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Dr. Tracey Ritzman’s son Rohan had an unforgettable 10th birthday earlier this autumn. He went behind the scenes at the St. Louis Zoo, watched animal training and feeding, and even got some snuggles from a few of the animals—including Robbie, a 600-lb. sea lion who likes to toss frisbees around! Rohan got this opportunity because Dr. Ritzman participated in ExoticsCon 2019, an international educational conference for veterinarians who work with exotic pets and zoo animals.

Kayla knew something was very wrong with her newly adopted cat, Murray. Just a few weeks after she brought him home from the Humane Society of West Michigan this past June, he began vomiting everywhere and seemed to lose his appetite.

Owning a senior pet is a rewarding experience. It’s meaningful to watch your dog’s muzzle become grayer over the years as they mature from rambunctious, puppy-like behavior to being a calm, quiet canine companion. But the other side of senior dog ownership is seeing a beloved pet go through the natural challenges of aging: sore muscles and joints, more frequent illness, vision and hearing loss, and other health issues. When your dog is still loving life but having a tougher time getting around, your vet might recommend an appointment with certified canine rehabilitation nurse Emily Harkness at CHFA.

One morning, CHFA client Katelyn awoke to the unpleasant and frightening discovery that her cat, Alice, had thrown up in about seven different places all over the house. Even in her state of disbelief and worry, it didn’t take Katelyn long to connect the dots. She and her wife, Mette, had been painting the exterior of their home and left a paint brush in a bowl of water to soak it and keep it from drying out. At some point in the night, Alice, a member of the family since she was a kitten, must have ingested some of the paint-diluted water.

Summer is finally here and so are the mosquitos. But the scourge of our backyard cookouts and camping trips are more than just an annoyance. For pet owners and their canine companions, they can lead to a potentially deadly and certainly painful condition called heartworm disease. Brittny Taylor, a Client Care Assistant at Cascade Hospital for Animals, recently learned first-hand how difficult it can be to watch a beloved pet suffer from this terrible condition.

Having a parrot for a pet isn’t for everyone. In fact, if you ask parrot owner and enthusiast Tom Edwards, a long-time client of CHFA’s board-certified avian and exotic mammal veterinary specialist Dr. Tracey Ritzman, it’s not for most people. “It’s so much work that I try to talk people out of it...if after talking to me you still want to own a bird, you were meant to be a bird owner,” says Tom.

Dr. Chelsea Grimes found her passion for veterinary medicine very early on—with a little help from her aunt and the family cat.

“I was about six years old and was upset because our cat had killed a chipmunk,” she said. “My aunt, who is a veterinarian, was visiting. I was hoping she could revive the chipmunk, but that wasn’t in the cards. What she could do was perform a necropsy on the chipmunk in the name of science, showing me all the little organs and everything. I went from being distraught about the dead chipmunk to being fascinated by it. Pretty much from that point forward I was really tuned in to working with animals.”

As an only child, Dr. Grimes spent a lot of time with her pets. “I was fortunate to grow up with a lot of fantastic dogs and cats. They let me dress them up and play with them. So that human/animal bond is really important to me.”

As she took her newly adopted dog Yodi to see Dr. Veneman at Cascade Hospital for Animals, Nicole was resigned to the idea that the 5-lb. Chihuahua would probably have to be put to sleep. After all, his problems seemed insurmountable: He could barely walk, he was badly dehydrated, his entire body was swollen, and his hair was falling off in large patches. “His whole body seemed to be shutting down,” Nicole said. “It’s just that his quality of life was so poor.” She had recently taken Yodi into her home on behalf of his previous owner, who was not able to care for him anymore.

Dr. Veneman was alarmed by Yodi’s condition. “He was anemic,” she said. “His red blood cell count was low. The symptoms he presented could have been from so many potential problems, including cancer.”

You might say that Dr. Leslie Veneman was born to be a veterinarian. As a child she “always liked taking care of the little critters. I’d go to barns and take kittens, nurse them to health, and put up a free kittens sign by the road.” Her mom and dad always encouraged her love for animals, tolerating the occasional escaped pet snake, toad, or hamster.

Your cat has a vet appointment. So you go to the closet to get out the carrier…and your cat takes one look at it and runs away to hide. You trap your frightened cat and try to put her in the carrier, possibly getting scratched and bitten in the process. Finally, you get your cat into the carrier and get treated to an earful of yowling and meowing. You put the carrier in your car and risk your cat becoming physically sick from her anxiety. And all this chaos happens before the actual exam—which is a whole different adventure!