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A Feline Veterinarian's Day

By Susan McCullough

A Feline Veterinarian\'s Day

Weak from days without food or water, the emaciated, dehydrated cat could barely lift her head. The Good Samaritan who had found the little feline brought her to The Cat Care Clinic in Orange, Calif., hoping that veterinarian Elaine Wexler-Mitchell and her staff could ease the cat away from death’s door. The odds of such a miracle occurring were iffy at best, since the cat was not only starving, but also was besieged with internal and external parasites. Handling such challenges, however, is all in a day’s work for Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, DMV, who owns and directs the clinic.

Dr. Wexler-Mitchell, author of Ask the Vet for Cats (Bowtie 2004) and Guide to a Healthy Cat (Wiley 2003), downplays any talk of performing miracles in feline veterinary medicine. “After twenty-two years of being a veterinarian,” she says, “almost everything is typical.”

Here’s what a “typical” day for Dr. Wexler-Mitchell might entail:

7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.: She arrives at the clinic, reviews the results of laboratory tests on patients and checks to see how hospitalized patients fared overnight.  This is her favorite part of the day. “I like trying to figure out how I am going to stay organized and on top of everything I have to do,” she says.

8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: During this multi-hour bloc, Dr. Wexler-Mitchell sees patients and their people. Generally, each appointment runs 30 minutes. She deals with a wide range of feline ills. “Everyday I see vomiting, diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, itchy skin and urinary tract problems,” she says. 

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Midday is for routine dental cleanings and surgical procedures. “Typical surgeries are sterilizations, dental extractions, growth removals and bladder stone removals,” Dr. Wexler-Mitchell says. “Less typical is removing foreign objects that cats have ingested, such as lips from a rubber duck, jean buttons and foam ear plugs. I perform many abdominal surgical exploratory procedures and usually, since we have ultrasound, I know what I’m going to find. But sometimes it’s not exactly what I expect with regard to the severity of a disease or the spread of a cancer.”

1 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Early afternoon is when Dr. Wexler-Mitchell grabs some lunch, meets with her office manager, writes reports on what happened with earlier appointments for inclusion in her patients’ records, and telephones clients to discuss their cats’ medical conditions while outlining courses of treatment. All too often, though, such calls require reassuring anxious clients who know little about feline physiology. “Often, a client will call on the phone frantic because her cat is crying out and writhing on the floor,” says Dr. Wexler-Mitchell. “But, in fact, the cat might just be in heat.”

3 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Dr. Wexler-Mitchell uses another big bloc of time for more appointments with feline patients and their owners.

6 p.m. and later: After 6 p.m., Dr. Wexler-Mitchell attempts to close out her day. “I finish records and try to leave,” she says. During this time, she also checks once more on how the clinic’s hospitalized patients are doing.

One such patient was the nameless cat who’d been brought in earlier. “We placed her on a heating pad, injected her with intravenous fluids and antibiotics, treated for parasites, and gave her anti-diarrhea medications,” Dr. Wexler-Mitchell recalls. “The IV treatment was for four days, but she was hospitalized and received oral medications for two weeks.” 

At the end of those two weeks, the Good Samaritan, who’d agreed to pay for reasonable efforts to save the patient, brought the recovered cat to live with her and her two older male cats. There, the once-helpless feline proceeded to show her true colors. “After one day of adjustment, the cat promptly took over the house and then dominated the other two cats,” says Dr. Wexler-Mitchell. “She was a bit of a devil in disguise!”

While veterinarian work often provides intangible rewards associated with helping, and even saving, the lives of pets, it can, as evidenced here, lead to long, grueling hours. You can help your own veterinarian’s day to run smoothly by keeping the following points in mind:

  • Be on time If you have an appointment with your veterinarian, he or she is setting aside time to help your cat stay healthy. Acknowledge that effort by being on time for your appointment.
  • Be respectful Your cat is your number one priority when you visit your veterinarian, but remember that your veterinarian has other clients to see and a schedule to keep. If you need additional time beyond your appointment to discuss a matter, ask for a follow-up meeting or a phone consultation.

  • Use common sense If your cat’s behavior or health changes suddenly, don’t wait to see what happens. Call your veterinarian right away, and also make sure your cat has regularly scheduled checkups.

  • Expect to spend money The high-tech, cutting-edge advances in veterinary medicine that keep your cat healthy cost your veterinarian money. Expect to spend some of your money to receive such quality care for your cat. If you’re worried about paying for expensive treatment, consider purchasing pet health insurance for your feline friend.

is an award-winning pet writer and the author of Housetraining for Dummies, Senior Dogs for Dummies and Beagles for Dummies. She was honored by The Cat Writers Association as a finalist for the Muse Medallion, which recognizes excellence in writing about cats.

Tags: cat care


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Posted on July 22, 2008

Cassie says: I think that Iams is a nice healthy diet for cats. It aids all the cats needs. Now that's what me AND my cat need in a cat food. Iams is the one for me!

Posted on July 5, 2008

margaretkengle says: When I eat I usally give my cat a taste of the leftovers . I am trying to get him to koose weight,So I havent given him any for 3 weeks now & he was 24pns now he is down to 18pds will he gain more weight if I start this again?

Posted on May 29, 2008

Lucy says: we have stray cats crying outside our door at night, don't understand why if our cat is fix.

Posted on May 16, 2008

Cynthia Buerkett says: I have been a client of Dr. Wexler-Mitchell's Cat Care Clinic in Orange for years and wouldn't think of taking my "fur children" anywhere else. Buster, Peaches and I have always been treated with the utmost respect, care and sensitivity. Even if you live far away - it is definitely worth the drive.

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