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As we have for the past nine weeks, we continue to monitor the conditions across the country and adjust our protocols to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the MN Department of Health; the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine; and other local, state, and federal agencies. As community restrictions are lifted, our individual risk of infection increases, and it is essential that we do our part to keep our employees, clients, and patients as safe as possible.

Due to our small physical space and the need for social distancing, we anticipate that our curbside service will continue until at least June 30th. All appointments, including acupuncture and laser appointments, will be at the main St Francis location. For more information about our curbside service, please visit our website at www.stfrancisanimalandbird.com or our Facebook page.

We are asking that you wear a face mask or covering for all interactions with our team members. We commit to doing the same. A health consultant recently evaluated our practice and found that only 46% of our clients are wearing a mask when interacting with our veterinary team. We ask you to please help keep our team safe so that we can continue to be here to care for your furred family members.

Curbside Service

We are experiencing an unusually high call volume, answering over 1,000 incoming calls every day. We know how frustrating this is for you, especially when you’re waiting in the parking lot. Beginning this week, we hope to offer a solution.

  • When you arrive, please park in a designated parking spot.
  • The parking space signs will provide you with two new cell phone numbers. One is a dedicated line for patient appointments, while the other is a dedicated line for those clients who are picking up food or medications. You may text or call the appropriate line upon your arrival. Our concierge team will need your name, pet’s name, phone number, and parking space. If we are on the line, you are welcome to leave a voice mail or hang up and send us a text message with this information.

    The purpose of these lines is to simply let us know that you are here. We want to keep these lines open, so we will not be using these lines to answer questions or obtain appointment histories.
  • When we are ready to bring your pet into the building or to take your payment for medications or food, a technician or assistant will call you from a main line.
  • At this time, we will come to your car to retrieve your pet for the appointment as we have been doing. Please stay tuned as we hope to implement a contactless transfer of your pet to our team within the next 1-2 weeks.
  • Unless your pet was scheduled for a drop off appointment, it is very important that you do not leave the parking lot while we are examining your pet. In order for us to provide care to as many pets as possible, we must be able to return your pet to your car as soon as we have finished care.

Curbside Pick Up: Medications and Food

We are working to further improve our social distancing and reduce close contact in order to keep all of us safe. By Tuesday, we will have a contactless transfer for medications, food, or specimen drop offs.

  • On the south side of the building (left side of the main door), we will have bins that correlate to your parking space.
  • After obtaining payment, we will bring your medications or food to your bin for you to retrieve. (We are working to implement an online payment platform for those who wish to pay online in advance. We will let you know if/when this is available.)
  • When in the pick up area, please follow social distancing guidelines and maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and others. Hand sanitizer will be provided for you and we will be cleaning and sanitizing the general area regularly throughout the day.
  • For controlled medications, we need to document that we have seen a photo identification. If you are picking up these medications, we ask that you lay your photo ID on the table for us to review. Once we have stepped away, you may pick up your ID and medications.
  • There are additional bins designated for specimen drop offs. If you have a prepaid fecal container or any other specimen such as a urine sample, you may call us on the Curbside Pick Up line and leave the sample in the appropriate bin.

Saturday Hours

Beginning May 23rd, we will resume our regular Saturday hours from 8 am to 12:30 pm. Saturdays will be open for wellness care and vaccine only to accommodate those pets who are at risk of lapsing on their vaccines. Pets who are ill or have emergency conditions will be scheduled for a weekly appointment or directed to an urgent care facility. We will also be available for curbside food or medication pick up. Saturday acupuncture appointments may be scheduled between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm on a case-by-case basis starting June 6th.

Appointment Availability

We had several weeks in which we were not allowed to schedule routine wellness care for pets. As such, we have a large number of patients who are requesting care at this time.

  • We are doing our best to accommodate as many appointments as possible, but are currently booking out up to 4 weeks. Please be aware that we may refer you to the Animal Emergency & Referral Center if we are unable to accommodate your pet’s urgent care visit. We may also ask you to delay your routine wellness visits depending on when your pet is actually due.
  • During this time, some of our doctors and staff are temporarily working additional hours from home to assist our team in answering your messages, voicemails, emails, and PetDesk requests. For certain cases, we may be able to offer telemedicine to provide care for your pet.
  • If your pet will need a recheck appointment or a vaccine booster, please schedule this visit at the time of the initial visit to ensure that we can accommodate the appropriate date.

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Thank you so much for all of your feedback, kindness, words of gratitude, and encouragement. We are so grateful to be able to care for such amazing clients and patients at St Francis Animal Hospital.

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: BAYLEE MAY

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

Baylee joined St. Francis Animal & Bird Hospital in February 2018 as a Veterinary Assistant. She received her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Animal Science with a Companion Animal emphasis from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in December 2017. She is currently enrolled at Penn Foster College in order to obtain an Associate's Degree in Veterinary Technology. From here, she plans to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT).

In addition to her veterinary assistant duties, she has taken on many veterinary technician responsibilities, maintains our medical equipment, and serves as our Kennel Assistant Supervisor.

She shares her home with her green cheek conure, Jazz. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors, bowling, playing softball and volleyball, and hanging out with friends.

Why do you love being a veterinary assistant?

I love being a Veterinary Assistant because I enjoy working hands-on with animals while assisting doctors and technicians with veterinary tasks and procedures. As a fellow pet owner, I know that our animals are considered family and we want what’s best for them physically and emotionally. I have a passion for the health, care, and well-being of animals that we consider family members.

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

What sets St. Francis Animal Hospital apart from other veterinary practices is our commitment to our core values of respect, integrity, compassion, excellence, and dedication. St. Francis Animal Hospital has a great reputation for having highly-trained, educated, and compassionate staff who maintain positive relationships with their clients. The staff at St. Francis work to provide the least stressful experience as possible for you and your pets. By implementing Fear Free practices, animals are less nervous for trips to the vet. In turn, going to the vet can be a positive, rewarding experience. The doctors, technicians, and assistants truly care about you and your pets! I am proud to work alongside such a great group of people.


PUPPY SOCIALIZATION

Written by: Megan Schommer, DVM

Many puppy owners have found themselves in the difficult position of having a puppy whose socialization window (approximately 6 to 16 weeks of age) has landed right in the midst of our stay-at-home order. Typically, we recommend exposing puppies to all of the people, animals, and experiences they should expect to come into contact with throughout their lives during this important developmental stage. But puppy kindergarten, group playtimes, doggy daycare, and visiting family and neighbors are all off-limits right now. How can we replicate those experiences when none of our usual options are available?

Socialization refers to teaching puppies to be calm and confident around the experiences they are likely to have throughout their lives. While we tend to think of socialization as simply getting puppies into a lot of different settings, remember that it isn’t just about exposure but also about watching your puppy’s response and recognizing when he is comfortable versus when he is nervous. If your puppy is fearful about something new, he isn’t learning to be calm or confident. The advantage to our current situation is that we are far less likely to rush our puppies into interacting with too many new people or animals before they feel comfortable. We can still do a great job teaching puppies about their world even if we have to approach socialization a little more intentionally than usual.

First, remember that you are always your puppy’s primary teacher, even when they are able to go to in-person classes. Utilize at-home resources, like Dr. Sophia Yin’s “Perfect Puppy in 7 Days”, Dr. Ian Dunbar’s “Before and After Getting Your Puppy”, or Dr. Patricia McConnell’s “Puppy Primer”. Several local training groups are offering online classes to help provide professional guidance for training as well. Short daily lessons at home are important for starting your puppy off right! At-home activities like handling your puppy’s feet, mouth, and ears, practicing baths, and walking on a leash are all essential parts of puppy socialization.

You can safely expose your puppy to other humans and animals while still observing social distancing. Find a trusted friend with a well-behaved adult dog and practice walking near each other. Your puppy can safely see, smell, and hear other animals from a distance, even if they cannot touch or play with each other. Work on teaching your puppy to focus on you in the face of fun distractions like another dog. Even sitting in your car with your puppy near a walking path allows your puppy to watch different people and animals go by. One benefit of distancing is that it will force you to resist the temptation to let your puppy rush up to greet new friends!

When it is difficult to find other people to safely interact with, change your own appearance or the appearance of your family members to allow your puppy to see different types of sounds and movements. Dress up in hats, outer wear, costumes, and other unusual clothing. Move differently or use mobility aids like crutches or canes. Make strange sounds like loud laughter. Reward your puppy when she responds calmly to meeting these “new” people. Everyone in the home should spend time interacting with your puppy. Practice entering your home in many different ways to simulate new people coming over. Tap into your inner actor!

Exposure to different sounds and textures is possible within your house with some creativity. Try to think about what your puppy might need to walk through in a walk around a park. Find novel materials like aluminum foil, a rimmed cookie sheet filled with water, or crinkly paper. Reward your puppy first for approaching, and then for touching these strange objects. Make a game out of walking over and through unusual surfaces! Think about the sounds your puppy might not hear soon but that will be common throughout his life, including thunderstorms, fireworks, airplane noises, car or train sounds, or the sounds of babies or children. Find YouTube videos or playlists (i.e. Calm Pet: Desensitizing Sounds for Animals). Play these sounds softly at first and slowly increase the volume as your puppy becomes accustomed to them.

The final, and possibly the most difficult, lesson to work on while we are all in quarantine is to teach your puppy to be calm and comfortable being alone. As tempting as it is to spend as much time as possible together, your puppy needs a chance to rest and also needs to learn that being by herself is not a scary or upsetting experience. Crate training, enforcing regular naptimes and solo times throughout the day, and not allowing your puppy to sleep with you in bed are all helpful ways to ensure that your puppy will be comfortable being away from you when our routines go back to normal.

If you’d like to dive deeper into learning how to socialize your puppy while maintaining social distancing, Emily Larhlam (also known as Kikopup) has a great in-depth lesson about distance socialization on her YouTube channel!

Happy training!
Dr. Megan Schommer

NEWS BRIEFS

Welcome to St Francis

We wanted to wish a warm welcome to our newest veterinary technician, Jessie Pudil, CVT. She has far exceeded our expectations and we are so excited for you to actually meet her and not just speak with her over the phone. We’d also like to welcome our newest full-time veterinary assistant, Lillian Schmitz, hailing to us from Bemidji State University. Welcome to the St Francis team!

Biting Insects
Written by Dr. Megan Schommer

With warmer temperatures and spring showers come the first biting insects of the year. Blacks flies have recently come out in force and their bites can look shocking when you find them on your dog. Black flies are tiny, gnat-like insects that love to bite dogs on their thinly-haired areas like their bellies. They are found in grassy areas and are particularly common near water like lakes and creeks. Black fly bites are dark red, round, and about the size of a penny when they first appear. Over the course of a day or two, they take on a "bullseye" appearance before gradually dissipating. The good news is that black fly bites are rarely bothersome to dogs, and unlike tick bites, they do not transmit any diseases. If your dog is itchy or if the lesions last more than three days, please contact your veterinarian for guidance, but otherwise you can leave these to benign neglect.

Thank You: Favorite Animal Hospital

Thank you for voting us for the Minnesota Women's Press 2020 Favorite Animal Hospital or Veterinarian. We are very honored to be able to provide your family with the exceptional care that you deserve. Awardees were to be honored in the May issue of the Women’s Press Magazine but will now be honored in the print magazine once life returns to normal.