As I travel the country, I meet the most interesting people! Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my puppy-energized brain: why don’t I do some fun interviews with these people and share their stories with my best friends (my blog readers)?!
My first interview is with a man who acted quite strangely (to me) when we first met: picking up my ears, palpating my abdomen and putting his fingers in my mouth. But then he gave me a treat and all was forgiven.
My new friend, Dr. Andrew Olson (I call him Dr. Andy), and his wife (also a veterinarian) own and operate Lakewood Animal Hospital in Locust Grove, VA. Dr. Amy Olson opened the practice in 2011; Dr. Andy, who is 40 years old, joined his wife in the business in 2013. My parents and CoCo have known Dr. Andy for about 13 years. When we recently drove through Locust Grove, we stopped by so Dr. Andy and I could meet!
Dr. Andy, our first meeting, and you put your fingers in my mouth! What’s up with that?!
I needed to see if your teeth and gums were healthy. I do that by looking at your teeth, gums and tongue and feeling around your mouth.
I guess I better ask my mom to start brushing my teeth every night…
Definitely! Dental disease is probably simultaneously the most prevalent and the most neglected disease we see. We often see patients brought in very quickly for a red, “goopy” eye, but the same patient may have had 42 “red, ‘goopy’ teeth” for several years! Dental disease goes either unnoticed or ignored in many patients, and it affects their quality of life just the same as it would in a person.
Dogs and cats do not typically show signs of pain: they continue to eat and drink and carry on with their life as if nothing is wrong, just like a human will continue to eat, drink, and go to work with a painful tooth. As for what pet owners should do? I’m going to echo what every human dentist preaches: brushing your teeth daily and having your teeth professionally cleaned every six months or once a year. Chews and products that are sold as dental helpers have a place, but there is a reason why your dentist doesn’t recommend just chewing on celery!
I know you probably had other jobs before you became a veterinarian. Which job best prepared you to be a vet?
I worked as a server while in veterinary school, which, despite adding more responsibility to my schedule, provided a wonderful escape from the workload. I think the communication, personality assessment (does this table want to talk or be left alone?) and multi-tasking (managing multiple tables) are skills that are quite similar to running appointments in multiple exam rooms.
But you probably don’t get tips as a veterinarian.
I don’t. But if I’m lucky, I’ll get a lick!
I assume from your patients (not your clients)…. So, what is your typical day like?
I’m at work from 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening. I have client appointments from 8:00 until noon, procedures and lunch from noon until 2:00, then appointments from 2:00 until 5:00. Depending on the schedule, lunch can be as leisurely as an hour, or as fast as two minutes of chewing a protein bar.
Or a milk bone…
Too many carbs!
What makes Lakewood different than other veterinarian businesses?Â
We are proud that we take enough time to focus on forming trusting relationships with our clients.Â Our goal is a slower pace and higher quality medicine. There is no higher compliment than people saying, “I wish I had a [human health provider] that spent the time to listen and explain things like you do.”
What do you like most about your job?
I really enjoy being a diagnostician: figuring out what’s wrong with a sick patient. Animal physiology is so wonderfully complicated.
What procedure do you like doing best?
Ultrasound. Ultrasound is a non-invasive (awake patient, doesn’t hurt, no healing, lay in a pillow) way for us to get a comprehensive look at their insides.
How many surgeries – and what kinds – do you do in an average week?
I do about two or three planned/scheduled surgeries per week on average. As a traditional day-practice surgeon, we’re typically removing various things: testicles, ovaries, diseased teeth, cancerous lumps, spleens, or toys/objects that patients have inappropriately chosen to swallow.
We typically have a smattering of unplanned lacerations or dog/cat fights every month. We will refer patients to board-certified Veterinary Surgeons (who do nothing but surgery) about once a month for knee surgery, bone fractures, or more advanced procedures.
What can pet owners do to make a visit to the vet more comfortable for them and their pet?Â
Not all pets are the same: some love the car ride, others are terrified. Some naturally love people, others are very skeptical, shy, or even confrontational. I think general advice for most everyone would be to make every part of “the trip” routine with lots of positive reinforcement.
For example, if you feed your cat regularly in its carrier, your cat won’t be scared of the carrier. You could even close the door to the carrier while your cat is eating. And then once your cat is used to the carrier, you can bring your cat and carrier into your car and go for a few short rides. Riding in a carrier may be compared to riding on a small boat in rough water: short periods of practice may make it less “startling.”
Once the short trip is over, and you bring your cat back inside, reward her with some of her favorite treats. If you do a few short trips over time and reward with treats, your cat won’t associate car rides with veterinarian appointments or unpleasant experiences. By the time you bring her to the vet, she will be used to car rides and will be more relaxed when she meets her vet for the first time.
Cats are so hard to understand.
Not really. I have a cat. She’s 14 years old.
She’d probably claw my eyes out.
I don’t know about that. But if you try to get her to play, she’d probably hiss at you. Just like CoCo does!
So, how do you keep your patients calm in the exam room?
Fear-free medicine is gaining notoriety and popularity in the last few years. Again, every patient is different, but most are somewhat nervous being in a new place and being touched/restrained by strangers. Positive rewards in the form of treats are extremely important. Trying to make visits memorable in a good way is the goal. If the dog or cat leaves thinking like it was a “candy store,” weâve done a good job.
Here’s my final question: Do you think Yoda could slay vampires?
I guess you’re asking if Yoda has a skill set comparable to Buffy? I suppose whatever special abilities Buffy has been given are likely insignificant next to the power of the Force (to partially quote Darth Vader). Yoda would likely be able to dispose of a Vampire with very little effort, but it’s also equally likely that Yoda would seek a peaceful solution seeing as he is a Jedi Master.
Tell me about YOUR favorite veterinarian! Maybe I’ll visit as we cross the country!