‘Vet for a Day’ teaches children about animal care
Children lined up with a stethoscope in hand as they early waited to get their chance to exam one patient dog named Betsy.
The Animal Protective Foundation in Scotia hosted the program ‘Vet for a Day’ on Saturday, Feb. 19, for children from third to eighth grades to get a better understanding of what a future career as a veterinarian would entail and how to properly care for an animal companions they might currently have in their family. Over 20 kids waited to learn about and meet some of the animals at the shelter after their parents dropped them off for the veterinarian boot camp. There were over 75 children that had shown interest in attending the program that day.
[Vet for a Day] is probably our most popular program and we are looking to expand it, but vets are very busy so it is kind of tough, said Kim Jess, organizer of the program at the APF. `Anything with kids I enjoy, because they are so enthusiastic. They have that natural affinity for animals and to know that these are the kids that care and will influence their peers and just help make the world a better place for the animals of the future.`
Dr. April Davis led the program and said when she was growing up all she wanted to do was be a veterinarian and work in a clinic. Now she works in a laboratory through her PHD in microbiology and deals with viruses, with one of her studied areas including bats.
`When I was your age I wanted to be a vet. That was all I wanted to be,` said Davis. `One option is to work in a clinic, but there are so many other options.`
Davis prepared the children for the long road of schooling ahead of them by explaining they would need 8 years worth of college education to reach their PHD to become a veterinarian. Getting a master’s degree in a particular field they are interested within animal care she said is also a good idea.
Even with the extensive studying required, she did ease the children by saying the time would fly by and be over before they knew it.
`I remember they told me it would go by fast and it really did,` said Davis. `The fun stuff is working with animals.`
The first animal the children looked at was a rabbit and Davis picked up the fluffy bunny and explained how to take care of handling the animal. She said it is important to hold the rabbit carefully cradling their bottom, because a rabbit’s hind legs are powerful enough that if they try to kick out of your hands they can break their back.
In the spring time people might find an injured baby rabbit or maybe just one that appears to be a stray and will try to rehabilitate them before releasing them, she said. This can be problematic though because if a rabbit grows up relying on people for food and nourishment then it won’t be able to fend for itself when it goes back into the wild.
`People will keep them a while and not know how to fend for themselves so they are not learning how to go out on their own,` said Davis. `When they are old enough to be released there is an excellent chance they are not going to make it because they are dependent on you. That is why it is important if you find a wild baby animal you find a rehabilitator that is able to rehabilitate them properly.`
Before getting to exam a dog, Davis went over some of the different elements in taking care of a dog and their anatomy.
One example she shared was the difference between a healthy dog nail and an injured nail. The most common instance of a dog getting their nail damaged is when the owner cuts it too short, which can occur if the dog flinches.
`It bleeds a lot for a surprising little area,` said Davis about a nail getting trimmed to short. `To get bleeding to stop, pressure is really important.`
An easy way she said to deal with it is to count slowly for a minute and just apply pressure. If that doesn’t work she said just repeat it for two minutes the second time.
After learning about healthy teeth, kidney, heart, inflammation from ticks, fleas and mites and other body parts, ‘Betsy’ was brought in for the children to test out some veterinarian skills.
While going through some procedures of a typical exam with a dog, children were supplied with a stethoscope and checked the dog’s heart rate. They were also shown to feel for the femoral pulse along the back leg of the dog, which she said is important to make sure a dog is getting good blood circulation to their back legs.
The last animal friend to join the group was Scotty, a cat that had a distinctive feature due to neglect.
The owners that brought Scotty in said they let him roam around outside a lot, said Davis, which made the animal similar to a stray even though he had a home. She said the average lifespan of a stray cat is around two years.
Scotty’s two ears didn’t point up like most cats’ ears, because the tips of his ears had to be removed due to frostbite while being out in the cold weather recently.
`When they did the surgery on him to nurture him they had to remove a majority of his ears, so he can still hear, but his hearing is going to be a little different,` said Davis. `It is really important to treat your animals well and is a reflection of who you are.`
After the educational program the children got a chance to look behind the scenes at the shelter and see where the animals are housed and taken care of at the shelter.
For the current week up to that Saturday afternoon there were 39 surrenders at the shelter and 7 adoptions. Last year the surrender rates at the shelter increased by 24 percent and currently there are over 100 animals in the facility.
`There are more and more animals coming into the shelter and not enough adoptions,` said Jess.
Also, a `goodie bag` was given out with information on caring for animals and dog treats were given out to anyone that had a dog back at home.