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I think we can all agree that it has been a very long eight months.  As the case numbers for COVID-19 soar, we wanted to reach out to provide you with a few updates and reminders about what to expect at St Francis Animal Hospital.

Under the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we are being very diligent about keeping COVID-19 out of the workplace so that we can continue to be here to care for your pets.  As we enter cold and flu season, this becomes more challenging.

Any team member showing any signs of illness is asked to stay home and obtain a negative COVID test before returning to St Francis.  We currently have multiple team members who are out of the office pending COVID tests.  This significantly impacts our ability to provide the care that we want to provide for you and your pets. 

We are asking for your help as we work through the winter months ahead.

1) We continue to struggle with the volume of phone calls, and this week will be even more challenging with fewer team members onsite.For non-urgent updates, questions, appointment requests, or refill requests, please reach out to us via email at group@stfrancisabh.com or PetDesk or consider leaving a voicemail at (651) 645-2808.  Team members working offsite are able to manage these modes of correspondence, leaving the phone call queue available for those who have urgent or immediate needs.

2) For non-urgent questions or updates, please allow 2-3 business days for a response.  When possible, our technicians will follow up with you on the doctors' behalf to allow our doctors to continue to care for our patients in appointments or in hospital.  Please also allow 2-3 business days for all food or medication refill requests.

3) Please help us to keep our team safe.We ask that you wear a mask when you are within six feet of any of our team members.  We have increased our protection by wearing face shields in addition to our masks, but we ask that you do your part as well to help keep us safe and healthy.  

4) Our appointments and food or medication pick ups will continue to be curbside only with the exception of euthanasia appointments.  Our small facility does not allow us to safely have clients in the building.  Please know that we care for your pet in your absence just as we would in your presence --- with maybe a few more kisses, snuggles, and treats.  We really do miss you as much as you miss us.  This is difficult for everyone, but necessary for us to keep our team safe and our doors open.  

5) As the weather becomes colder, if there are reasons that you cannot remain in your car in the parking lot, please talk with us about scheduling a drop off appointment.

If we reach a critical stage in which we do not have enough team members to adequately provide care for your pets, we have doctors who are out ill and cannot see their appointments or perform their surgical/dental procedures, or the clinic is required to close for quarantine, we will need to take steps to reschedule your visits.  We understand how frustrating this is, especially since many of these appointments have been on the calendar for months.  If we need to take these steps, we ask for your kindness, understanding, and patience as we work with you to find alternative appointment times.

As always, thank you for caring for us like your own family.  As we hear what is happening at other veterinary practices across the country, we are in awe of the amazing clients that we have at St Francis.  We are so grateful for you and so honored to have worked side by side with you throughout the ups and downs of these past eight months.  We could not do the great work that we do at St Francis without the collaborative effort with our incredible pet owners!

For more information about what to expect with our curbside care or any of our previous COVID-19 protocols, please visit our website or our Facebook Notes page.


 
Thanks,
 
Team St Francis Animal Hospital



Vaccines: Did You Know?

Many of us give very little thought to vaccinations.  We receive our pets’ reminders, schedule an appointment, and update the recommended vaccines.  However, not all vaccines are the same, and here at St Francis, we place as much thought and discussion into choosing your pets’ vaccines as we do into developing new protocols or choosing which medications we will recommend.

In July, we transitioned to a different line of canine vaccines to allow us to provide more protection for your dogs with fewer injections.  We chose this line of vaccines for two reasons.

  1. These vaccines allow us to deliver Lyme, Leptospirosis, +/- Distemper, Adenovirus 1 and 2, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza all in a single vaccine. Of course, with COVID-19, we don’t get to show you the benefits of this in person, but you can certainly imagine --- when your dog is due for all of these vaccines, rather than three separate injections, we now only have to give one.  At St Francis, we strive to provide the very happiest of visits for your pets, and certainly fewer needle pokes mean happier pets!

    Combination vaccines are not new to St Francis.  Many of you will remember when we transitioned to combination vaccines for cats over six years ago, allowing us to provide protection against feline Herpesvirus, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia, and Rabies with a single injection.
  2. Our new Lyme vaccination is even more comprehensive in its protection. Given the high prevalence of Lyme disease in Minnesota, we wanted to make sure that we were providing your loved ones with the best protection possible.

We carefully evaluate overall efficacy and safety of any new vaccination brought into our practice, and these vaccines have an excellent record for both.  We have been very pleased with all aspects of the transition.

Lyme and Leptospirosis: Providing Optimal Protection For Your Dog

Is your dog receiving Lyme and Leptospirosis vaccines?  If not, you may want to consider adding these important vaccinations depending on your dog’s lifestyle.

Lyme: Lyme is endemic in Minnesota.  Most dogs are at risk, even if they are only in your backyard or on neighborhood walks.  Have you ever found ticks on your dog, children, or yourself?  Is your yard surrounded by brush?  Do you take your dog walking, hiking, picnicking, fishing, or camping?  Do you have a cabin?  Does your dog frequent areas with deer?  If you can answer yes to any of these questions, we would recommend vaccination against Lyme disease in addition to providing your dog with a monthly flea and tick preventative such as Nexgard or Frontline Gold.

Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is caused by a spirochete bacterial organism found in the urine of wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks and rats.  If infected, dogs may develop gastrointestinal signs, kidney disease, or liver disease.  In fact, it is now the #1 infectious cause of acute kidney failure in dogs.  In addition, Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning your dog can pass it on to you.  Protecting your dog(s) will help protect your entire family.

If your dog is not yet receiving these vaccines, we can add these at his or her next annual appointment, or if you are recently up-to-date with your veterinary visits, these vaccines may be scheduled with one of our veterinary technicians by reaching out to us by phone at (651) 645-2808, email at group@stfrancisabh.com, or via PetDesk.

Dr. Katie Cartledge: Farewell Wishes

It is with great sadness that we announce the departure of Dr. Katie Cartledge from St Francis Animal Hospital.  After 8 years at St Francis, she was presented with a new opportunity in Minnetonka.  We are sad to say goodbye, but are excited for her to embark on this new journey.  Her final day at St Francis will be November 14th, and she will begin practicing at Gehrman Animal Hospital on November 23rd.  She wanted to share the following with you.

St Francis Animal Hospital has been my second family for the last 8 years and it is with a heavy heart that I announce my departure, mid-November, to join Gehrman Animal Hospital.  St Francis is where I have spent the majority of my formative years as a veterinarian.  I have learned so much from my fellow veterinarians and support staff.  In my time here at St Francis, I have appreciated the opportunity to develop close relationships with our amazing clientele, seen a variety of patients - feathered and furry, and been a part of the wonderful St Francis team and community it serves.  I am truly grateful to have been a part of the St Francis team and to be able to have worked with so many of you and your animal family members.  I find comfort knowing my patients will be well taken care of in my absence.  Thank you so much for 8 wonderful years.

With gratitude,

Katie Cartledge, DVM

We want to assure each of you that St Francis will continue to provide you with the exceptional care that you have known and loved throughout the years.  We have an excellent team of doctors, technicians, and assistants to continue the care of your loved ones. 

If you have any questions that we can answer for you during this time, please reach out to us via email (group@stfrancisabh.com) or phone (651-645-2808). 



Employee Spotlight: Madison Baumgartner

 

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

Madison joined St Francis Animal Hospital in 2018 as a veterinary assistant.  She finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota where she majored in animal science with a pre-veterinary emphasis, and recently began her first year as a veterinary student at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.  She is interested in practicing both large and small animal medicine, and after having worked at St Francis, she is excited to hopefully incorporate holistic/integrative medicine into her career.

Madison grew up in Bismarck, ND with animals all around!  Her family has had cows, goats, pigs, sheep, horses, cats, and dogs.  If she had to choose favorites, it would be her cat, Mystery, and her Border Collie/Black Labrador Mix named Bandit.

In her free time, she enjoys taking time for herself.  This may include relaxing with a good book, taking an exercise class, hanging out with friends or just catching up on her favorite television show.

Why did you choose to become a veterinary assistant?

I chose to join St. Francis as a veterinary assistant to gain knowledge of the field of veterinary medicine before starting vet school.  I find it so rewarding to be able to help out the technicians and veterinarians with anything they need.  As a student, this allows me to see all of the interesting or unusual cases without yet having the pressure of developing a treatment plan on my own.  I think that is why I currently love the observation part of it.  As an assistant, you also get integrated with all the aspects of veterinary medicine including medications, medical terms, and the culture as a whole.

What makes St. Francis different than other veterinary practices?

I have never been surrounded by so many people who truly want to teach and help me succeed.  I never worry about asking too many questions because I know someone will always be able to answer them for me.  And with that, the knowledge of the doctors and staff and their dedication to what they do is so amazing and inspiring.  I know that choosing to work at St Francis was the best decision I have made!

News Briefs

Clinic Closure: Staff Meeting October 27th

We will be closed for s staff meeting on Tuesday, October 27th 1:00-2:30 pm.

2020 Neighborhood Favorite

Thank you to everyone who voted to make us a 2020 Neighborhood Favorite on Nextdoor.com!  We are so honored and grateful to receive these amazing accolades year after year.

Welcome To St Francis

Please join us in wishing a warm welcome to our newest team members: Stacy Gustafson, Client Services Representative; Mickayla Schulz, CVT, Veterinary Technician; Zack Zamora, Veterinary Assistant; Carlie Servais, Veterinary Assistant; and Kelly Yang, Kennel Assistant.  They are all wonderful additions to our St Francis family!



September: Pain Awareness Month

By Jennifer Blair, DVM, CVA, CVFT, CTPEP

Animals experience pain and discomfort just as people do.  While it is obvious that a pet who is limping is experiencing pain, often the signs of pain are much more subtle.  These signs may include restlessness; gait changes or shifting weight; decreased mobility, activity or play; panting or rapid breathing; difficulty getting up or down; difficulty with stairs; inability to jump; vocalization; behavior changes (aggression, clinginess, attention-seeking, hiding, withdrawal from the family); decreased appetite; excessive licking, chewing or mutilation of a particular area of their body; lack of grooming; change in body posture (hunched, not curled up when sleeping, stiff, neck stretched out); or a change in housetraining or litter box habits.  Many of these signs are incorrectly attributed to ‘old age’.

Chronic pain may be due to osteoarthritis, cancer pain, or pain associated with any of the internal organs.  Osteoarthritis is the most common type of chronic pain.  Managing chronic pain requires a multimodal approach.  A multimodal approach uses a combination of medications, supplements, nutrition and other therapies together to achieve pain control while reducing risks of potential adverse effects.  Considerations may include the type or source of pain, efficacy of therapy, concurrent medical conditions, safety, route of administration, frequency of administration, cost and the ability to administer the therapy and/or travel for care.  We work with you to develop the best treatment plan for you and your loved one.

Pain Management Therapy

Nutrition

Nutrition is especially important for pain associated with osteoarthritis.  Maintaining a lean body mass and a good body condition score are essential in alleviating musculoskeletal pain.  We will work with you to determine a safe and manageable weight loss plan for your pet if needed.

Hill’s j/d Joint Care contains therapeutic levels of omega-3 fatty acids and is enriched with glucosamine, chondroitan sulfate, L-carnitine, and antioxidants.  It is also restricted in calories to maintain your pet’s proper body weight.  It is available for both dogs and cats.  Other options include Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Mobility Support Canine or Feline, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets JM Joint Mobility Canine, and Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility Canine.  At this time, no prescription diets exist for birds or small mammals.

Exercise

Exercise can be very beneficial for managing pain, but should be carefully tailored to the individual patient.  Light walking, physical rehabilitation exercises, foraging activities, and swimming or other types of aquatic exercise may be recommended.  Exercise will improve joint health, help maintain good body condition, and provide environmental enrichment for your pet.

Joint Supplements

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids include eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). These ingredients reduce the production of inflammatory prostaglandins.  Omega-3 fatty acids are recommended for the management of osteoarthritis/joint pain as well as kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and skin conditions.  Side effects are rare, but may include vomiting, diarrhea, or appetite loss; at high doses, clotting abnormalities can occur.

We recommend Welactin for dogs and cats.  However, over-the-counter formulations of fish oils may also be used for dogs.  If you choose an over-the-counter brand, it is very important to avoid products that contain added ingredients such as Vitamins A, D, or E.

  • Dasuquin: This supplement contains glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitan sulfate, and avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU). This supplement helps to support joint cartilage matrix, inhibit cartilage breakdown, and support joint comfort.  The ASU has natural analgesic properties to help manage pain.  Side effects are rare but may include vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Adequan: Adequan is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) derived from bovine cartilage. It inhibits the catabolic enzymes that degrade the components of cartilage, inhibits the inflammatory mediator prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and may help stimulate the synthesis of protein, collagen, and hyaluronic acid, the protective compounds within the joints.  It is administered by injection every 1-4 weeks either at home or in the clinic.
  • Duralactin: This supplement contains MicroLactin, a natural milk protein that manages inflammation. It inhibits neutrophil participation, thereby decreasing inflammation.  It is available as a capsule for cats and chewable tablets for dogs.  There is limited data on this supplement, but it may be worth considering in advanced cases.

Pain Medications

  • NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs reduce pain, inflammation, and fever by reducing the inflammatory mediators cyclooxygenase, phospholipase A2, and prostaglandins. This class of medication will likely provide the best pain relief for your pet.  Examples include Rimadyl, Novox, or Metacam.

Most pets tolerate these medications well, but there is the potential for side effects in any individual.  The most common side effects are associated with the gastrointestinal tract (vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal ulceration), kidneys, and liver.  Cats are more sensitive and these medications should be used with extreme caution.  Birds and small mammals tolerate Metacam well.  Blood monitoring should be performed on all pets receiving these medications long term.  Do not use these medications with other NSAIDs or with glucocorticoids/steroid medications.

  • Galliprant: Galliprant (grapiprant) is the newest anti-inflammatory medication on the market. While it is an NSAID, it was developed to specifically target the prostglandin EP4 receptor, reducing inflammation in the joints with minimal actions on the other prostaglandin receptors in the body.  This allows us to specifically manage joint pain and inflammation while significantly reducing the gastrointestinal, kidney, and liver side effects.

Side effects may include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite and lethargy.  For severe pain, we have not found this to be as effective as other NSAIDs.  Blood monitoring should still be performed with long-term use.  This medication is only for use in dogs.  Do not use this medication concurrently with other NSAIDs or with glucocorticoids/steroid medications.

  • Gabapentin: Gabapentin is a pain medication that is especially beneficial for neuropathic pain. Gabapentin is an analog of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and acts on the calcium channels of the spinal cord to inhibit the release of excitatory transmitters.  It reduces hyperalgesia (exaggerated responses to pain).  Side effects may include sedation and difficulty walking, though these side effects generally improve after 3-5 days on this medication.  We commonly use this medication in dogs, cats, birds, and small mammals.
  • Tramadol: Tramadol is a synthetic centrally acting opiate-like analgesic that also inhibits the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine to provide pain management. This medication appears to be beneficial in only a subset of patients; it may not be effective in certain individuals.  Side effects are rare, but may include sedation, agitation, anxiety, tremors, dizziness, lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.  It is a bitter medication and can be difficult to administer to some pets.
  • Opioids: Opioid pain medications work at the level of the opioid receptors located in the brain and spinal cord. Examples of opioid pain medications include buprenorphine, morphine, fentanyl, codeine, hydrocodone, and butorphanol.  Side effects may include sedation, vomiting, constipation, dysphoria, hallucinations, and cardiac or respiratory effects.  With the exception of buprenorphine in cats and small mammals, these medications are rarely used for chronic pain.
  • Miscellaneous: Depending on your pet’s condition, a few other medications may be discussed. Amantadine is an NMDA receptor antagonist used for neuropathic pain.  In severe cases, intravenous ketamine or other continuous rate infusions (CRI) may be used in the hospital.  Tricyclic antidepressants, bisphosphonates, lidocaine patches and maropitant may rarely be used in select conditions.

Integrative Therapies

It has become more common to see pet owners choosing non-pharmacological options for pain management before adding in drug therapy.  These treatment modalities can be excellent for managing chronic pain.  For additional information, please request our handouts on acupuncture, laser therapy, and massage therapy.

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture has been practiced in China in both humans and animals for thousands of years. It involves the insertion of small, thin, sterile needles into specific points in the body to cause a therapeutic change to occur.  These points are called acupoints.  Over thousands of years, we have created a map of 359 transpositional acupoints and 77 classical acupoints in humans and animals; we routinely use 173 acupoints in veterinary medicine.  Research shows that these points are located in areas with a high density of free nerve endings, mast cells/immune cells, small blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels.  Stimulation of these points leads to a cascade of changes in the body including an increase in blood flow to the area, an increase in local immune response, and release of beta-endorphins, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters to reduce pain.  In addition to dry needling with thin needles, electroacupuncture, aquapuncture, acupressure, hemoacupuncture, and moxibustion may also be used at these specific points.
  • Chinese Herbal Therapy: Herbal therapy is another branch of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). The choice of herbal therapy depends on the patient’s disease condition and TCVM pattern; we cannot prescribe herbal therapy without a consultation with a TCVM practitioner. 

Many options for therapy exist depending on the patient.  Body Sore is a great example of a balanced herbal therapy for pain management in dogs and cats.  From a TCVM approach, this formula resolves Qi and Blood Stagnation and alleviates generalized pain, lameness or stiffness.  Its active ingredients include Ligusticum, Notopterygium, Angelica, Epimedium, Cyathula, Cuscuta, Corydalis, Paeonia, Eucommia, Psoralea, Myrrh, Olibanum, Millettia, Persica, and Carthamus.  Side effects may include vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite.  It is important to inform your veterinarian of all of the herbal therapy or supplements that you are giving to your pet as some therapies can have adverse effects together.  If you have any questions about Chinese herbal therapy for your pet, please contact Jennifer Blair, DVM, CVA, CVFT, CTPEP.

  • Laser Therapy: Laser therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to induce a therapeutic effect in the body. In general, laser therapy is used to reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and increase healing in an area.  Laser therapy increases circulation, leading to increased oxygen and nutrient delivery.  This creates an optimum environment for healing including a reduction in pain, stiffness, muscle fatigue, swelling, and inflammation.  Laser therapy is a great modality to alleviate pain in birds and small mammals as well.
  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapy is beneficial, especially for aging animals. The aging process can lead to circulation issues that may affect efficiency of movement.  Concurrent arthritis or other painful conditions can cause muscle tension, stiffness, and discomfort.  There are many benefits to massage therapy including increased circulation, improved range of motion, decreased muscle tension, improvement in pain, reduction of inflammation, reduced anxiety and increased activity level.  To learn more about massage therapy for your pet, please contact Aimee Johnson at Little Bear Animal Massage: https://littlebearanimalmassage.com.
  • Assisi Loop/PEMF: The Assisi Loop is targeted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) that can be used at home to reduce pain and inflammation at a focal site. Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy affects the voltage-dependent binding of calcium to calmodulin.  When binding occurs, nitric oxide, an anti-inflammatory molecule, is produced.  Nitric oxide reduces pain, improves blood flow, and reduces edema.  This cascade further triggers additional positive effects such as new blood vessel formation, tissue regeneration, and tissue remodeling. 
  • Chiropractic: Animal chiropractic care is a gentle and kind way to achieve pain reduction. When the body isn’t moving as much as it used to, the brain’s perception of pain becomes amplified.  When the brain senses motion, the perception of pain is down-regulated.  Restoring even the smallest amount of motion, like the type that occurs along the spinal column, can provide a measure of comfort and pain relief.  To learn more about chiropractic care for your pet, please contact Chiropractic for EveryBody: http://chiropracticforeverybody.com or call 952-484-5460. 
  • Physical Rehabilitation: There are several excellent rehabilitation centers in the Twin Cities. We generally refer our patients to John Nielsen, CVT-VTS, CVPP, CCRP.  He is in the process of transitioning to his own practice, K-9 in Motion, LLC, from a local referral center.  Therapy may include physical manipulation and rehabilitation exercises.  In addition, we can discuss specific modifications to your pet’s environment to help with mobility and to ease pain and discomfort. 

As you can see, we now have many tools available to help manage chronic pain in pets.  For some patients, one or two of these therapies are sufficient.  For others, we’re using nearly all of these modalities.  If your pet is experiencing chronic pain, contact us today at (651) 645-2808 or group@stfrancisabh.com.  We’ll work with you to develop a plan that is best for both you and your loved one.

Don’t Forget Your Tick Prevention

By Megan Schommer, DVM

As we head into fall, deer ticks are gearing up to enter a more active phase of their lifecycle.  Adult deer ticks try to find hosts in the fall before temperatures drop below freezing.  In the upper midwest, deer ticks transmit diseases that can make dogs sick with fevers, painful joints, kidney disease, or low platelet counts.  Dogs can also expose their humans to tick borne diseases if they carry ticks into their homes on their fur.  Using a tick preventative protects both you and your pet from diseases like Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. Remember to stay diligent about using your preventatives, especially throughout the fall.  We recommend oral Nexgard or topical Frontline Gold for dogs for the best tick prevention.

Clinic Closures: Staff Meetings

We will be closed for staff meetings on October 13th 12:30-1:30 pm, and October 27th 1:00-2:30 pm.

ST FRANCIS CLOSURES



Please mark your calendars for the following St Francis closures.

  • August 26th: 1:00-2:30 pm: Staff Meeting.
  • September 4th-7th: Extended Labor Day Weekend.
  • September 17th: 1:00-3:00 pm: Staff Meeting.

As many of you already know, many veterinary professionals struggle. We have made a lifelong commitment to caring for pets and their caregivers, but we often forget to care for ourselves. Long work hours, financial stresses, professional demands, and the emotional strain of caring for sick, injured, or dying pets take their toll. (For more information, visit, NPR News or Time.)

The current pandemic has heightened all of these challenges that we face in this industry. Overwhelming phone call volumes, increased patient care demands beyond our capacity, limited emergency resources, public health regulations, curbside care, and staffing shortages due to illness have compounded the normal stresses that we face.

At St Francis, we are committed to caring for our team in addition to caring for you and your pets. After all, if we don’t care for ourselves, none of us will be here to care for your loved ones. Thank you for your support and understanding of these clinic closures as we spend a few moments caring for our families and ourselves.

LOST PET RESOURCES

Written by Arlene Mencke and Dr. Jennifer Blair, DVM, CVA, CVFT, CTPEP

Accidents happen. Doors are left open. A window screen breaks. A dog slips out of a collar on a walk. We know how terrifying it is to lose your loved one to the streets. One of our clients spent an agonizing weekend searching for her missing dogs, Poppy and Suzette. Fortunately, it was a success story, but it called to our attention the need to have a resource list available for others in these shoes. Thank you to Arlene for creating this resource guide to share.

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: DR JESSICA LEWIS

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

We highlighted Dr. Jessica Lewis previously, but because she had two start dates, one as a veterinary assistant and the other as an associate veterinarian, we are excited to share her story again.

Dr. Jessica Lewis joined St Francis Animal Hospital in the spring of 2011 as a veterinary assistant while she was obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science. She was promoted to a veterinary technician in 2013 and continued to work at St Francis part-time while earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at the University of Minnesota. She completed a one-month externship at St Francis during her clinical rotations and was elated to officially join the team as a veterinarian in May of 2018.

Jessica’s professional interests include preventative care, nutrition, small animal internal medicine, and anesthesia/pain management. She has also completed additional training to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress related to veterinary visits. Jessica is a member of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, being outdoors, going to the cabin, practicing yoga, and throwing the frisbee for her Australian Shepherds, Tig and George Bailey.

Why did you become a veterinarian?

It may sound cheesy, but I have always felt an unexplainable connection to animals. When it became time to think about my future career, there was no doubt that I wanted to make a difference helping animals. People do not enter this profession because it is fun or easy; it most certainly is not! That being said, I can’t imagine not being in this field. It is a challenging career and it pushes me every day, but there are no words that can truly describe how fulfilling it is to be able to provide care for my client’s furry companions.

What make St Francis special?

I am so grateful to have found St Francis many years ago. I, just like many others, quickly fell in love with the practice’s values and the close bonds formed with owners and their pets. With kindness and compassion, the team at St Francis provides a level of care that is truly hard to find elsewhere. From the fellow doctors to our incredible support staff who make my job so much easier, I am unbelievably honored to be a part of this team.



DOG PARKS & COVID-19

Written by Dr. Megan Schommer, DVM

As we all try to figure out safe ways to be active while staying socially distanced, we have received questions from a number of dog owners asking about the safety of bringing their dogs to dog parks. Do our dogs need to stay socially distanced just like we do?

The answer is a complicated one because we still don’t have much data regarding COVID-19 and dogs. We know that dogs can become infected by their owners, although the number of dogs that have tested positive worldwide is very small. We don’t know if infected dogs can transmit the disease to other dogs or humans. The risk of dogs acting as fomites (carrying live virus on their fur, harness, or collar) seems to be quite low. There have been very few known infections resulting from contact with objects rather than with infected people.

The risks of visiting the dog park are similar to the risks of any other outdoor activity, and so you should take the same precautions you should always take outdoors. Keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others and wear a mask when you are near people. Dogs can probably safely play with other dogs, although we don’t know for sure how commonly dogs get infected nor how likely they are to spread COVID-19 to other animals. Sick humans and sick dogs should definitely stay home and avoid socializing with others until they are well again. If you have any concerns about yourself or your dog being high-risk, it’s probably best to avoid dog parks just like any other place where people are gathering.

We’ll continue watching for new data to emerge regarding pets and COVID-19, and if new information becomes available regarding risks of dog socialization, we will keep everyone informed.

ST FRANCIS: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS



Thank you for all of your support, gratitude and partnership over these past months. We too long for normalcy, but if we have to continue to negotiate these challenging times, we are incredibly grateful to do so with each of you.

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.

---

"We miss seeing you. When can we come back into the building with our pets?"

We truly miss you too. We miss showing you our exam findings in person, talking with you one-on-one, and sharing stories, laughter, and tears. Unfortunately, with the current pandemic trends, it will likely be awhile before any of this is possible.

Businesses must remain at 50% capacity. Because we have a small physical space, this requirement limits us to fewer than 19 people in the building. On any given day, we meet those limits with our veterinary team alone. In addition, physical distancing is very challenging in our exam rooms.

Curbside service has become the standard of care across the veterinary industry. Our curbside care continues to evolve and we hope that you find that we are delivering the very best care possible for you and your pets under these unusual circumstances.

"My pet will need an appointment in August. How does this curbside service work?"

  • Prior to your appointment, we will send you a curbside history form to fill out in advance. This will allow you to share your concerns with the veterinarian.
  • When you arrive for your visit, park in a designated parking space and call the Appointment Line. This will provide you with a direct line to our concierge team.
  • When the doctor is ready, a veterinary assistant will retrieve your pet. You can help by making your carrier readily accessible or by stepping your dog out of the car. For dogs, we ask that you to help us add a second leash, and if your dog requires a muzzle, that you place this before we bring him or her into the building.
  • It is very important that you provide us with a cell phone number that you will be reachable at. The veterinarian will call you to discuss your pet's examination findings and treatment recommendations.
  • A member of our veterinary team will follow up with you to complete the check out process and take payment over the phone. We will then return your pet, paperwork, and any food, medications or products to your car. We ask that you remain in the parking lot during these appointments so that we can complete this process as quickly as possible.

"Why does my dog need two leashes?"

We are near a very busy road. We’ve seen dogs slip out of their collars or harnesses. In order to prevent this from happening to your pet, we require every dog to have two leashes. Every cat or small mammal should be transported in a carrier.

"I need to pick up medications. What can I expect?"

We are offering a contactless delivery of all medications, food, and products.

  • Please request all medication or food refills at least 24-48 hours in advance via voicemail, email, PetDesk, or our website. When feasible, we ask that you pay in advance.
  • When you arrive, park in a designated parking space and call the Curbside Pick Up Line. This will provide you with a direct line to our concierge team.
  • If needed, we will take your payment over the phone, then bring your food, medications or products out to the bin associated with your parking space. If you are picking up a controlled substance, we will ask you to leave your ID on the table for us to review.

If you would prefer to order your medications online, you may access our Vetsource online store via our website at www.stfrancisanimalandbird.com.

"Can I use the restroom while I wait?"

We do not have a public restroom available, but there is one available at the laundromat next door to St Francis. If needed, you may leave the parking lot temporarily to use the restroom.

"Do we need to wear masks at St Francis?"

We do ask that you wear a mask when interacting with our team members, even when you are outside in the parking lot. In order for us to continue to be here to care for your pets, we need our team to remain healthy. All of our team members are wearing masks at all times.

"We have had a lot of difficulty reaching you on the phone. Why?"

Our call volume has been extraordinary during COVID-19. On most days, we are averaging 900-1200 phone calls per day. While we are doing our best to answer these calls, it is not possible to answer all of them. At any given moment, we may all be caring for a patient or helping another client.

We now have a phone tree that will allow you 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. You will also 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.

We have two cell phones specifically for our curbside service. One cell phone is dedicated to those who are in the parking lot checking in for an appointment, while the other is for those who have arrived to pick up a pet, medications, or food. It is best to call the appropriate cell phone line rather than the main line when you arrive in our parking lot.

"If we have a question, need a medication refilled, or want to schedule an appointment, are there other ways that we can reach you?"

Yes! You may request medication refills or appointments by clicking the appropriate buttons on our website. For patient updates, non-critical questions, refill requests, or appointment requests, feel free to email us at group@stfrancisabh.com or leave a voicemail at (651) 645-2808. If you have not yet downloaded the PetDesk app, this is another excellent way to schedule appointments, request refills, or review your pet’s vaccine history.

"We have a very difficult time getting an appointment. Is your schedule really booked out four weeks?"

Yes, it is. At this time, our first available routine appointment is August 27th. With COVID-19, the veterinary industry has seen an unprecedented surge in the request for appointments. Many pet owners are home with their pets and noticing abnormalities. Some pets are more active with their owners and may therefore be more prone to injuries. Many new pets are being adopted during this time.

If you are scheduling your pet’s wellness or vaccine visit, we will schedule the visit at or near the due date to allow more immediate space for pets with urgent needs. For pets with urgent medical conditions, we are holding a subset of our appointments for urgent care visits. Lastly, we are reserving all of our appointments for existing clients; we are not accepting any new clients at this time so that we can offer the best care possible for our existing patients.

"My pet had an emergency and I was told to go to the emergency/urgent care facility. Why wouldn’t you see my pet?"

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.

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, heat stroke, status epilepticus or prolonged seizures, acute trauma, urinary obstruction, bloat, or gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). These patients will be directed to an emergency care facility.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for veterinary practices. Our caseloads are much higher, curbside appointments take longer, and we may have staff or doctor shortages that limit the care that we are able to provide to our patients. While we try to see as many of our own patients for urgent care or medical needs as possible, we are often exceeding our capacity. 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.

We know that going elsewhere with a sick pet is scary. We understand that you just want to come to St Francis. Know that we work closely with the Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Oakdale (651-501-3766) (www.aercmn.com), Como Park After Hours (651-487-3255), the University of Minnesota (612-626-8387) and Blue Pearl in Blaine (763-754-5000) to serve as extensions of St Francis. We trust their teams to provide the care your pet needs when we cannot. Afterwards, we will receive a comprehensive report and will follow up with you. We always want what is best for your pet, and sometimes the best care at that moment is at one of these locations.

"We tried to go to an urgent care facility, but the wait was going to be three hours. Why?"

All veterinary practices are in the same situation. We are all struggling to meet the patient care demands before us. If we need to refer you to an urgent care facility, we will email you a list of our recommended urgent care facilities for you to contact in advance. At any given moment, one facility may have long wait times while others have more availability.

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

During the past four months, we are so grateful to have hired a veterinarian, Dr. Megan Schommer; two veterinary technicians, Jessie Pudil, CVT and Mickayla Schulz, CVT; a veterinary assistant, Lillian Schmitz; and a client service representative, Stacy Gustafson.

We would love to expand our team during this time. However, in addition to the staffing crisis that the veterinary industry has been experiencing for the past several years, COVID-19 has created additional challenges. We have a very small facility, and in the State of Minnesota, we are restricted to 50% capacity indoors. We are currently at our capacity. To help meet your needs, we have an additional team of veterinary technicians working remotely. You will find them answering your voicemails, PetDesk requests, and emails from their homes.

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We hope this provides some answers to the questions you’ve voiced. Thank you again to everyone who provided us with insight and advice and who provided honest feedback as we’ve adjusted our protocols throughout these months. We are so fortunate to have amazing partnerships with all of you in the care of your loved ones, now more than ever. 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.

NEWS BRIEFS

St Francis Closures

We will be closed for a staff meeting on Wednesday August 26th from 1:00-2:30 pm. We will be closed Friday September 4th through Monday September 7th for our staff to enjoy a long weekend with their families for Labor Day.

Nextdoor Neighborhood Favorite

Thank you to everyone who voted for us as your Nextdoor Neighborhood Favorite. We are honored to be your neighborhood favorite!

Vaccines

We are now offering combination vaccines for our canine patients in addition to our feline patients. If your dog is due for multiple vaccines, we now have a Lyme + Leptospirosis vaccine and a DAPP + Lyme + Leptospirosis vaccine. Everyone is happier with fewer injections!

COVID-19: ST FRANCIS UPDATES

june 2020

Thank you for continuing to help us provide excellent curbside service. I think we are all settling in to these new normal protocols. Based on current recommendations, we anticipate that our curbside service will continue for an extended period. For additional information about our curbside service, please visit our website at www.stfrancisanimalandbird.com or our Facebook page.

Important Reminders

  • We are asking that you wear a face mask or covering for all interactions with our team members. We commit to doing the same. We all need to remain healthy in order to continue to provide care for your pets.
  • For most appointments with a veterinarian, you will receive a Curbside History Form by email in advance. Please complete and submit this form to us prior to your pet’s visit.
  • When you arrive in the parking lot, the signs will direct you to call or text either the Appointment Line or the Curbside Pick Up Line. These are dedicated lines to our concierge team. If we are on the line, you are welcome to leave a message or dial the main line at (651) 645-2808. These cell phones will only be answered during business hours.
  • When we are ready to retrieve your pet, please take your pet out of the car for ease of transfer to our veterinary team. For dogs, we ask that you help us add a second leash for safety moving to and from the building. If your dog is nervous, we may ask you to walk to the building with us.
  • Provide a phone number that you will be reachable at while you are waiting in the parking lot.
  • It is very important that you do not leave the parking lot. In order for us to see as many patients as possible in these conditions, we need to be able to return your pet to you as soon as we’ve finished.
  • We have reopened for business on Saturdays from 8 am to 12:30 pm, but are only staffed to provide wellness care. Patients with medical conditions will be scheduled for a weekday appointment or will be directed to an urgent care facility.
  • Our technician appointments are in high demand to meet the medical needs of our patients (i.e. vaccines, fluid therapy, medical treatments). We recommend scheduling grooming procedures such as nail trims with a local groomer unless your pet requires grooming by a medical professional. Grooming appointments at St Francis are currently booking out up to 4 weeks.

We want to take this moment to express our gratitude to all of you. We say every day that we have the very best clients and patients. If we have to negotiate the craziness of this year, we are grateful to do so with all of you.

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: AMANDA MALLEK

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

Amanda joined St Francis Animal Hospital as a Veterinary Assistant in April 2018. She graduated in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. 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 and serves as our Inventory Manager.

In her free time, she loves traveling, painting, exercising, spending time with friends and family and taking care of her cat, Sonny.

Why do you love being a veterinary assistant?

What I enjoy most about being a veterinary assistant is having the opportunity to help both people and animals and being able to assist the doctors and technicians in getting animals back to living the healthiest lives they can. It brings me joy to help provide a safe and friendly environment for your loved ones.

Why do you love working at St Francis Animal Hospital?

I am happy to be a part of a clinic that cares about the individual owners just as much as their pets. Every employee I have the privilege of working with offers excellent service by forming close relationships with clients. They all truly care about the families that walk through the front doors of the clinic. St Francis also offers a wide range of care that is not available to other clinics such as acupuncture and massage therapy. For me, being able to observe and learn so much every day is rewarding!

COVID-19 AND PETS

On May 27th, a cat in Carver County Minnesota was confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. This patient presented to the veterinary clinic with respiratory signs and a high fever. The owners of the cat were confirmed to be positive for COVID-19. Five days after beginning supportive therapy, the cat recovered. The dog in the household remained healthy.

Transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is primarily from person to person. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. However, in rare cases, it appears that humans can spread the virus to pets. Routine testing of asymptomatic pets is not recommended at this time. Pets with atypical respiratory symptoms and exposure to humans with confirmed COVID-19 infection may be tested for SARS-CoV-2 under the guidance of Minnesota State Animal Health officials.

If you are sick with COVID-19, either suspected or confirmed by a test, the CDC recommends restricting contact with pets. When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets if you are ill. Avoid close contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, kissing, or sharing food or bedding with them while you are ill. If you must care for your pet while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them and wear a mask or cloth face covering.

Until we know more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would other family members to prevent them from getting infected. Limit interactions with people and animals outside the household, walk dogs on a leash to maintain a 6 ft distance from others, avoid large gathering places, and keep cats indoors.

NEWS BRIEFS

PetDesk

If you are scheduling your pet’s appointment through the PetDesk app, you should receive a confirmation that your pet’s appointment has been confirmed. If you do not receive that confirmation, the visit is not yet confirmed in our appointment calendar. If you have questions about the scheduling process, please reach out to us at (651) 645-2808.

Community Involvement

St Francis Animal Hospital donated groceries to those in need at Seward Montessori. In addition, our team has been active across the city, donating money, groceries, and supplies to sites in the North Loop, Seward, Sanford Middle School, and Longfellow Park; contributing to the Lake Street Council; helping to clean up businesses on Lake Street; volunteering time and resources to the Holy Trinity Church; and helping with pet food shelves through the Street Dog Coalition and People & Pets Together. Please join us in helping our communities through these difficult days.

Upcoming Events

Street Dog Coalition Food Shelf

On Saturday, June 13th, 12:30 to 2:30 pm, St Francis will host the Street Dog Coalition Food Shelf. If you or someone you know is facing hardship and is in need of dog food, please stop by our food shelf. Distribution will be on a first come first served basis and will be limited to dog food. Additional donations are not needed at this time.

Animal Emergency & Referral Center Oakdale

The Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Oakdale is taking donations for personal items including toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, lotion, soap, body wash, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, diapers, baby wipes, diaper cream, and baby formula. Items may be placed in the brown bin to the west of their main entrance. You may also shop using their Amazon Wish List: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/MTORQHG2KHLF/ref=hz_ls_biz_ex.

Location: 1163 Helmo Ave N Oakdale MN
Phone: (651) 501-3766



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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in two pet cats in New York and a Pug in North Carolina. Previously, the virus had been detected in a handful of other animals around the world.

The CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have worked together to provide guidance regarding the risks to pets. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. However, in rare cases, it appears that humans can spread the virus to pets.

If you are sick with COVID-19, either suspected or confirmed by a test, the CDC recommends restricting contact with pets. When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets if you are ill. Avoid close contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, kissing, or sharing food or bedding with them while you are ill. If you must care for your pet while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them and wear a mask or cloth face covering.

COVID-19 Updates



As we prepare for an extension of our stay-at-home orders, we wanted to reach out to you to share how we are still caring for the pets in our community. As you’ve seen throughout these past weeks, we continue to monitor the current conditions and adjust to find the balance between providing exceptional care for your loved ones and keeping our employees and clients healthy.

As we are all settling into our new routines, we wanted to reach out to you to assure you that we are still here to care for your four-legged family members. We are continuously monitoring the current conditions and adjusting our protocols to keep our employees and clients healthy while still providing the exceptional patient care that you have always known and loved.

Most of you have been following the updates throughout the past two weeks and have been following the rapid shifts in protocols. Along with all of you, we too have settled into our new routine.

Thank you so much for all of your amazing support and kind words throughout this week as we have scrambled to adjust our protocols, care for your pets, and keep our clients and employees safe.  

More than ever, we ask you to support your local independently-owned small businesses.  Please consider stocking up on your pets’ spring heartworm and flea/tick preventatives by purchasing from St Francis or from our online store instead of a large warehouse like Chewy or PetMeds.  Your purchases will help sustain our business and support our employees. Given the uncertainty of the days ahead, we have increased our staff for Saturday to help accommodate your medication refills and preventative purchases.

We hope to remain open throughout this time, but if that is not feasible, we will be poised to monitor our phones, emails, and PetDesk.  

We know that these are challenging times for everyone.  We are thinking of all of you as we navigate the days ahead.

The Doctors & Staff at St Francis Animal Hospital