My life as an exotic animal veterinarian has been interesting to say the least. I have worked on king cobras, rattlesnakes, crocodile monitor lizards, rabbits, chinchillas, hedgehogs, ferrets, opossums, endangered tortoises, and many others! My day often starts with my receptionist asking, “Hey Dr. Steffes, Mrs. Smith has a 20 foot reticulated python “Fluffy” that seems sick, will you see that?” My usual response is, “Of course!” My receptionist then usually comes back around the corner and says, “Mrs. Smith wants to know what is going to happen if she brings Fluffy in today, what should I tell her?” I am always surprised by this question, and surprised by the genuine concern that I hear in an owner’s voice when they ask. Is it going to be $1000.00 if I walk in the door, am I going to be judged a bad animal caretaker, is this going to be a waste of my time and money, is there anything that can even be done for Fluffy??? I cannot speak for every veterinarian, but I wanted to give everyone some insight into how we go through every case at Ohana Animal Hospital.
The first thing you can expect when you walk in the door at Ohana Animal Hospital is to be greeted by our amazing receptionist. She will make sure that you get all the necessary paperwork filled out, and can send for technician help if you need a hand carrying Fluffy in the door. At our hospital you can actually complete all the documents on your computer at home prior to arriving if you have the time. Many exotic animal problems are the result of a number of issues, and the in-depth exotic animal questionnaires help the doctors get a lot of the husbandry/care information out of the way before your appointment, so we can focus on the problem at hand when we get into the exam room. Once your documents are completed you will be ushered into one of our four examination rooms. One of our highly skilled technicians will then come in and get a weight and brief history on Fluffy. While the technician is getting the weight and history, the doctor is normally reading through the husbandry questionnaire and any previous records. Once the technician is finished with their questions they brief the doctor, and then the fun happens.
Once the doctor enters the exam room you will get his/her undivided attention. I like to take time in my examination rooms getting to know the owner, the pet, and performing a thorough examination. Occasionally an angry or scared animal will need to be sedated for examination, but often times not, and so the exam will be performed right in front of you. Once I have performed my exam I have a discussion with the client about my thoughts on what the problem may be, and how we need to go about diagnosing and resolving the problem. Many of the exotic animals that come in have been hiding an illness for months, and can require testing the same day to get an answer, so don’t be surprised if tests are recommended. I always recommend what I feel is the best plan, and then the client and I will decide on the best way to proceed.
I feel it is my job to offer every client the best diagnostic and treatment plan I can, but that is often not the only way we can work through a case. Owners and I often times start off in a step-wise fashion, and progress through a case as needed. You will not be looked at as a bad owner if you cannot spend $600.00 on viral testing in your ball python. Some owners have been saving for months to have $45.00 for a course of antibiotics, and I understand when that is where we need to start off. We veterinarians know that you could have easily not come in the door, so we know that if you are here, your pet is important to you. Many hospitals offer various payment options; so don’t be embarrassed to ask what plans we can offer.
I never perform any tests or treatments without you being completely on board, and you will always be provided an estimate for services BEFORE those services are done. Being a veterinarian is about working with the animal owners to best care for their pets. Once we decide on the plan, we will either take the pet into the treatment area for testing, or we will make up the medications we are sending home. Once we are done with our tests, and we have any medications put together, we will show you how to perform any treatments we are sending home. I always let people know that if they have any trouble with treatments they can come back for help, and I mean it. Owners are often nervous about performing treatments, and we do our best to do everything we can to make sure you are comfortable before you leave.
Once you feel comfortable with the plan, you know how to perform the necessary treatments, and you are ready to go home we will help you get Fluffy back out to the car and on the road home. I always make sure my clients have ways to reach me when I am not at the hospital, as Fluffy’s recovery really does concern me. You may think your veterinarian goes home and forgets about Fluffy, but you are wrong. There have been many occasions when I have woken myself up in the middle of the night thinking about what else I need to do to help your pet, or wondering how one of my patients is responding to treatment. Hopefully, after a couple of weeks Fluffy is back to normal, and you will not have to see me again until Fluffy needs her normal yearly exam.
Going to the veterinarian should not be scary, and it should be as painless as possible. At Ohana Animal Hospital we do our best to make the experience painless, educational, and sometimes even fun. After 10-12 hours of work, Dr. Steffes then goes home, takes care of his 20 animals, kisses his daughter goodnight, and then falls asleep on the couch. Until tomorrow, when it starts all over again.
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