Category Archives: Community

It’s time for another one of Mason’s Mewsings!  Today, we’ll be talking about AAHA, the American Animal Hospital Association.  You may have seen their logo on our website or around the hospital.

So, what is AAHA?  Per Wikipedia, “The American Animal Hospital Association is a non-profit organization for companion animal veterinary hospitals.  Established in 1933, the association is the only accrediting body for small animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.  The association develops benchmarks of excellence, business practice standards, publications and educational programs.  Any veterinary hospital can join AAHA as a member, but must then pass an evaluation in order to receive AAHA accreditation.”

And what does this accreditation entail?  Well, to become an AAHA-accredited practice, animal hospitals and clinics willingly undergo a rigorous evaluation process to ensure they meet the 900+ individual standards of accreditation put forth by AAHA.  These 900+ standards include but are not limited to: “Patient care, diagnostic imaginglaboratorypain managementpharmacy, safety, surgery, client service, anesthesiacontagious diseasecontinuing educationdentistry, examination facilities, medical records, leadership and emergency/urgent care. To maintain their accredited status, hospitals undergo comprehensive on-site evaluations every three years, which ensures that hospitals are compliant with the Association’s mandatory standards.”  And it’s not just limited to general practice veterinary facilities – specialty hospitals can become accredited as a “Referral” practice, as well.

So, what does this mean for you, our clients?  It means that you can expect a higher standard of quality and veterinary care from us.  It means that we are holding ourselves to higher expectations and that we try to maintain and exceed current veterinary medical standards.  It means that we provide a safe, clean, contagion-free environment to come to, that we use high quality medications and anesthesia, and that our hospital protocols are designed to meet AAHA’s high standards of quality.  AAHA also recommends continuous learning and keeping staff skills up-to-date.  This helps members build team confidence and ultimately helps hospitals provide a positive client “experience,” while improving the level of patient care.  AAHA-accredited practices use a team approach to meet the needs of their clients and the pets they love.

We’re proud to say that we are AAHA accredited and have been for many years!  If you have any questions regarding our accreditation or practices, please contact us and we’ll be happy to speak with you.  My favorite part is when the staff gives me copious amounts of treats and lets me stay at the hospital as their cat!  
Well, you cool cats, that’s all for me today!  I have some much-needed napping to attend to!


Til next meow,


Hello, All!  Mason here.  I wanted to share a very special project that one of our employees worked on this summer!  Our technician Denise went to Guatemala with her church group to help build brick stoves for one of the villages there. 

Did you know that exposure to cooking fire smoke kills approximately two million people worldwide every year?  In Guatemala, as in many other countries, breathing in the toxic fumes while preparing food puts Mayan women and children at risk for respiratory illnesses, blindness, and burns on a daily basis.  A majority of Guatemalan families use wood as their main fuel source, and many of Guatemala’s forests are lost annually, mainly due to the need for fuel for cooking fires.  Precious family resources and a great deal of time are spent on gathering or purchasing wood.  The cooking fires themselves are open air and not contained, so the smoke fills their huts and causes a buildup of smoke, ash, and noxious fumes with nowhere to go.

Building stoves helps alleviate these problems by building vented stoves that are adapted to Mayan cooking methods.  These stoves are made of cement blocks held together by mortar, and feature a chimney pipe or smoke duct that takes the poisonous smoke out of the house.  The design of the stove reduces wood consumption and pollution greatly.  It is an ‘improved cooking stove’ and while most of us would find it rudimentary, Guatemalans are so very grateful for the vast improvement to their health and lifestyle.  They can now avoid spending the better part of the day gathering wood and cooking, and no longer have to worry about getting burned or developing respiratory problems!

Along with building stoves, the group also helps paint walls and brings materials for education that drastically improves the villagers’ every day lives.  With more time in the day available, education is very important and more attainable.

The villagers are so very grateful for the improvements to their lives.  Denise says the Guatemalans gave lots of beautiful flowers to the group as thanks for their hard work, and you could see the gratitude in their eyes and smiles!  What a wonderful project to be a part of!!

Well, kids, that’s all for now.  This is Mason, signing out until next time!

Til next meow,

Greetings friends! How is everyone’s 2013 going so far? How about those New Year’s resolutions? One of mine was to simmer down the sarcasm a bit but then I remembered that I’m a cat! It’s part of my natural charm. My 2013 has been OK so far though I am recovering from being a bit under the weather. Thankfully my staff takes pretty good care of me and can tell when I’m not feeling my best! I know you want your pet to feel their best, so let’s talk about your pet’s dental health and signals that something may be wrong. Today’s main objective however is to go over with you what to expect when your pet does need dental care.

Let’s say that Fido is 8 years old and has a broken tooth with significant amount of tartar buildup.   Fido’s parent had noticed a decrease in his appetite and then he didn’t want to eat at all.  He had also become lethargic and didn’t want to play or go on walks which concerned the parent even more since walks were pretty much the best darn thing ever created.  So Dr. Mason has now determined that Fido needs dental work.  What now?  He recommends extracting the broken tooth and doing a complete dental at the same time. The doctor gives them the pre-dental instructions.  Due to Fido’s graceful aging and passing 7 years, pre-anesthetic blood work is mandatory so he goes ahead and takes care of that during the exam.  Dr. Mason will determine based on the blood work whether or not he thinks Fido will be a good candidate to undergo anesthesia.  Other things to remember:  12-hour fast (no food or treats however water is OK), and what time Fido should be admitted the day of the procedure.  You need to make sure that you tell the front desk at check in if you gave any medications that morning so they can relay that to the doctor.  And if you do accidentally give your pet a treat or feed them even a little breakfast, let the front staff know since that could affect whether or not your pet should go under anesthesia. 

Fido needs to be fully anesthetized, because the doctor needs to be able to fully examine his mouth and the licensed veterinary technician needs to be able to perform a thorough cleaning. While Fido is anesthetized the doctor may find other teeth that need to be extracted and possibly need to take x-rays to look for further decay.  The doctor went over Fido’s post dental care.  Taking into consideration Fido’s medical history and having at least one tooth extracted, the doctor plans on sending him home with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) for pain and an antibiotic.  Every case is different so make sure you pay attention to what the vet says and follow any pre and post dental instructions!  Follow ups are usually not necessary as long as your pet’s eating and drinking normally and they are not showing any other signs of distress. 

My doctors and staff will handle any questions or concerns you may have so don’t hesitate to ask!  You can come in and ask me but then people might think it’s a bit strange asking a cat medical advice…  No one’s supposed to know just how smart I really am.  They wouldn’t believe you since it’s so rare to have some cat this handsome be this intelligent…  On that note, my brain needs food as does my tummy so I am off to soak in some smart… in the form of dinner!



Can you believe we are in October, folks?  I guess technically I have no concept of time other than “time to eat”, “time to eat”, “time for treats”, and then “time to eat.”  This is also the month when I have to endure unnecessary torture.  My staff finds pleasure in dressing  me up in what you refer to as “clothes”.  Usually it’s something awful on my head, a “costume” I believe is the name, and it makes me look handsomely ridiculous.  (Cause let’s face it, I’m always handsome…) 

First things first, Halloween is right around the corner.  I am of the understanding that you two-legged varieties choose this day to go to other two-leggeds’ homes and rob them of their treats.  I personally find this to be a barbaric ritual, as I am very protective of my treats but I guess it works for you humans!  That being said, keep any candy or other “human treats” out of your pet’s reach.  Same goes for decorations; I know we felines like to play with things that we are not supposed to and dogs like to eat things they’re not supposed to, so be extra careful!  I know I had briefly gone over this in my last blog but I just needed to reiterate with three big holidays coming up!

So now I wanted to talk a little bit about National Veterinary Technician Week, an annual event since 1993, which ran from October 14-20.  Although we appreciate our technicians every day, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Inc. (NAVTA) wanted to recognize those special people who work together with veterinarians to try to keep your pet healthy and happy.  NAVTA  (incorporated in 1981) is a non-profit organization that proudly represents  veterinary technicians  while  educating  and providing support to the profession. 

Our lovely LVT’s are:  Jennifer Keane, Renee Small, Beth Lannon, Denise Sanchez, Cara Scarano, Bernadette Ortiz and Mary Portelly.  I have intermewed one of those fabulous techs, Cara, to learn a little bit more about her job. (I know, I’m very intelligent already but believe it or not I don’t know everything…)

MASON:  What is the job of a veterinary technician?

CARA:  Veterinary technicians do a wide variety of jobs. These duties can include drawing blood and ordering lab tests, reading slides and samples under the microscope, taking X-rays  of sick and injured animals, giving injections and vaccinations, placing IV catheters to aid in the administration of fluids and anesthetics, inducing general anesthesia and assisting doctors in surgery, performing dental cleanings on anesthetized pets, changing bandages and splints, and most importantly, educating  owners on how to best care for their pets both preventively and once medical conditions have been diagnosed by a doctor.

MASON:  Do all veterinary technicians have to go to school for this job?

CARA:  The short answer is no. Some technicians have hands on training, and are taught to the specific standards of their employer. These technicians, or “techs” for short, may have similar duties to that of a licensed veterinary technician, or LVT.  What a ‘tech” can do does vary from state to state and from clinic to clinic. Here at Great Falls Animal Hospital, we refer to non- licensed employees as assistants.

The only way to obtain the title of LVT is by completing a degree program at an AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) accredited school. Upon graduation of the scholastic program, which usually lasts 2 to 4 years, a student is then allowed to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam. This test requires a satisfactory passing score, and in Virginia, can only be taken by graduates of a Veterinary Technician Program. Once these two requirements have been met, a person can then apply to their state Department of Health for their license.

MASON:  What part of your job is most rewarding?  (Mine is treats!)

CARA:  I really enjoy both helping animals and working with their owners.  The human-animal bond is so amazing and never fails to touch my heart. Whether it is a small child learning love, compassion, responsibility and patience through pet ownership or an elderly person who relies on their dog to get them out of the house and walking on a daily basis, this bond and relationship cannot be denied.

MASON:  What advice do you have for someone who may be interested in the veterinary profession?

CARA:  First, get involved. There are so many great clinics and organizations in the area that need help. You don’t need to have experience, just a strong interest and willingness to learn. People should also remember that though that this field is very rewarding, it is not “just playing with kittens and puppies.” There is a lot of cleaning and less-than- glamorous work that needs to be done to keep our patients comfortable and well-cared for.  Cases and patients can be challenging and don’t always have the outcomes we hope they will.  I find that spending time with animals and their owners even during the most difficult times still has its own personal rewards.  Because of that, I cannot imagine doing anything else!

Until next time,



Ah, I can hear it now… parents around the country singing a nice celebratory song about the kids going back to school after a nice, long summer break. Who may not be celebrating? Your furry friend who has grown accustomed to having the extra company around.

For many pets, the separation may be a bit depressing but manageable. After all, we really have no concept of time other than “FEED ME NOW, I’M HUNGRY” o’clock.  There are however a good number who definitely need more than a promise of “See ya in a few hours, buddy!” and may require something a bit more extensive.

Dogs and cats can be fairly resilient but there are situations where not every animal reacts in such a stoic manner.  Things that may not seem like a big deal to us can throw a wrench in your pets’ daily routine.  Going from a house full of people during the day to peace and quiet can actually be quite a stressful event, hence where separation anxiety could come in.  We don’t understand “work”, “school” or “vacation” and can see your absence as abandonment.  I think this applies more so to dogs, as they tend to be more social and involved in daily routine.  Separation anxiety can manifest as anything from depression to incessant barking to destruction; anything in the dog’s reach can be considered fair game, whether it’s shoes, furniture or floor.  Not only can this be a big issue for your belongings, but it can be hazardous to your dog as well.  Dogs don’t discriminate when it comes to chewing or destruction and can end up ingesting something harmful, whether a foreign body or chemical. It’s a good idea, regardless of whether or not separation anxiety is an issue, to pet-proof your house.  You may need to use a crate while away to avoid any surprises.  Now how do you know if your pet is acting out due to anxiety or another issue?  According to an article on, here are a few things that may indicate that your pet is missing your presence:

1)  Your pet is extremely attached to you or someone in your household. (I’m not just talking about being a “BFF” as you humans call it, but a pet that constantly follows the owner and becomes agitated or upset when that individual leaves.)
2)  Destructive or inappropriate behavior happens when pet is by him/herself at home and unsupervised.
3)  Exits or barriers, such as doors, gates, etc. are targeted for destruction.
4)  Your pet’s anxiety seems to start within a half hour of the individual leaving.
5)  With dogs, they may have a high pitched yelp or bark repeatedly.

If you think that your pet could be experiencing this or any other behavioral issue, please get in touch with us as soon as possible.  We can discuss different options based on your individual situation and your pet’s needs, whether it be trying medication (for your pet, silly…) or behavior training.   Addressing issues before they become a big problem, even if they may seem small, is definitely the way to go.  Don’t let yourself or your pet suffer unnecessarily! 

Now speaking of suffering unnecessarily, I am in desperate need of a snack, a pet and a nap! Enjoy the remainder of your summer two and four legged friends and have a safe, happy Labor Day!