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(An occasional blog from Great Brook ...)


This might seems like an obvious statement. But believe it or not, back in the day, most small animal training in veterinary schools lumped the two species together.

Today we know differently and the fields of feline behavior, nutrition, internal medicine and cardiology have evolved and grown dramatically. Across the United States, cats actually outnumber dogs as pets by about 10 million. This would imply that cats are more popular that dogs. Yet the percent of pet cats that receive no veterinary care, or inadequate veterinary care, is higher than it is for dogs. Why this disconnect? It might be that many cat owners understand intuitively what we veterinarians learn from experience:


The feline has a remarkable ability to compensate for serious injury. I remember when I was just coming up through the ranks of veterinary medicine (many years ago.) -- and an old-timer mentor of mine told me: "If you put the two ends of a cat's broken bone in the same room together and they will heal."

While that's obviously a gross over simplification, it is true that a cat's ability to heal is legendary.

But there's a catch: As strong as cats are at healing themselves, they also have an incredible capability to hide illness –- so incredible that it can be worrisome.

We often get presented kitties who have been suffering from chronic illness but show only subtle signs of disease. They may look okay but can have significant disease. A good example is that of the feline oral resorbtive lesion (FORL). These are tooth lesions that cause pain on par with a very bad cavity. If I had a severe toothache, odds are you could tell something was wrong just by looking at me. Yet some cats show little evidence of pain until we touch them and their jaw chatters. It is estimated that 60% of cats carry on with one or more such lesions without their owners even noticing. It takes a good oral exam to find them, something most pet owners don’t know how to do on their own. Only after proper treatment, when a cat has recovered to a state better than where they were before, do we realize just how much pain they had been enduring.

The bottom line is that no matter how rugged and healthy your cat appears, something could be lurking below the surface. He or she needs regular exams and preventive health care … Just like a dog!

There's a very informative and useful video that I'd like to recommend on how to brush your cat's teeth. You can watch it online here on the website. Here's a direct link to the video.

One note of caution: If you try to brush a cat's teeth (or a dog's for that matter) and they have a painful FORL or periodontal disease, you'd better be very careful not to get bitten.

While your cat might be … Your fingers are definitely not MADE OF STEEL!!!

Doc Holbrook

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(An occasional blog from Great Brook ...)


On February 2, that precious little woodchuck named Phil declared that an early spring is in store. On Groundhog Day he must have finally grown used to all the paparazzi lights and for once was not scared by his own shadow. Or perhaps he was just too busy dreaming of munching in my garden to be bothered by all the hoopla in beautiful Punxatawney, PA.

Now, generally I don't pay much attention to ol' Phil, cause in these here parts it's usually a safe bet that we'll be waiting at least six weeks until Mud/Ticks (spring). But this year I'm not so sure.

Here's a list of reasons why:

• Therese (my hair-stylist magician) says the fat Robins in her yard have been chirping a lot lately. It must be that spring is near. When it comes to my hair, Therese doesn't have much to work with during our sessions (ha!), so there is plenty of time to wax eloquently on such matters.

• Diane C., our sales representative at Great Brook, says the Bluebirds are already visiting her yard! Seriously!

• My wife, Diane, swears the sap will be running this week and has been after me to get the buckets hung. That means warm days ahead for sure.

• As for me, it's Valentine's day as I write this--the holiday evolved from the Roman festival of Lupercalia which celebrated the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus who went on to settle Rome. The rituals involved the animal sacrifice and a level of sheer lewdness typical of the times. Fortunately Cupid's arrows are a bit more gentle. The month February derives from Februa the ancient festival of cleansing and fertility. How vernal can you get? Since I paid extra attention to Valentine's Day this year and was motivated to learn all these derivations I am taking it as a sign that some natural force is at work and it must be spring! How about you?

At Great Brook, we'd love to hear your predictions on whether the weather is going to be changing sooner than later! You can make a post to our Facebook Wall or send us an email.

Doc Holbrook

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(An occasional blog from Great Brook ...)

Recently, I had occasion to travel alone by air. I was returning from a trip to Pennsylvania and flying into Manchester.

As I found my spot on the plane, it occurred to me that I was being squeezed into a seat between two women who apparently knew one another. I feared I was going to be talked over all the way home when all I really wanted to do was enjoy a book that I have been reading--The Forgotten Man. It's a history of the Great Depression and, perhaps oddly, I have found it an educational and refreshing escape from the challenging times we're living through now.

As the airplane taxied toward the runway, I put my book down in my lap. I could tell that the women I was squeezed between where itching to talk to one another. Then suddenly, I was treated to the sweetest of sounds. Seated to my left, a woman I'll call 'Chatty' began carrying on about how her two cats were going to be all over her when she got home. They'd be anointing her travel clothes with their long hair (just like they do to her furniture). But that she didn't care because she had loads of lint brushes and rollers and her cats were her BABIES! And they are just so cute and...

Suddenly 'Chatty' was interrupted by the woman seated on my right, who I'll call 'Wheezy'--"Well, my Cocker will be so excited to see me when I get home that he just might tinkle a bit on the floor before he sulks for a few days to punish me for leaving him. He's not a show dog but we keep him clipped like one. He's just so handsome and he loves our Bichon to death!"

During a pause in their conversation, I interjected that I was a veterinarian and hearing them talk about their animals was actually "music to my ears."

After a while, the conversation trailed off the way airplane talk often does, but I was no longer bothered by my seatmates. These are my kind of people, I thought to myself.

As I got back into my book, however, my mind wandered as I thought about the relationship that these women had with their pets.

Their conversation reminded me of an article that I read a while back in Smart Money magazine about the lengths to which pet owners will go to provide very expensive treatment for their pets and how the dollars spent on pet insurance are rising at the rate of 20 percent a year.

It occurred to me that it was the very mindset of the women seated on my left and my right that drives this demand for services. For them, nothing is too good for their furry friends. They place a premium on the human-companion animal bond and realize its strength and rewards. Stories abound of people like them who spend tens of thousands of dollars for pet health care. The explosion of veterinary trained specialists (the percentage of veterinarians who are board certified in surgery has doubled in the past three years) has provided the supply of sophisticated veterinary health care. You might be surprised to hear it, but several insurance companies are actually competing to finance these expenditures.

A variety of pet health insurance plans are available, offering varying coverage, premiums and exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Sound familiar? Over the past couple of years, I've often thought that the system was beginning to resemble the human model for health insurance--for all its beautiful sophistication and dreadful expense.

As a veterinarian, I've been stuck on the question: How can we avoid replicating the present expensive human model that yields mediocre results? Maybe the answer lies in the family practice-based approach that we try to embrace at Great Brook. It has become a popular model for veterinary medicine.

You take your pet to a family practice based veterinary generalist who emphasizes wellness and preventive care. In case of illness we are equipped to diagnose and treat the majority of conditions that your friend may acquire. If surgery is necessary, a specialist surgeon can be called in to operate in familiar surroundings. For those cases that require advanced imaging (CT or MRI) or for treatments of certain cancers, specialist referral, directed by us with your approval, is available. The model is based on direct payment by the consumer (pet owner) and costs are understood every step of the way. If the pet needs advanced care and the owner can afford it, then it's available nearby. Financing is available through Care Credit (no interest short term loans) or pet insurance with its variability in coverage.

In short your family veterinarian acts with the best interest of your pet and you in mind. The result is that you work within the system that is stacked in your favor, the system doesn't work you.

As our airplane touched down in Manchester, it was all making sense and I had my two seatmates--"Chatty" and "Wheezy"--to thank for inspiring this blog. I hope it was informational. Please feel free to send me a note about it if you have thoughts or questions. I promise I won't quote you in my next blog!

Doc Holbrook

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