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IMG_4450small.jpgPet Dental Health Month

February is Pet Dental Health Month! Of course, we think that you should pay close attention to your pet’s dental health every month, but February is a great time to assess your routines and make sure that you are giving your pets the dental care that they need to stay healthy!

On a daily basis, we recommend brushing your pet’s teeth. It takes about 24 hours for plaque (which is soft and easily removed from the teeth) to harden into tartar (which is hard and firmly attached to the teeth). If you are only brushing once every week or two, there is plenty of time in between those brushing sessions for tartar buildup to occur. Tooth brushing can be a scary experience for pets if you rush into it, so be sure to take some time to teach your pet that tooth brushing is pleasant. If you aren’t sure how to brush your pet’s teeth, Dr. Lewis and her Australian shepherd Tig made a great instructional video! Watch their video here.

Chewing is the next best thing to brushing for at-home dental care. Short, frequent chew sessions (five minutes a day) are better than infrequent long chew sessions for preventing tartar buildup. Chew items should be soft enough that you can make an indent into it with your thumbnail- any harder and they could potentially fracture teeth. You can find a great list of products that have been shown to prevent plaque and tartar buildup at the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

Pets should have a thorough evaluation of their teeth and gums at their annual exams. Your veterinarian will carefully examine for broken teeth, loose teeth, gingivitis, missing teeth, and oral masses. When we start to see signs of dental disease, we will recommend a full oral evaluation under anesthesia. Just like when you visit the dentist, your pet will have a full scaling and polishing to remove tartar, dental x-rays to look for abnormalities under the gumline such as impacted or abscessed teeth, and a thorough oral exam to look for masses or other structures that are impossible to see in the awake patient. We learn so much about a pet’s health during dental procedures!

Dental care is important for all pets, but especially for very small breeds, brachycephalic (short-nosed) pets like pugs and Persian cats, and for individuals who build up tartar quickly. Some pets need dental cleanings as often as every six months to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

If you have any concerns about your pet’s dental care, please ask your veterinarian or veterinary technicians for help! We are passionate about dental health!

 

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HAY IS ESSENTIAL

Not all species need tooth brushing for their dental health. Dental care for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas is all about hay! Hay forms the foundation of a healthy diet for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. These species rely on fiber to ensure that their GI tracts function properly and also have teeth designed for constantly grinding on rough plant fibers. Without hay, their gut bacteria become unhealthy, their teeth can become elongated, and they can develop diseases that are difficult and costly to manage. If you’ve found yourself with a pocket pet that doesn’t care for hay, get creative! Offer a variety of grass hays, including Timothy hay, orchard grass, and oat hay. Individuals can have preferences for different tastes and textures. Put hay up in a hay manger, down in a hay box, or tucked inside cardboard tubes. Many rabbits like having a big pile of hay next to or inside their litterbox. Hold off on offering pellets until later in the day to encourage your pet to eat his hay first. Don’t let your pet make the choice to avoid hay- it’s for his own good!

 

SATURDAY: IMPORTANT CHANGES

Beginning Saturday, March 6th, we will be adjusting how we operate on Saturdays to accommodate the growing staffing challenges facing the veterinary industry.  We will be closed to business on Saturdays with the following exceptions:

We will continue to schedule wellness examinations and vaccine appointments from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm.  These visits must be scheduled in advance.  

We will be available for medication and food pickups from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm.  Please request all medication refills at least 24 hours in advance.  With our small team on Saturdays, we will be unable to accommodate same-day refill requests.

We will not have a client services team answering our main phone line on Saturdays.  Voicemails, PetDesk requests, and emails will be retrieved on the next business day.  

Thank you so much for all of your understanding and support as we’ve traversed the challenging roads of this past year.  We are confident that these changes will allow us to continue to provide exceptional care for your loved ones while also fostering the health and well-being of our veterinary team.

 

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EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: HEATHER ANDERSON

Heather joined our team in February of 2019. She has two kitties named Silly and Louie and a pit bull/chihuahua cross named Walter. Heather has been married for over 26 years and is a mom to Thomas, who is a Seabee in the Navy, Ethan, who is training to be a Green Beret in the Army, and Emma, who is still in high school. Heather and her family love traveling, especially up to the North Shore. Heather has an amazing sense of humor and never passes up an opportunity to snuggle an especially adorable pet!

What do you love about veterinary medicine?

Pets calm you down. They are always there for you. I wanted to be able to help them any way I could, which led to me becoming a CVT. It’s amazing being able to do so many things in one day. Talking to owners, cuddling puppies/kittens (I am allergic to bunnies and guinea pigs), collecting samples, taking x-rays, monitoring during anesthesia, cleaning teeth, holding a scared animal, just to name a few. When I'm stressed, I just need to turn around and there's an animal to calm me down with just a pet.  Who can ask for more?!

What do you love about working at St. Francis?

St. Francis has taken me in and given me a family. We care about each other and work as a great team. What first drew me was their doggedness to adhere to Fear Free approaches.  As pet owners, we all know that our pets’ stress and fear is a big concern. We work hard at keeping that stress to a minimum.  

Take a moment to say thanks to Heather for her compassionate care the next time you get a chance to talk with her!

StFrancis MikePeterson 015smallSt. Francis Animal Hospital is thrilled to welcome Dr. Michael Petersen to our team! Dr. Petersen received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. He began his career serving rescue pets with MARS Veterinary Services in Brooklyn Park. He transitioned to Diamond Lake Animal Hospital in Minneapolis, where he has been a lead veterinarian for nearly eight years. Dr. Petersen is especially passionate about surgery, dentistry, and ultrasonography, and is a member of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association. He is a respected voice in our local veterinary community, and we are excited to be able to offer his skills to our clients and patients.
 
Outside of the clinic, Mike spends most of his time at home with his wife, Erin, and three children, Hazel, Ivy and Jasper. He shares this home with two amazing feline family members, Cocoa (pictured) and Luna, as well as a number of fish. In his spare time, Mike enjoys playing ultimate frisbee competitively, as well as disc golf. Drag’n Thrust, his ultimate frisbee team, won the US National Title in 2013 and 2014 and went on to win the World Title in 2014! 
 
“We have known Mike since he graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012.  Throughout the years, he has become very well-respected within the veterinary community, first working with rescue pets, then dedicating nearly eight years to an independently-owned veterinary practice in South Minneapolis.  He is known for the outstanding care that he provides to his patients; his thorough communication and collaboration with his clients; his expertise in surgery, dentistry, and ultrasonography; and the active role he takes in advancing veterinary care in Minnesota.  We are honored to have Dr. Petersen at St Francis.  He is a wonderful addition to our team of exceptional doctors.”  - Dr. Jennifer Blair
 
Why do you love being a veterinarian?
I came about the realization I wanted to be a vet more slowly than most. I had finished my undergraduate degree in Biology without a firm plan, and found my way into the pet industry, and realized that I wanted more challenges, more interesting work, and above all, more ability to help. I have always had an inquisitive mind, and love the diagnostic challenges that come along with the job. Above all, I love seeing the bonds grow between pet parents and their furry kids. The relationships built between myself, your pet and you are why I love what I do.
 
Why are you excited to join St. Francis Animal Hospital?
I am very excited to join such a knowledgeable, compassionate and professional team at St. Francis. It's so important to me, not only to provide the best care I can for my patients, but develop lasting relationships with their families. This is what really makes the work worthwhile. In the brief time I have gotten to know the staff, I have been very impressed with everyone working here. I will love having such a great team of doctors and staff with so much experience to make sure that all my patients receive the best care possible. I'm also excited to meet all of you and your furry friends!
 
 
Thank you to everyone for giving Dr. Petersen a warm welcome to our community! You can book appointments and surgical/dental procedures with Dr. Petersen beginning on February 22nd.

WINTER WEATHER PRECAUTIONS FOR PETS

 

dogs_snow_small.jpgIt took a little longer than normal, but snow finally arrived! While we’ve been lucky to avoid the coldest temperatures this winter, no doubt we will eventually have some sub-zero temperatures in the forecast too. Here are a few reminders to help your pets stay safe and healthy throughout the winter:

  1. Protect those paws! Paw pads are tough, but very cold temperatures can cause frostbite. In the city, paws also have to contend with salt, sand, and other irritants that can harm the sensitive skin between toes. Boots like Pawz waterproof boots help protect paws from direct contact with sand and salt. Sturdier boots like MuttLuks also provide insulation, but are a little harder for dogs to learn to wear. Waxes or ointments like Musher’s Secret can help prevent ice buildup between toes and also provide some protection against salt and sand.
  2. Shovel a potty patch: Urinating or defecating directly into a deep pile of snow can lead to frostbite on some very sensitive body parts. To prevent this, shovel out a small patch in the yard for your dog to go potty, especially when temperatures drop below zero.
  3. Consider a coat: Some dog breeds are built for cold weather and don’t need any help staying warm. Dogs with thin fur, a lean body type (like greyhounds), or dogs who are very young or very old can all benefit from the extra insulation provided by a coat. 
  4. Monitor the windchill: Dogs’ most sensitive extremities (such as their nose, the tips of their ears, and their tails) are more likely to become frostbitten when it’s windy. Even if air temperature is relatively warm, keep an eye on the windchill and keep walks shorter when the windchills are in dangerous ranges.
  5. Provide a dry, draft-free space: Some pets love to be outside no matter how chilly it gets. But even if your Bernese Mountain Dog would rather be sleeping in a snowbank than in a cozy bed by the fire, make sure he has access to somewhere dry and outside of the wind. Cold becomes more dangerous when animals get wet and unable to get out of the wind.
  6. Keep small animals away from drafty windows: Small mammals (such as rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs) and pet birds are especially sensitive to cold. Stress from being in drafty areas can lead to respiratory infections. Make sure that enclosures are kept in a warm, draft-free part of the house.
  7. Chemicals: Winter means that certain lethal chemicals, such as antifreeze and mouse/rat poisons, are more likely to be nearby. Be sure that these are kept well out of reach of pets.

Photo credit to St. Francis technician Becca Harnack- we hope everyone can find ways to enjoy winter as much as Kai and Drake! 

CURBSIDE PROTOCOLS

We continue to practice curbside care in order to protect you and our staff from COVID-19. Given our small space inside St. Francis, we anticipate that we will be curbside for the foreseeable future. We have a few reminders to help make curbside care as smooth as possible:

  • You will receive a curbside history form via email prior to your pet’s appointment. Returning this form before to your pet’s visit helps us to make your appointment as efficient as we can. This form is especially important if your pet is being brought to the clinic by someone who is not the owner.
  • Please wear a mask when interacting with staff. Staff members wear masks and face shields at all times.
  • Dogs must be leashed and cats and small mammals must be in carriers in order to make the transfer into the clinic as safe as possible.
  • Our parking lot can get very busy, especially at the very beginning and end of the day. Please drive slowly and watch carefully for cars and for staff members transferring pets back to their owners.
  • If you’ve called the number on the sign in the parking lot, left a voicemail that you’ve arrived, and have been waiting for 10 minutes or longer, please call again! Technology sometimes fails us and we never intend to keep you waiting long, especially if it is past your appointment time.

 

We are so grateful for your patience during this time. We know how much you miss being able to come inside and talk with us face-to-face. Our COVID protocols have helped ensure that we can continue to be here for you and your pets throughout the pandemic, and have kept you safe too. If you think there are practices we could change to make your experience better, please let us know!

 

CLINIC UPDATES

We are constantly improving and upgrading equipment throughout St. Francis to provide the best care possible to your pet. This month, we welcomed a new patient warming system for our surgical patients called a Bair Hugger. We’ve also upgraded to a new surgical blood pressure and ECG monitor and added a syringe pump, which allows us to precisely administer intravenous injectable medications, including antibiotics and pain control medications. These tools will improve our ability to keep patients pain-free, safe, and cozy while under anesthesia. 

 

Employee Spotlight: Ellie Elsasser

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

Ellie started bringing her pets to St. Francis in 2012 and joined the St. Francis team as a veterinary assistant in December of 2018. She is currently a 2022 candidate for her DVM degree at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Ellie is especially interested in veterinary dentistry, behavior, and exotic pets. She is passionate about reducing patient fear associated with veterinary visits and is certified in Fear Free and Feline Friendly practices. In her free time, Ellie loves to read, sew, and clicker train her two cats. Her favorite animals to work with are the "spicy" cats because she loves helping them feel less fearful and have a more positive vet experience.

Why did you choose to enter the veterinary profession?

I started with a background in wildlife and conservation biology, interested in disease transmission. Then I began working in a small animal clinic and fell in love with veterinary medicine, applied, and was accepted into vet school. I love the challenge of figuring out what ails patients that cannot speak with us. It is incredibly rewarding to help the patients. Also, I love building relationships with the clients and getting to share in their love for their pet.

Why do you love working at St. Francis?

St. Francis is wonderful because it has a wonderful team. I would trust my pets with any staff member, and I don't say that lightly. Also, the team works hard to make the clients and patients as comfortable as possible during their visits. Finally, I deeply appreciate that St Francis also provides palliative care and is very supportive of clients that are dealing with an aging pet or the loss of a pet. This is an incredibly important and often overlooked aspect of owning a pet.  

Thank you for everything you do to make St. Francis a more fun place to be, Ellie!

 

NEWS BRIEFS

Vote for us in the Minnesota Women’s Press! 

We would love to have your vote as your Favorite Animal Hospital in the 2021 Minnesota Women’s Press Readers Recommend Survey! We were honored to be the winner in 2020 and would love to have your vote again this year. Voting is available here through January 31st. Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to show your support!

 

Sportmix Dog and Cat Food Recall

Several lots of Sportmix dog and cat foods have been recalled due to the presence of a toxic mold called aflatoxin. The FDA has an up-to-date list of recalled lot numbers. If your pet has been eating one of the recalled diets, they should be seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible for labwork, even if they are not acting ill.

 

PetDesk App

Did you know that we have an app? PetDesk allows you to access your pet’s vaccine history, schedule and confirm appointments, and submit prescription refill requests. PetDesk also makes it easier for us to communicate with you, which is especially helpful right now when our phones are extra busy! You can download the app at the Apple app store for iPhones or Google Play app store for Android devices. 

Dr. Stefan Knep: Farewell Wishes

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As you know, this is Dr. Stefan Knep’s final week at St Francis Animal Hospital; his last day will be December 28th.  We have been so fortunate to have him on our team for over fifteen years.  He has provided exceptional care to his patients and clients, offering his skill, knowledge, and compassion with many sprinkles of good humor along the way.  He has been a leader and an advocate, a confidant and a friend, but most of all, he has been a trusted family member to each of us.  It is with deep sadness that we say goodbye, but we are excited for him as he begins this new chapter of his career.

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To all the wonderful patients and their owners at St. Francis Animal Hospital!

I have been a part of St. Francis Animal Hospital for the last 15 years and I have truly loved my time serving this community as part of an outstanding team.

So it is not easy for me to announce that I will be leaving St. Francis Animal Hospital at the end of December.  I will be joining the team at Camden Pet Hospital in North Minneapolis.

I want to thank all of you for trusting me with the care of your beloved, furry family members over all these years.  I so appreciate the bonds and friendships we formed during this time.  I feel honored that you allowed me to get to know you, your families and your pets.  You let me become a part of your life.  The knowledge that I contributed a little to the well being of your pets is one of the most satisfying personal and professional experiences that I could have ever imagined.

I also want to thank my incredible friends and colleagues at St. Francis.  Being part of this team has been an experience that I will treasure forever.  I know the doctors, technicians and assistants at the clinic will continue to provide exceptional care to all patients and will allow for a seamless transition of service.

So, enjoy life, love your animals, maybe even take up motorcycling (remember, dogs enjoy the superior squirrel hunting abilities that riding in a sidecar offers)…., follow soccer (no it is not boring).  I will do my best to stay in contact with the St. Francis community.

Dr. Stefan Knep

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I know that there has been so much uncertainty and change throughout this year in your own lives, your personal careers, your kids’ day care and schools, and in the businesses that you care about.  This has been a challenging time.  In the midst of all of this uncertainty, I want to take this opportunity to assure each of you that our St Francis team has an unwavering commitment to continue to provide 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 in Dr. Knep’s absence.

For those who wish to continue care with Dr. Knep, he will begin seeing patients on January 11th at Camden Pet Hospital in north Minneapolis.

Camden Pet Hospital

1405 44th Ave N

Minneapolis MN 55412

(612) 522-4374

CONGRATULATIONS: DR. JESSICA LEWIS AND DR. MEGAN SCHOMMER

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Please join us in congratulating Dr. Jessica Lewis, our new Medical Director, and Dr. Megan Schommer, our new Communications Director. These two individuals are not only knowledgeable and skilled veterinarians, but they are also exceptional leaders who will use their talents to build upon the tradition of excellence that St. Francis has known for so many years.

Medical Director: Dr. Jessica Lewis

As the Medical Director, Dr. Lewis will review and revise medical protocols; lead patient care rounds, doctor’s meetings, and staff meetings; evaluate new medications and products; develop new patient care programs; and assist in creating client education handouts, videos, and articles. In addition, she will serve as our Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Safety Officer. As one of Jessica’s first projects, she created a video to share with you about what to expect for your curbside appointment at St Francis. To watch our video, St Francis: What To Expect With Curbside Care, please visit our new YouTube channel at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1sZEtXALYTYCrZg0wUG2qA/featured . We welcome your ideas for future videos!

Communications Director: Dr. Megan Schommer

As the Communications Director, Dr. Schommer will revise and maintain our website; assist in the management of our social media channels; create and send our monthly newsletters; assist in the management of our communications platforms; revise and create client education handouts and articles; assist in marketing and public relations; and plan client education events, charitable events, and community outreach activities. As one of Megan’s first projects, she brings to St Francis the Winter Solstice Pet Memorial Event. Please see below for additional information about this event.

WINTER SOLSTICE PET MEMORIAL EVENT: DECEMBER 21ST, 7:30 PM

Holidays can be challenging when we are grieving the loss of a beloved pet. We understand how important it is to hold space for memories of pets who are no longer with us, and as part of the community that cared for your pet, we would like to help honor them. On the evening of the Winter Solstice, December 21st, we will be holding a short virtual ceremony via Zoom where we will share some thoughts, readings, and reflections on pet loss and grief. Grieving the loss of a pet can be extremely isolating, and we hope that gathering together, even virtually, will create a sense of community and belonging alongside people who understand the gravity of your loss.

Please join us for our Winter Solstice Pet Memorial Event on December 21 st at 7:30 pm via Zoom. If you would like to attend, please email us at group@stfrancisabh.com and we will respond with an invitation to the Zoom event.

CAUSE FOR PAWS HOLIDAY FUNDRAISER

Our holiday fundraiser to benefit Cause for Paws has begun and will continue through the end of the year.

The donations made will go directly to help provide preventative and medical care to the cats and kittens of Cause for Paws.

Due to COVID-19, we are currently operating curbside and won't be able to have you stop in to make a donation. Donations can be made when you are here for a curbside care appointment or medication pick up or you may call us at 651-645-2808. For your donation of any amount, we will place an ornament on our lobby tree. If you'd like a note or a memorial written on the ornament, we can do so for you.

Cause For Paws is a small, all-volunteer Minnesota nonprofit 501(c)(3) group founded in 1998. Their main focus is to find loving permanent homes for stray and abandoned cats and kittens. All cats in their care are fostered in volunteers’ homes. Their work is funded entirely by donations. To learn more, please visit: https://www.causeforpawsmn.org/ .

Please help us fill our tree with ornaments and provide care for the cats of Cause for Paws!

COVID-19 UPDATE

With the extraordinary number of positive COVID-19 cases, we are working even more diligently to keep our clients and our team as safe and healthy as possible. If you have an appointment at St Francis, please help us by following these guidelines.

  • If you or anyone in your family is ill, has been ill, or has been around anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 14 days, please alert us. We will ask that you reschedule any routine non-critical visits. If your pet is sick, we would prefer for you to ask someone else to bring your pet for the visit. Regardless, we need to know the status of your household so that we can use additional personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling pets from COVID-19 positive homes.
  • We ask that everyone wear a mask when interacting with our team members, even if you are in your car or standing outside. We will commit to wearing a mask and a shield at all times.
  • We have an ongoing struggle with the volume of phone calls. 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.

Under the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we are being very careful to keep COVID-19 out of the workplace so that we can continue to be here to care for your pets. Any team member showing any signs of illness is asked to stay home and obtain a negative COVID test before returning to St Francis. This can lead to unexpected staffing issues. In the unlikely event that we need to reschedule appointments, we ask for your kindness, understanding, and patience as we work with you to find alternative appointment times.

As always, thank you for all of your understanding, your kind words, and your generosity throughout this year. We are so grateful for you and so honored to have worked side by side with you throughout the ups and downs of this pandemic.

NEWS BRIEFS

Women’s Press: Reader’s Recommend Survey

Please take a moment to vote for us for Favorite Animal Hospital in the Minnesota Women’s Press 2021 Readers Recommend Survey: http://tinyurl.com/MWP2021ReadersRecommend . Voting ends on January 31st .

Holiday Hours

We have provided our team with important time off with their families for the holidays. If your pet has an emergency during this time, please contact the Animal Emergency & Referral Center (651-501-3766), University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital (612-626-8387), Blue Pearl Arden Hills (763-754-5000), or Como Park After Hours (651-487-3255)

December 24th: Open: 8-12:30 pm

December 25th - 27th: Closed

December 31st: Open 8-3:00 pm

January 1st - 3rd: Closed

Stay Tuned: Dr. Kate French and Dr. Mike Petersen

Stay tuned for introductions of our new veterinarians! Dr. Kate French will provide temporary coverage on Mondays and Tuesdays in January and February. Dr. Mike Petersen will start full-time on February 22nd . As always, St Francis has added exceptional talent to our team to provide you with the very best care for your loved ones. We are excited for you to meet them!

Farewell Wishes: Dr. Stefan Knep

This has been a year of significant change for individuals and businesses across many industries, and St Francis is no exception.  It is with deep sadness that we announce the departure of Dr. Stefan Knep from St Francis Animal Hospital.  After 15 years, he was presented with an opportunity to explore a new chapter of his career at Camden Pet Hospital.  We will all miss the exceptional care he provided to his patients and clients, his compassion, and his good humor.  His final day at St Francis will be December 28th, and he will begin practicing at Camden Pet Hospital in North Minneapolis in January.  He wanted to share the following with you.

To all the wonderful patients and their owners at St. Francis Animal Hospital!

I have been a part of St. Francis Animal Hospital for the last 15 years and I have truly loved my time serving this community as part of an outstanding team.

So it is not easy for me to announce that I will be leaving St. Francis Animal Hospital at the end of December.  I will be joining the team at Camden Pet Hospital in North Minneapolis.

I want to thank all of you for trusting me with the care of your beloved, furry family members over all these years.  I so appreciate the bonds and friendships we formed during this time.  I feel honored that you allowed me to get to know you, your families and your pets.  You let me become a part of your life.  The knowledge that I contributed a little to the well being of your pets is one of the most satisfying personal and professional experiences that I could have ever imagined.

I also want to thank my incredible friends and colleagues at St. Francis.  Being part of this team has been an experience that I will treasure forever.  I know the doctors, technicians and assistants at the clinic will continue to provide exceptional care to all patients and will allow for a seamless transition of service.

So, enjoy life, love your animals, maybe even take up motorcycling (remember, dogs enjoy the superior squirrel hunting abilities that riding in a sidecar offers)…., follow soccer (no it is not boring).  I will do my best to stay in contact with the St. Francis community.

Dr. Stefan Knep

We understand your sadness with this news, and we share those feelings with you.  I have worked side by side with Dr. Knep throughout the formative years of my veterinary career.  He has been a mentor, colleague, and friend to all of us.  He will be missed greatly.

I know that there has been so much uncertainty and change throughout this year in your own lives, your personal careers, your kids’ day care and schools, and in the businesses that you care about.  This has been a challenging time.  In the midst of all of this uncertainty, I want to take this opportunity to assure each of you that our St Francis team has an unwavering commitment to continue to provide the exceptional care that you have known and loved throughout the years.  Dr. Patricia Novak, Dr. Jessica Lewis, and Dr. Megan Schommer, along with myself and our incredible team of veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, and client service representatives, are here for you and your loved ones.  As difficult as change is, we look forward to this opportunity to invite another exceptional veterinarian to join our family.  We have a long history of choosing the very best doctors to carry on the St Francis legacy.

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

Sincerely,

Jennifer Blair, DVM, CVA, CVFT, CTPEP

Practice Owner

St Francis Animal Hospital / St Francis Integrative Services



Employee Spotlight: Debranique Pitter

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

Debranique joined St Francis Animal Hospital in 2018 as a Veterinary Assistant.  She is currently in the undergraduate program for animal science at the University of Minnesota.  She has a passion for companion animals and exotic species.  In the future, she hopes to establish her own conservation sanctuaries and animal shelters.  Our St Francis patients love her, and look to her for treats, snuggles, or in the case of our acupuncture patients, a good lap to fall asleep in.  Outside of work and school, her hobbies include working out, traveling, scary movie marathons, and spending time with Sarah, her 15 year old Jack Russell Terrier.

Why do you love being a veterinary assistant?

I love being a veterinary assistant because it gives me the opportunity to be a part of a team that gives a voice to those who don’t have one.  Animals mean so much to me and being able to help them gives me a purpose.

Why do you love working at St Francis Animal Hospital?

I love St Francis Animal Hospital for the genuine passion of the practice.  Every doctor, technician, and assistant is as passionate about patient care behind the scenes as they are in the exam rooms with the clients.  Our compassionate and friendly team and the commitment to always put the animals’ needs first are the things that truly set St Francis apart from others.



Acupuncture: It’s Not Just For Pain

We often think of acupuncture as an option to manage pain.  However, it is an excellent treatment modality for any chronic disease including kidney disease, epilepsy or other seizure disorders, neurological disease, anxiety, inflammatory bowel disease, or allergies.

Peanut, an 11 year old Chihuahua, had struggled with chronic gastrointestinal (GI) issues for years.  Stress or changes in his routine would often lead to diarrhea, bloody stool, or vomiting.  After varying success with diet and medication trials, we elected to try acupuncture.  After just a few sessions, Peanut was a different dog!  He now has less anxiety and rarely has any flare ups of his GI issues, even without his medications.  From Peanut’s standpoint, he just loves his spa days and usually takes the opportunity to fall asleep while his needles are in.

Acupuncture has been practiced in China in both humans and animals for thousands of years.  It is one of the branches of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM).  Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine also includes herbal medicine, food therapy, and Tui-na, a type of Chinese massage. 

Acupuncture 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 change 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.  These acupoints are located along meridians or channels that interact with specific internal organs.

For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has utilized a different language to explain the physiology of the body.  In TCVM, Qi is defined at the life force or vital energy of the body.  Qi flows through the meridians.  If there is a blockage of Qi or a deficiency of Qi, there are physiological effects on the body.  In addition, everything in the world, including our bodies, has a balance of Yin and Yang.  If something upsets that balance, disease occurs.  The goal of acupuncture and the other branches of TCVM is to restore the balance in the body.  Because of this, acupuncture can prove to be very beneficial for many conditions including those affecting our internal organs like the GI tract.

If you have questions about acupuncture for your pet, please reach out to us at group@stfrancisabh.com.  We are happy to send you our introductory email with additional information about how this treatment modality may be beneficial for your individual pet.

Written by: Jennifer Blair, DVM, CVA, CVFT, CTPEP

News Briefs

Staff Meeting: December 9th

We will be closed for a staff meeting on Wednesday December 9th from 12:30 to 2:00 pm.

Vetmedin

There is a shortage of Vetmedin.  If your dog is on Vetmedin, please request your refills at least one week in advance.  We are required to send an individual request for every patient to the distributor before they will release a bottle.  This process takes longer than if we were able to have it stocked on our shelves.  Unfortunately, the price of this medication has also increased significantly.  Please let us know if you have any questions.

November: National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

November is National Hospice & Palliative Care Month.  We have many tools to help pets during the end of their lives, whether due to the natural aging process or due to a terminal disease condition.  Dr. Patricia Novak is certified in Animal Hospice and Palliative Care through the International Association for Animal Hospice & Palliative Care and Dr. Jennifer Blair is certified in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Palliative and End-Of-Life Care through the Chi University.  We are here to help you make this stage of your pets’ lives joyful and comfortable. 

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.

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"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!