Monthly Archives: June 2013

I’m Not Kidding.

There are not a lot of perks to being an exotic animal veterinarian. Yes, there is the satisfaction of helping critters and their owners, and the satisfaction of a job well done. No one, however, is offering me free tickets to Broadway shows, or all-expense paid trips to scenic locales.

(Darn, my mom  was right… I should have been a doctor for humans.)

Given the dearth of swag I am offered at work, a free lunch is always eagerly accepted. I am happy to sit through the most boring or irrelevant information just to have someone bring me lunch. Case in point: my free lunch last week courtesy of Royal Canin. Royal Canin is a pet food manufacturer that makes prescription diets for dogs and cats. Their product line for birds, reptiles, and rodents is, however, rather limited (meaning non-existent). Luckily the rep didn’t seem to know she was wasting her time on me, and I got a free salad out of the deal.

While I and my coworkers sat and munched, the Royal Canin rep began presenting her company’s two new products for dogs with food allergies. I was planning on sitting quietly in the corner and saying nothing until she mentioned the name of the first food: Anallergenic.

Anal what?

Anal what?

Now, no doubt the Royal Canin scientists sitting somewhere in their lab coats thought this a great name – “an”, as in “not”, and “allergenic”, as in “causing allergy”. But really, did the marketing people call in sick that day? Who in their right mind would give a product a name whose first four letters were A-N-A-L?   How were we supposed to sell this stuff with a straight face?

There were a few glances between the staff and I over this faux pas, but we were still happily eating and (mostly) kept our mouths shut. So the rep went on to discuss the next diet she had to offer for dogs with allergies. This one required a lot of explanation. It was a special diet for special owners who wanted to do the best for their dogs.  It was currently available in Europe, but could be made available to those few Americans discerning enough to ask for it. This diet was special because it had all the proteins broken down into individual amino acids.

Now, to me each of those italicized words meant dollar signs, and the words were accruing quickly. So I asked the price. I was unprepared for the answer however, because when the rep said “$100 for a 20 pound bag” I think my jaw hit the table. I would like to apologize now to the person sitting across from me, as I was mid-chew at the time.

Finding out the cost of this food created quite a stir, and derailed the rep’s orderly presentation.  Apparently, however, there was more to disclose, so she soldiered on. She told us about how ignorant pet owners who read the ingredients list on this new food might be turned off, and therefore it would be our job how to explain to them why it was so great. She had our attention again. What was in this stuff anyway? What could possibly be that bad?

mmm... yummy!

Mmmm… yummy!

Chicken feathers. The $100 a bag dog food is made out of chicken feathers.

The selling point: this is a green protein source, and therefore more eco-friendly.

My question to the rep: were the feathers voluntarily donated by the chickens?


If you are unemployed and looking for a job in marketing, please send your resume to Royal Canin. I’m pretty sure they have recently available openings. We in the veterinary field thank you.

A Bird with Three Names

Wild baby jays have it rough. After a short 10 weeks of being fed in the nest, they are down on the ground trying to earn a living. You may have seen some of these fledglings yourself. Fully feathered, but with a short tail and wings, they are able to walk, hop and flap, but cannot yet fly. Mom and Dad still come by and feed them for a while, but otherwise survival is left up to them.

The numbers are not stacked in their favor. Depending on the bird species in question and the specific habitat, their chances of surviving to their first hatchday are generally in the 11-30% range. The biggest obstacles they have to contend with are 1) predation, and 2) starvation. If there are cats around, feral or no, their chances of survival are much worse.

a scrub jay named Lucky CatFud Bluebell

a scrub jay named Lucky CatFud Bluebell

The Bird with Three Names was a baby scrub jay found by my friend Jenna in her yard. He was standing immobile in a corner with cats all around, so Jenna brought him inside. Jenna’s daughter Makenna loved the little bird and named him Lucky. And then Jenna brought the bird to me.

One thing you may not know about people in the veterinary field is that we are a superstitious lot. We are particularly wary of saying something good, for fear it will soon be proved wrong. If I am ever foolish enough to say something like “wow, we really aren’t busy!”, or “wow, the clients are being so nice!” the vet techs all groan in protest. Surely now the gates of hell will open up, and chaos and discord be unleashed!

So, you can imagine how we feel about the name Lucky. This name is pretty much the kiss of death. Any animal with the misfortune to be named Lucky will surely have a panoply of terrible things happen to it, each worse than the last. As far as we are concerned, you might as well have named your pet “I Hope you Suffer and Die Horribly”.

CatFudI knew, therefore, as soon as I met Lucky that I had to change his name. In a vain attempt to remedy the damage, I quickly named him CatFud. My son Micah, however, was having none of it, and thought CatFud was not a nice name at all for a baby bird. So shortly after being named CatFud our feathery protagonist was re-christened Bluebell.

Lucky CatFud Bluebell was a very adorable baby bird but Not Quite Right. While he was bright and alert, he wouldn’t gape for food like hungry jay babies do. Even after a few days of fluids and antibiotics he didn’t want to feed himself or be fed. He was interactive and curious, and the tests I ran came up normal, but the fact remained that he wasn’t thriving the way he should have.

Sasha and Lucky CatFud Bluebell

Sasha and Lucky CatFud Bluebell

Poor Lucky CatFud Bluebell passed away quietly and unexpectedly the night after this picture was taken. Perhaps he had a disease we couldn’t identify, or a birth defect we couldn’t fix. Perhaps Mother Nature had written him down on the deficit side of her balance sheet before we even met him. All I know is that we are sad he is gone.

Rest in peace, Bird with Three Names. We will miss you.