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IMG_7910sm.jpgCreating a Fear Free Vet Visit for Cats

At St. Francis, we are dedicated to the practice of Fear Free techniques. Fear Free is an approach to animal handling that aims to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in the clinic. This means that our veterinarians and staff use specific techniques and tools that help pets have happier vet visits. For cats, a fear-free visit actually starts at home. You can help your cat (and us!) have better trips to the clinic through good preparation.

First, make sure your cat has a carrier that helps them feel safe and secure. Cats like enough room to turn around, but not so much space that they can slide around or feel exposed. The walls of the carrier should be mostly opaque and should have at least two openings to make it easier to get your kitty out. Many cats like to stay inside their carriers for their exams, so we especially like carriers with easy-to-remove top halves (large snaps are easy to open- screws and zip ties are not!). A soft blanket or bed makes the carrier even more comfortable. This video has more detailed information about how to choose a good cat carrier: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RGY5oSKVfo

Next, your cat should be very familiar and comfortable with their carrier. If the only time your kitty sees the carrier is once a year for a vet visit, you’ll find that your cat will disappear as soon as the carrier comes out! Keep the carrier out in your home all the time. Many cats will use their carriers as beds if they are accessible. Occasionally tossing some catnip or treats into the carrier will further help your cat associate it with positive emotions. As you are preparing to leave for the vet clinic, using a spray-on pheromone like Feliway helps to reduce anxiety in the carrier and during travel.

When you are on your way to the clinic, place your cat in the carrier and cover the carrier with a towel to prevent your pet from seeing scary things like dogs or other cats. Holding the carrier by the bottom rather than the handle is much more comfortable for your cat because it prevents the carrier from swinging around. We will use Fear Free techniques during the exam, such as examining your cat inside their carrier when possible, tempting your cat to come out of the carrier voluntarily with treats, and using Feliway-infused towels to reduce anxiety in the exam room.

When you return home, if you have other pets at home, reintroduce your cat slowly and carefully. Your cat may smell strange, especially if they were sedated or under anesthesia, and reintroduction to other cats can sometimes be difficult. Pheromones like Feliway can help smooth out reintroduction. Keep your cat inside their carrier in a separate room for a short period prior to reintroducing them.

Some cats will struggle with fear of the vet no matter how much preparation you do. Know that there are medication options available to help calm your kitty for car rides and vet visits. Please don’t hesitate to ask your veterinary team for help! Even though a vet visit isn’t most cats’ favorite activity, we love that we can make almost every cat feel comfortable when they visit St. Francis.

Thank you

Minnesota Women’s Press Readers Recommend 2021 Winner

Thank you to our clients for voting for us in the Minnesota Women’s Press Readers Recommend poll! We were honored to receive the recommendation for Favorite Animal Hospital. We were also thrilled that our practice owner, Dr. Jennifer Blair, was the winner of the Favorite Business Leader category. We know that Dr. Blair has created a special place in St. Francis, and it means so much that our clients recognize the hard work that she has put into our community. Thank you for this amazing honor!

Support Small Business: Shop Local

By Dr. Jennifer Blair

In celebration of National Small Business Week, May 2nd - 8th, we wanted to take this opportunity to encourage you to support small businesses by shopping at St Francis Animal Hospital for all of your pets’ health care needs.

Did you know? Veterinary practices are being purchased by large corporate entities at a surprising pace. St Francis Animal Hospital is proud to still be a locally owned neighborhood practice. We love being part of your community and part of your families, and we are passionate about providing individualized care for each of your pets. When you shop local, you help to keep locally-owned businesses like ours in our neighborhood.

Many pet owners assume that it is less expensive to purchase their pets’ medications through large companies like Chewy, PetMeds, or Costco. However, it is often considerably less expensive to buy your pets’ medications at St Francis. We work directly with the manufacturers to bring you the best pricing and instant rebates. For example, when you purchase 12 Heartgard Plus and 12 Nexgard or Frontline Gold, you’ll receive a $75 Instant Rebate or when you purchase 6 Heartgard Plus and 6 Nexgard or Frontline Gold, you’ll receive a $35 Rebate. Many other rebate offers exist to allow us to tailor your savings to your pets’ needs.

Even without rebates, many of our medications are less expensive at St Francis than they would be at these other companies. With so many counterfeit, mislabeled, or expired products being distributed online and in pet stores, our goal is to be able to provide you with reputable products at an affordable price. Surprisingly, even some human medications used for pets are more affordable at your local veterinary practice than at human pharmacies. To further reduce your costs, ask us about generic options or 90-day supplies of your pets’ medications.

Shopping locally is beneficial to everyone. Your support allows us to invest in our employees, providing them with educational opportunities and improved wages and benefits. It allows us to expand our team and to invest in new equipment and services to provide the best care for you and your loved ones. St Francis also gives back to the community, supporting local students, school fundraisers, pet rescues and other non-profit organizations. Supporting local small business is truly a win-win for everyone.

If you have any questions or would like to order your pets’ food or medications, please reach out to us at (651) 645-2808, group@stfrancisabh.com, or via PetDesk.

Thank you so much for partnering with us to provide the best care for your pets. We are so honored to be in this community and to have been a part of your families for nearly 30 years!

Pocket Pet Handling

It’s tough being a tiny animal in a big world. Many pocket pets, including hamsters, rats, and mice, are very fearful of being picked up. When we choose to share our homes with prey species like these, it is our responsibility to teach them that they can trust us so that they find activities like handling and petting enjoyable rather than scary. If you’ve found yourself with a fearful pet rodent, you may need to be patient with them, but with the right techniques, you can gently teach them to trust you. We recommend following techniques based on positive reinforcement. Visit https://www.joinrats.com/ for an excellent list of videos and articles that can walk you through the process (this website is designed for rats, but the techniques can be adapted for most pocket pets). hamster.jpg

IMG 2801Spring Dog Safety Reminders

After a few false starts, we can safely say that spring has arrived in the Twin Cities! Everyone is eager to get outside now that we have warmer temperatures and longer days. We see a lot of the same illnesses and injuries spike each spring and hope we can help you prevent some of these common problems:

Dog park fights: Spring is a time when many dogs venture out to the dog park for the first time in several months. Dogs might need some time to re-learn their social skills. Introducing a nervous dog into a group of rowdy playmates is a recipe for fights and injuries. If your dog is feeling uneasy about socializing, visit the park at off-peak times like early in the morning. It might be tempting to keep your dog on-leash in the off-leash park if you aren’t sure how he will react to other dogs, but being on a leash while other dogs are off-leash can make your dog more nervous. Being on a leash disrupts your dog’s ability to greet other dogs freely and can increase anxiety, fearful behavior, and fights. Remember, just like not all people enjoy socializing with a lot of strangers at once, not all dogs enjoy it either- dog parks are overstimulating for many dogs and it’s perfectly fine to stick to playtime with familiar friends.

GI upset: After the snow melt, a lot of old food, rotten plants, and other goodies appear in backyards and along sidewalks. Dogs are not very discerning and will happily consume these rotten treasures, leading to symptoms similar to food poisoning. Before you let your dog free roam in your backyard, do a thorough search for anything rotten that’s been uncovered and dispose of it.

Parasites: As soon as temperatures get above freezing, disease-causing parasites are back out in full force. We have already removed ticks from a few patients at St. Francis this spring! Dogs who visit dog parks are more likely to be exposed to parasites, and especially intestinal parasites such as hookworms (a recent study found intestinal parasites in 87% of midwest dog parks!). Make sure your pet is taking their monthly preventatives to protect against fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites. 

Springtime Means Baby Wildlife

Our friends at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota have already started receiving baby wildlife in their nurseries. Grey squirrels, chipmunks, and cottontail rabbits are the first species to have their babies in the spring, with songbirds and waterfowl not far behind. We are lucky to have the WRC in our own backyard! They are located just off of Highway 36 and Dale Street. The WRC is open from 9 am to 6 pm every day and can accept wildlife for care any time during their operating hours. Our pet dogs and cats are often the first ones to spot baby animals in our yards, so it’s good to know what to do if your pet finds or injures a baby animal. Babies that are bleeding or obviously injured should be brought in. Any baby wildlife that has been handled by a cat should be brought in to the WRC for evaluation, even if you don’t see any obvious wounds. Cat bites can be very dangerous and are prone to getting infected, and the baby should be evaluated by a veterinarian. If your dog uncovers a nest of bunnies on the ground and the babies are uninjured, the WRC recommends to “put them back in the nest and cover them with the nest material. Take a laundry basket and a couple tent stakes, and anytime you let your dog out into the yard, simply put the laundry basket over the nest like a protective dome. Stake it to the ground so the dog cannot push it off the nest. Incredibly simple! This will allow you and your dog to enjoy your yard all day long. Just remember to uncover the nest when you bring your dog inside.” For more information about how to help orphaned wildlife, visit https://wrcmn.org/helping-orphaned-animals

COVID Update

We’ve been practicing curbside care for over one year in our efforts to protect our staff and clients from COVID-19. We know that you are eager to be able to come inside with your pets, and we miss having you inside too! We are very grateful that vaccines are becoming more widely available and hopeful that vaccination within our community will decrease the numbers of local COVID cases soon. As of the end of March, we are unfortunately seeing a rise in case numbers in Minnesota. Because of our small space within our clinic and our inability to socially distance from clients within our exam rooms, we anticipate that we’ll be continuing curbside care for the foreseeable future. We are frequently reassessing our protocols in light of case numbers within our area, and will be sure to keep everyone updated as our protocols change. If you are curious to know what your pets have been up to while you’ve been waiting for them in your car, check out the slideshow we made of our last year inside St. Francis: https://youtu.be/xPlh7nP5nHE

How to Contact Us

We continue to experience a dramatic increase in our phone volume compared to pre-COVID times. What are the best ways to get through to us? We have a number of options depending on your needs:

  • To talk to someone about an urgent matter, please call our main phone line at 651-645-2808 and enter our phone queue to talk to a staff member. This is the best way to get a response from some as quickly as possible, or to have an emergency situation triaged, 
  • If you need to schedule a wellness exam, non-urgent medical exam, or procedure, you can
  • If you need a prescription refill, you can
  • If you have a general question for your pet’s medical team, an update on how your pet is doing, or a response to a question from us, you can 
    • email us at group@stfrancisabh.com 
    • Call our main phone line at 651-645-2808 and leave us a voicemail. A staff member will call you back with a response.

We check all of these communication services as often as possible and triage urgent messages and calls ahead of non-urgent messages and calls. If you have been expecting a response but haven’t heard from us within 3 business days, please reach out again. Thank you for your understanding!

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.