"Thank You for Calling The Family Vet"

"Thank you for calling The Family Vet."

Elias repeats that appreciation countless times during a workday.  It is also what you hear at the start of our voicemail greeting.  For me, it is "Thank you for holding" when I come onto the phone.  So many thank yous uttered through the day may seem by rote and people tend to not hear it after a while.  Odd isn't it, that this is one of the times when repeating an idea often enough may not make people think it's true?  On the contrary, the sentiment's sincerity declines the more it is repeated until it is only regarded as a polite greeting.

Why am I mulling over our phone greeting this Thanksgiving morning?  I was reflecting on my blessings and saw how many of them are related to The Family Vet.  That made me wonder if our clients know how much we appreciate them.  Our clients and patients are part of our family.  As with any family, there's a danger of taking things for granted and (wrongly) assuming that, of course, they know how much they're appreciated.

Thanksgiving Day reminds me to slow down and take the opportunity to make sure the people who matters --- you --- know how much you are appreciated and that you top my list of "I am thankful for..."

I am thankful for...
  • Clients who trust and believe in what we do at The Family Vet.  I know that our different approach to patient care requires active participation from our clients at times, and may not be a good fit for everyone.
  • A wonderful supportive team that put up with my idiosyncrasies and is just as dedicated as I am to providing quality care to our clients and patients.  They are not just employees, but also co-workers, friends, and part of my extended family and support network.
  • A family who supports and loves me even when they sometimes look at me and wonder if there was a baby switcheroo after my birth.  They have long learned and accepted that "office hours" are not the same as my work hours and "closed for the holiday" does not mean I do not go to work.
  • My own pets for somehow understanding that my spending more time with other people's pets does not mean I love them any less.
  • And I am most thankful for patients who continue to surprise me with their trust and cooperation.  It never ceases to amaze me how most cats and dogs will allow us to hold them still for procedures -- from collecting blood to cleaning their ears.  Their innate trust in people humbles me.  Their resilience and remarkable healing ability are miraculous at times.  And I hope to never forget how fortunate I am to be surrounded by them and work with them every day. 
To all our clients and friends, near and far,

 Happy Thanksgiving!


May this be a great start to your holiday season.

Last Minute Tips for Fireworks-Fearing Pets


From the calls I have received this afternoon (and the way Elaine is constantly on guard), it sounds as though the fireworks are already starting. We have all read, at one time or another, articles about fear of fireworks.  We blogged reminders and recommended starting behavioral modification in April with Spring Into Summer, if needed.  But what if your dog was fine other years (or you were not home and did not know any different) and is terrified this year?  Before panicking and thinking that Rover needs tranquilizers, let's see if he really needs "doggie downers."


There are dogs who are unfazed by fireworks.  Most dogs, though, are fearful and anxious around fireworks.  Their response range from suddenly stopping in their tracks and searching for the booming sounds to panic-stricken, destructive behaviors.  Where your dog falls in this fear-spectrum determines the type of treatment -- from something as simple as cotton balls in their ears and closed blinds to anti-anxiety drugs or tranquilizers.

Signs of anxiety and fear may include attention-seeking (whining, pawing, climbing on you), hiding under the bed, panting, pacing, drooling or even trying to escape (outside).  Cats can show some of these signs also and you can adapt some of these tips for them.  For the most part, dogs are usually the more affected pets.  Since most of the questions we received were from dog owners, this article will be geared more towards our canine companions than our feline friends.

What does your dog do?  Shakes, whines, and keeps pawing you for attention?
These signs are considered mild anxiety (unless they escalate).  We usually do not recommend anti-anxiety drugs or tranquilizers for these responses, especially in older pets.  Drugs are not without adverse side effects.  Behavioral modification and counter conditioning measures are better options.  The more involved behavioral modification techniques are available elsewhere and is beyond the scope of these quick last-minute solutions.  Try some of the following tips for now (assuming that pets are already indoors):

  • Place cotton balls in her ears to muffle the sound
  • If she is curled up in a corner, try draping a thick towel over her head, again to muffle the sound and provide some comfort ("If I can't see it, it can't hurt me" feeling).
  • Play music with a regular deep/low reassuring beat.
  • Keep doors and windows closed if possible (to shut out sounds)
  • Cover up windows (blinds, curtains) to reduce the stimulus from the flashes of the fireworks.

If your dog is not too fearful and is still interactive, you can try positive association with some of these techniques:

  • Turn on the music and play fetch indoors
  • Play games with treats and food rewards that you know she really likes.

If your dog is shaking or whining, do the above activities instead of babying her.  You want to show her that fireworks are nothing to be afraid of, not reinforce the fear behavior.
For the mildly affected pets, an antihistamine can sometimes make them drowsy enough to rest and not be as responsive to the stimulus (fireworks).  It does not work for all pets and does not help the more severely affected ones.  Ask your veterinarian to see if antihistamine is an option for your pets.


The above will work for pets who are mildly affected and are coming to you (attention-seeking) or restlessly pacing around the house.  Do not coax or drag your dog out of hiding to do these positive association.

One of the most misunderstood fear response is hiding.  What to do if your fireworks-fearing dog is hiding in the closet, under the bed, etc...?
Do nothing.

Well, almost nothing.  You can give her a blanket or cover her head.  But do not coax her out so you can hold her and babytalk that everything is okay.....  You will only make things worse.

Hiding is a coping mechanism for dogs.  When confronted with something that trigger fear and anxiety, a dog's normal proper response is to escape to a safe place.  Instead of coaxing your dog out so you can hug him, it is better to let him hide.  You can make these places safer with additional blankets, cover the crate or corner area with a sheet to block out the light flashes.  Keep in mind, hiding is not a sign that your dog needs tranquilizers for the fireworks.  Hiding to get away from something they fear (fireworks) is acceptable as long as they are back to normal when the fireworks end that night or by the next morning.  If you live in an area where the fireworks go on for days, then you may want to consider the behavior modification and counter conditioning measures above.  If that does not work, you are unable to do them, and/or the fear response is too extreme, drug interventions may be needed.

What if your dog gets into panic mode, frenziedly digs at the door, gnaws at the window (to get outside), tries to jump through the window, and/or chews at the crate door?
Those are severe signs that will likely require drugs, such as an anti-anxiety drug or even a tranquilizer, to get your pet safely through the holiday.  You can still try behavioral modification later but, unless you (or someone) can stay at home with your dog AND keep her from harming herself, drugs will be the better option for now.
Contact your family veterinarian for advice.
Reminder to our current clients: Our office is closed but you can still contact us via email or call Dr. Tran on her cellphone.

Celebrate the Fourth!

Our office is closed until Friday 7/8/11. We will re-open on Saturday 7/9/11.

It may sound corny but I always pause to think of freedom and independence on the Fourth of July.  After the usual acknowledgement and appreciation of what this country has to offer (yes, even in these questionable times), I always circle back to reflect on what I have to offer to others.  I grew up learning that, with freedom and independence (financially or socially), comes responsibility.  This belief is carried over to how we do things at The Family Vet.

One of the reasons I purchased this veterinary practice eight years ago was to continue providing veterinary services to the community.  We are not located in the best area but it is where I grew up and a part of me wants to bridge the gap and make veterinary care more accessible to our lower income neighborhood.
Over the years, the way we provide veterinary care --- as exemplified by our slogan "Personal Care for Pets" --- resonated with many people.  The demand for our services has grown more than anyone had expected.  We experienced growing pains and tried to find ways to accommodate our growth without compromising our core beliefs of providing quality personal care for pets.

Some things we tried worked, some did not.  One benefit of being a small one-doctor practice is the flexibility to try new things.

As I reflect on this July 4th, I realize that we have been busy running around trying to keep up with our practice growth.  We have become a slave to our success --- sort of the tail wagging the dog.  Lately, I worry that we may be nearing the point where our growth will start to compromise our ability to care for our clients and patients.  Moreover, we were fast burning out our small, wonderful caring staff.

As mentioned at the start of this post, July 4th reminds me not only of our independence but also my responsibilities and obligations.

I, represented by The Family Vet, have a responsibility to our current clients, those who have entrusted us with the care of their pets, and to our staff, those who have entrusted us with their well-being and livelihood.
I have many other aspirations.  But I have to first meet the above two responsibilities before I can pursue and take on any other obligations.

We are taking this upcoming week off to give our staff some well-earned vacation time and to give us a chance to do some maintenance work on our building.  The down time will also allow us to implement services to maximize our efficiency and improve services to our current clients and patients.

Our office is closed until Friday 7/8/11.  We will re-open at 8 am on Saturday 7/9/11.
If you have a medical emergency for your pet, please contact AERC at 310-325-3000

During this time, you may still reach us via email staff@thefamilyvet.net or leave us a message at 562-281-PETS (562-281-7387). Urgent messages from current clients will be returned as needed.  We will refer patients to local practices or referral facilities as appropriate.  If you are not a current client, please contact another local practice so your pets may receive timely medical care.
If your pet is currently under medical treatment with me, you should also have my direct cellphone number to contact me if needed.

We plan to return in a week, refreshed and ready to continue providing the personal care for pets that you have come to expect from us.

As you celebrate The Fourth, remember to keep your pets healthy and safe with these holiday tips.
Enjoy Independence Day!

Happy Mothering Day!


* (verb) present participle of mother
* bring up with care and affection

* A man's life and schedule revolved around giving his ill cat subcutaneous fluids daily and various medications throughout the day.  His reward is a stable happy companion, confounding the specialists almost a year after they released her to us for euthanasia.


* A work-at-home mom feeds her cat 1 teaspoon of food every 20-30 minutes during the day among all her other duties.  Saving money for the consultation with the internist, this was the one way she found to keep her otherwise healthy cat from vomiting.

* A college student juggled her 2 cats between rooms in a small apartment hoping they will learn to get along.

* A woman spends her time nursing sick kittens and dogs back to health for adoption.  She takes in those that are deemed un-adoptable by the larger well-known adoption organizations.  People like her are the unsung heroes to homeless pets; more so than the glossy fund-raising behemoths (IMHO).

* An elderly man with a dog that will not let him medicate at home.  He brings his beloved cranky companion in every week for us to do the treatment. The round trip cab fares cost more than the treatments themselves.

* A couple re-arranged their work schedule and family life to make sure their new puppy get the full life they want for her --- from brushing her teeth and potty training, to training time and trips to competitions.

* A football player wrapped his huge hands around a kitten as he sweet talked her to take the bottle of formula.  All the while wondering how he would fit the frequent feedings in with his football practice schedule.

I can think of so many more examples of dedication and self-sacrifice from our clients in their pursuit of health and well-being for those in their care.

As most families in the U.S. celebrate Mother's Day today, I find myself thinking of the verb mother more than the noun.

A woman can be a mother to a child, but the art of mothering extends beyond gender, age and reproductive ability.

Whether it is due to financial restraints or other circumstances, some clients choose hospice care or care plans that require intensive time and work on their part.  No disrespect to those who can afford the high costs of week-long hospitalization and intensive care, but there is something heart-touching about someone giving his/her all in time and labor, providing hands-on care for his/her loved ones.

I am humbled by the commitment we are privileged to witness almost everyday at our clinic.

To all our clients and non-clients who may see shades of themselves in the above examples (as they are composites of our clients):

Happy Mothering Day!