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For pets’ sake: Veterinarians go all out to keep animals healthy

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Cascade Veterinary Clinic owners, veterinarians Ed Womack, Andrew DeMarco and Ty Johnson, in the surgery room.

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Never trust a dog to watch your food.”

The statement on the reader board would likely make any dog owner smile — maybe even laugh after fetching a memory — and that’s exactly the reaction the business is hoping for.

We try to bring a light-hearted and fun approach to pet care,” said Dr. Ty Johnson, co-owner with Dr. Ed Womack and Dr. Andrew DeMarco, of Cascade Veterinary Clinic. “We’re pretty lucky to have seven professional veterinarians all on the same page.”

That may explain why they prefer customers drop the “doctor” title and address them by their first names.

But when it comes to providing compassionate care of a family’s beloved pet, the staff of 30 takes its work seriously. The veterinarians at the general practice clinic, 1201 Walla Walla Ave., are required to have 30 hours of continuing education every three years, but professional knowledge is shared every day.

It really helps us learn when we have good corroboration among the veterinarians,” Womack said.

In 1964, Cascade Veterinary Clinic opened its doors in a small shop on N. Wenatchee Ave. under the direction of Dr. Bob Eisenhart. The mixed animal practice focused on dogs and cats, but it also did house calls on larger animals. As it grew over the years, the practice changed hands and sharpened its focus on dogs and cats — it no longer works on larger animals. Womack joined the clinic in 1990, Johnson in 2002, and DeMarco came on board in 2003.

Today, Cascade Veterinary Clinic’s (cascadevetclinic.com) focus is on small pets, with 95 percent of its patients being dogs and cats. It features a clean, modern and well-designed 6,250 square foot facility, with five examination rooms, a large surgical suite that allows three surgeons to operate simultaneously and a special procedures room. It also has a boarding area where patients stay as they recover, a fenced outdoor area where pets can run to let off steam and a laundry room that’s used daily.

The pet hospital has invested in the same state-of-the-art equipment people would expect to find in a modern human hospital.

We like to take advantage of the advancements in technology as they occur,” Womack said. “It’s more fun, too, because it gives us opportunities to learn better ways of doing things, and it keeps us on the cutting edge of modern technology.”

At the apex of that cutting edge are medical procedures such as laser surgery, diagnostic ultrasounds, digital radiography, orthopedic surgery and video arthroscopy. Normally associated with a specialty clinic, video arthroscopy is a minimally invasive operating procedure that uses an arthroscope (a small, lighted fiberoptic camera) inserted through a small incision. The surgeon views the affected area on a video monitor and can diagnose and repair torn joint tissue. The advantage of this procedure is minimal trauma to the connective tissue, and that generally means a quicker recovery time for patients.

Video arthroscopy is just one of the things I wanted to learn how to do,” Johnson said. “So we bought the equipment and got the training for it.”

But surgeries for Fido and Fluffy can get pricey. Major pet surgeries can run into thousands of dollars. A growing number of pet health insurance companies offer policies to ease that financial burden.

There are good affordable policies out there,” DeMarco said. “If more people had it, I think there would be more cases we could treat. Unfortunately, some cases are wallet-dependent. But our goal is to offer our clients the best treatments for their pets, so we give them options and ensure their pets are well cared for.”

Although pet health insurance has been available for about 20 years, only about 1 percent of the clinic’s pet owners carry it, DeMarco said.

The clinic has the capacity to run all of its diagnostic tests on site, including urine and blood analysis.

The advantage of having our own testing equipment is that we can get the results almost instantaneously,” Johnson said. “In the case of a patient who needs blood immediately, the time saved by running our own blood clotting profile right at our lab could be critical.”

Like people, dogs and cats have blood types. Certain dog breeds tend to have certain types of blood, and many dog breeds are universal donors. The clinic performs cross-matching and other tests to make sure the patient doesn’t have an adverse reaction to a donor’s blood. Blood products have a limited shelf life, and, although it’s costly, the clinic stocks whole blood for transfusions. If more blood is needed than is locally available, it’s shipped overnight from sources in Spokane and California.

The clinic also carries an adequate supply of anti-venom if a pet gets bitten by a rattlesnake.

We always have enough anti-venom on hand for our use and for when other local veterinarians need it,” Womack said.

The clinic’s desire to remain on the cutting edge of technology in its surgical capabilities has moved to its front reception area. With 65 to 70 owners and patients passing through its door daily and over 24,000 each year, the reception area is a constant flurry of activity. Keeping track of it all on paper is a challenge, so the clinic is now going paperless.

We are in the process of putting all of our patients’ medical records on the computer,” Womack said. “We hope that process will be complete within a year.”

The staff at Cascade Veterinary Clinic considers it important to give back to the community. The clinic is proud to support seven working K-9 dogs for local law enforcement agencies by providing free veterinary services to keep the canine professionals in top condition, Womack said.

The K-9 handlers and dogs work hard for our communities, and we are happy to support their efforts,” he added.

The clinic also hosts students for a shadowing program, allowing kids interested in the veterinary field an opportunity to see if they would like to pursue becoming a veterinarian.

We give students an opportunity to come in and see exactly what we do in our jobs,” Womack said. “Some even get to observe surgeries, and it’s usually a really good experience for them and us.”

The clinic knows that emergencies don’t always conveniently happen between Monday and Friday. So, now, if a customer has an emergency with her pet on the weekend, the clinic is there for them.

We hired a veterinarian to provide coverage on the weekend,” Womack said. “We want our clients and patients to be able to access our services when they need us.”

And when the often difficult time comes to say goodbye to a longtime friend and member of the family, the staff at Cascade Veterinary Clinic compassionately understands.

We’ll do whatever we can to make the end-of-life transition as comfortable as possible for the patient as well as the owner,” Womack said. “We do house calls if the owner wants to have the pet put to sleep at their home. Some prefer to do the procedure in our office. It’s understandably a stressful time for the owner, and we try to make it as easy as possible for them.”

Womack, Johnson and DeMarco clearly enjoy their professions and they see a great future for their business.

It’s really a unique profession because you have to think on your feet and be able to handle a huge variety of things and not get shaken,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to have the big medical support structure that we have. A lot of the time it’s just you, your brain and your hands.”

And here’s a past quip from the clinic’s reader board for you cat admirers.

Dogs have masters, cats have staff.”

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