Meet the veterinarian on wheels
TAHOE CITY – As casually as he might pop open a beer or turn the radio dial, Bruce Hartzell snipped off the testicle and laid it neatly on the counter.
“What we do is we make one incision just below the scrotum,” Hartzell explained, before making the second snip.
Parked in the Tahoe Marina parking lot, Hartzell, a veterinarian with his Critter Care mobile practice, is spending his Saturday performing surgeries for Pet Network’s Spay and Neuter Day. Holed up in his medically equipped RV, Hartzell – along with his partner and wife, Cindy – fixes about 10 animals during each Spay and Neuter Day.
“We usually fill up on mobile days,” explained Claire Hopkins, community program manager with Pet Network.
Hopkins said that the low-cost mobile days (a mere $20 for dogs and $10 for cats) afford pet owners who might not otherwise be able to spring for the surgery the opportunity to do so. Although the mobile days – there are a few scattered throughout the year – fill up quickly, Pet Network does offer a reduced rate at several area veterinarian offices year round.
On this particular mobile-clinic day, the Hartzells will preform seven surgeries – five dogs and two cats. At the moment one of their patients, the large and bullish Brutus, is recovering in an on-board kennel.
“He may yell and howl and moan, that’s normal,” Bruce said, explaining that after receiving a shot to counter-balance the anesthetics the animals can “get pretty rocky.”
As Brutus groggily comes out of sedation, another dog is brought into the mobile clinic. The pet has already been given an initial injection of anesthetics to settle her down.
“You feelin’ good?” Bruce greets the drugged dog. “Been at the margarita bar?”
The dog is lifted onto a table and given another shot, which is followed up by anesthetic gas. Once the animal is fully sedated, Cindy goes to work shaving its underbelly.
“Working in a mobile clinic is a lot like working while your camping,” she explained as she maneuvered around the table, motioning to neatly secured supplies lining the walls.
According to the Hartzells, spaying or neutering pets not only prevents unplanned litters but also greatly reduces the animal’s chances of incurring costly and debilitating health problems later in life.
“These are all hormonally driven diseases,” Bruce said, listing ailments including mammary and testicular cancer, as well as prostate infections. “And these problems are not rare, they’re quite common.”
Bruce went on to say that the procedure also curbs certain irritating behavior, such as spraying and marking with cats, and aggression with dogs. He also explained that pets should be fixed relatively early on in their life (but not before the first few months) and that animals who are obese or in heat pose more of a challenge during surgery.
Hopkins – citing the numerous animals which are euthanized each year – said that she believes Pet Network is helping to reduce the number of unwanted pets through their spay and neuter program.
“There aren’t enough homes up here for all the animals,” she said, adding that the low-cost mobile days and facilitating surgeries which would otherwise go undone.
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