To most people, veterinary medicine means taking care of sick or injured animals. Saralyn Sharp, RVT, a veterinary technician at Purdue University’s Small Animal Hospital, West Lafayette, Ind., spends her time with healthy animals. She is a member of an animal health care team specializing in wellness.
Lorraine Corriveau, DVM, works with Saralyn. They monitor weight, check for parasites, do routine bloodwork and offer answers to owner questions. “With regularly scheduled wellness visits, we might catch a condition before it becomes chronic. If a disease condition is found in the early stages, treating it is often less costly, and there is a better chance for a positive outcome,” Dr. Corriveau said.
Saralyn plays a key role in each pet’s wellness visit. She first takes a detailed history, then checks the pet’s temperature, pulse and respiration rate. Her goal is to check them over from one end to the other. She notes it is important to look at everything, from their teeth, eyes, ears, and nose – all the way back to the tip of the tail! As Saralyn is making observations and keeping detailed notes for the veterinarian, she also interacts with the client.
Asking very specific questions is important, particularly with cat owners. “Cats have a unique way of hiding illness, and you may only see subtle changes in their behavior. There are many diseases that can be caught in the early stages if you ask the right questions,” commented Saralyn. “For example, a cat who is hyperthyroid may initially have a slight decrease in body weight the owner may not be concerned about, because the cat still has a good appetite. Early intervention may lead to a better long term outcome for the cat.” Saralyn’s motto is, “You have to ask questions, or you don’t get answers.”
Saralyn also asks about behavior changes. “Does your cat have any problems using the litter box?” or “Are there any changes in activity?” are important questions. Answers will help the team counsel the client about ways to deal with those problems. Behavioral problems are a reason many cats find their way into shelters or are euthanized each year. Helping the owners find solutions is a win-win for the cat and the client.
Saralyn has a role in new puppy and kitten visits as well. She talks to the client about nutrition, play times, potty habits and neutering. Her advice to a new owner can shape the pet’s veterinary care for the rest of its life.
Wellness visits are particularly important for pets once they reach their senior years. Routine bloodwork, dental care and good nutrition keep the senior pet around and healthy for as long as possible.
As a team, the veterinarian and veterinary technician provide animals with preventive health care that gives the owner the peace of mind they are doing the best for their animal. It is good to know the veterinarian and veterinary technician are there for healthy animals, as well as the sick and injured!