haarstad to provide dermatology services at St Francis.

Nextdoor Neighborhood Favorite

Thank you to everyone who voted for us as your Nextdoor Neighborhood Favorite. We earned the title in ten neighborhoods throughout St Paul and Roseville. We are honored to be your neighborhood favorite!

September Pain Awareness Month

To celebrate Pain Awareness Month, we will be promoting our Nutramax joint supplements. For every bottle of Dasuquin or Welactin that you purchase during the month of September, you will be entered into a drawing to win a LiT LED Light Up Cooler courtesy of Nutramax.