When I’m not in front of a computer I am hands on in the Vet Suite at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. It’s my favorite way to recharge and get a serious dose of oxytocin. If you’ve ever thought of volunteering at a rescue, do it! It’s rewarding!
Senior Dogs and Medical Care at Muttville
The heart of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue is in the rescue, care and rehoming of senior dogs. Muttville’s tagline “It’s never to late to have a second chance” says it all! What makes Muttville particularly unique as a rescue organization is that it has its own Vet Suite. It’s unusual for a rescue to have an internal vet hospital. Angela Ramiro, Vet Suite Manager continues to grow the capabilities of the Vet Suite and manages the Vet Suite Volunteer Program. The Vet Suite hit a whole new level of performance when Dr. Rebecca Rader, DVM joined as full-time staff. Dr. Rader is the only DVM in the vet suite. Each month approximately [enter number] dogs pass through the Vet Suite to receive their intake exam.
The Benefits of an Internal Veterinary Program
Muttville’s internal veterinary program allows for faster processing of a senior dog once they’ve arrived. The sooner a dog can get an initial intake exam and assessment, the sooner that dog receives the necessary medications, treatments, or scheduled for surgeries. The sooner these seniors get the assessments and care they need, the sooner they are ready for adoption, fostering or identified for Muttville’s hospice program.
The most common surgeries scheduled are spays, neuters and dentals. There’s the “Muttville Special” which is either a spay or neuter and a dental. Even as a senior dog, it’s important to get spayed or neutered; it’s not just to prevent pregnancies. Female dogs that are not spayed are at risk of mammary tumors, uterine infections and uterine cancer. For male dogs, health risks without neutering include testicular cancer and prostrate disease.
When it comes to a dental exam, it’s common to see seniors come in with severe gum disease. Dogs are noted with severe gingivitis, dental calculus, and sometimes fistulas, where a hole develops between a dog’s oral cavity and nasal passages because of a loss of gum tissue and bone around the teeth. Surgery is necessary to treat the dog, scale the teeth, and perform extractions and to repair fistulas.
With Dr. Rader procedures that require sedation can be scheduled. Some dogs arrive in a painful state, like Buddy, a Shepherd mix. Buddy had a severe ear infection which caused an ear hematoma that over time split his ear. He had to be sedated to have the ear examined, cleaned and treated.
Some dogs are sedated so Dr. Rader can biopsy masses to examine internally and send out for further analysis. With the addition of an ultrasound machine this year, Dr. Rader performs abdominal scans on Muttville’s seniors and looks for abnormalities in the liver, spleen, kidneys, uterus and prostate. The procedure is non invasive and allows for identification of conditions like pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease, pyometra, bladder stones, and lymphomas, all detected through the image sent back by the ultrasound.
The Muttville Vet Suite Volunteer Program
The Vet Suite Volunteer Program has been active for almost three years. Vet Suite volunteers support Dr. Rader and Angela by making sure the Vet Suite operates efficiently. Volunteers keep the Vet Suite stocked and clean, make sure muzzles and equipment cleaned and sterilized. We’re mopping pee off the floor, restraining dogs
Volunteers also complete the initial intake forms, highlighting information and medical history, including current medications, recent surgeries, and vaccinations given prior to arrival at Muttville. New arrivals are weighed and then treated to a snack of chicken with flea and tick and heartworm treatments snuck into the mix. Dogs are scanned for microchips. Blood work is run during intake so the results are ready before the end of the exam.
Once Dr. Rader begins an exam, one of the most important roles volunteers is holding the dog. In order for an intake exam to run smoothly and safely, volunteers focus on keeping a dog calm and distracted. Some dogs could care less that their ears are getting checked. Some dogs hate it. Some dogs don’t want to stand still during an exam so it’s the job of the volunteer to keep the dog in place and relaxed. Some dogs don’t like the awkward position when placed in a trough for their ultrasound exam, while others drop off and take a nap.
Volunteers at the Muttville Vet Suite are dedicated to the program and to supporting the Vet Suite team. The transformations everyone sees from that first medical exam along with the progress during and after treatment is inspiring and sometimes amazing. Senior dogs can be incredibly resilient! Senior dogs have so much love to give, with a little care and attention, they’ll steal your heart once they get that second chance.