#1 DOGS FIRST

One of the biggest changes needed in veterinary medicine is advocacy for the dog. Over the last 25 to 30 years, dogs haven’t changed. Sure, some of them look different- there are new breeds- new “Designer Dogs”, but the dog inside hasn’t changed. They’re still the same loving, devoted, protective best friend they have always been. Owners, on the other hand, have changed radically. Fundamentally. And veterinary clinics have changed with them. 50 years ago if a dog was really sick or injured, it was not uncommon for the owner to say, “He was a good dog… we’ll get another one,” and the dog was euthanized. Today, a dog in the same situation isn’t looked upon as a “good” dog- he’s a family member- he’s one of the kids. In a lot of situations where the kids have gone off to college, or moved out to start their own lives, the dog is the kid! Virtually every medical treatment available for the dog owner is available for the dog. 50 years ago, veterinarians- with the possible exception of a good country vet, whose skill and value were truly appreciated by farmers or ranchers when valuable livestock were saved, were generally looked upon as guys who wanted to be a real doctor, but couldn’t make it in medical school, so they became a vet! What a difference 50 years can make. Veterinary medicine is now a HUGE business, with international companies owning hundreds of clinics and large corporations owning growing numbers of clinics, altogether treating millions of animals- and not one of those animals put their paw print, hoof print, or any other print on a consent form. Every decision is made by the owner with guidance from their vet. Most of the time- hopefully, the decisions are good ones. Too many times, and the numbers are growing, the decisions are influenced by corporate pressure to meet corporate numbers. No one asks the dog. No one tries to think like the dog. The dog gets in the car, rides to the vet’s office and when he wakes up, he has to figure out what happened- or why he’s hurting- or what’s missing! Somebody needs to ALWAYS try to think like the dog. That would be us!

#2 SAFETY

An unforeseen benefit of the way we built Barks and Medication may well be that it’s one of the safest places you could visit during a time when everyone is constantly aware of their surroundings and scared that the next thing they touch or the next breath they take could land them in the hospital. We designed and built Barks with the safety and welfare of our customers as the #1 priority. Our floors have germicides and virucides built into the top layer of the floor. Not mopped or sprayed on- built into the floor. Our HVAC systems have special UV lights (a combination of  Germicidal UVC light and far-UVC light)   built in that kill 99.9% of viruses and germs exposed to the light. Since our systems turn all of the air in our clinic over twice per hour, we’re keeping the air pretty clean. And we’re clean freaks on top of that! Using a proprietary blend of cleaners, sanitizers, disinfectants and sterilizers we keep the surfaces in our clinic as clean as possible. We require that masks be worn anytime you are in our clinic and finally, we have hand sanitizer stations in every room in the clinic that might welcome one of our customers or their Mom or Dad! Now here is the really, really, really fantastic thing about everything we do to try to keep you and your best friend safe- all of this was designed and built into Barks well before the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed in this country. We are used to dealing with some nasty viruses that can infect and kill our four-legged friends. Turns out that protecting them can help protect you too- and that’s really important because we think there is a huge disconnect between you, your dog and your vet when you are required to stay in the car while your dog is being examined or treated. We want you inside, with your dog, being part of most of what is going on, while you are giving- and getting good information about why you’ve come.

#3 PAPERWORK

Before you come to Barks, we must have a copy of your dog’s records from the clinic you’ve most recently seen. That’s easy to accomplish- all you have to do is call that clinic and ask them to fax your records to us at 901-746-8234. If you are a current Barks and Recreation customer, we probably have some, if not all of your records. Having your records gives us a clear picture of the treatment your pets have been receiving, it allows us to authorize refills of prescriptions if your pet is currently on medications and it allows us to schedule vaccinations correctly. It makes the transfer of treatment much easier- and less expensive, because without the records, we would be required to run tests and perform exams to get the necessary information- when it is already available. As with all of our equipment in the hospital, our software is fabulous! There are some really neat features that you can take advantage of to save time. For example- our Patient Portal. I imagine that you have access to your own personal information, appointment scheduling, test results, prescription refills, medical history and many more items that give you much greater control over your health care. At Barks, you have a Patient Portal that gives you access to everything I just listed- and more. Yes, it takes a few minutes to initially fill out all of the information we need to make you a client, but it can all be done online from any device you have- desktop, laptop, pads, tablets and phones and you can fill everything out at your own pace. The one stipulation is that it has to be completed before your arrival for your first visit. After that, we’ll give you a Pet ID Card that you can use to check in when you come to the clinic. Our doctors will have all of the information on why you’re at the clinic before they come in the exam room! Don’t you get tired of answering the same question several times? We’ll do our best to eliminate that as much as is possible while maintaining the highest level of care for your pet!

#4 DON’T BRING SICK DOGS INTO THE CLINIC

And Yes, I know how that sounds since that’s one of the main things we’re supposed to do, right? Treat sick dogs. And that is exactly what we want to do. BUT, here’s what we don’t want: a customer calls and makes an appointment telling us their dog “just doesn’t seem to feel quite herself” and then walks into the clinic with a very sick dog- a dog with distemper, or canine influenza, or some other very contagious disease and suddenly we’re scrambling to take care of the one who’s ill and make sure that no other pet in our care is in danger. What we want you to do is be TOTALLY honest when we ask you why you’re making the appointment. TOTALLY honest when you fill out the reason for the visit on the website appointment booking. TOTALLY honest when you describe the symptoms you see in your dog. We’re not going to turn you away because you told us your pet is REALLY sick. When we have a good idea of what is coming in, we have a chance to be ready- to have everything set in an exam room and if we think you’re coming in with something that is contagious, we’ll meet you in the parking lot. We’ll try to determine what is causing the problem and if it is contagious, we can handle that too. We have a great isolation room. We have a way to bring you into the clinic that will not put any other guest at risk. Our job is to treat your dog, protect our other guests and protect our staff, all at the same time. It’s a lot easier when we know what we’re dealing with.

#5 VACCINATIONS

We realize that this is a hot-button for a lot of customers and while we firmly believe in the very wise old saying, “The Customer Is Always Right”, when it comes to vaccinations, the customer is not always right. We require that your dog has the following vaccinations, scheduled as shown, if he or she is to be a customer at Barks and Medication. Now, before you read the list, and before you repeat the common accusation that “Vets are just trying to sell something”, please understand that vaccinations are not a profit center for any veterinary clinic. There’s just no margin, so no clinics are pushing vaccinations for monetary reasons. After you read the list, please go to our Home Page and when the VACCINATIONS page appears, click on it and read what you absolutely have to protect your pet against and why. Here’s our list:

Rabies. Every twelve months thru 6 years of age. After 6 years of age, we will give the three year vaccine if you request it, but only because after 6 years, your dog has a level of “accumulated immunity” that is the combined result of having been vaccinated yearly and a totally mature immune system. There are no savings when you purchase a three year vaccine and you must follow state laws on rabies. No matter your personal feelings, the efficacy of rabies vaccinations is clear: in the United States we generally have fewer than 3 deaths per year caused by rabies and those almost always caused by contact with a wild animal. The rest of the world and in particular, those areas where vaccinations are not required by law, suffer tens of thousands of deaths caused by rabies every year.

Distemper. Exactly the same as Rabies. Every twelve months thru 6 years of age. Distemper is one of four “Core” vaccines- those that according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious, and/or those posing a risk of severe disease”. Rabies is number one on that list.

Canine Parvovirus. Another of the Core vaccines and like Distemper, it must be vaccinated against every twelve months thru 6 years of age.

Hepatitis (Adenovirus). Another Core vaccine. Every twelve months thru 6 years of age.

Leptospirosis. This bacterial based disease has recently been elevated to Core status because it is spreading, is deadly in a high percentage of cases in spite of aggressive treatment and can be spread to humans. Again, vaccinate every 12 months thru 6 years of age.

Parainfluenza. While not a Core vaccine, this virus is one of the main causes of Kennel Cough. Wisely, this vaccine has been included in a combo vaccine known as DHLPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza). Usually included as part of your dog’s yearly exam, the DHLPP vaccine addresses all four of the Core group infections.

Bordatella bronchiseptica. The other major cause of Kennel Cough.

Canine Influenza. (H3N2 & H3N8) Highly contagious, both strains jumped from other animals to dogs and are now spread dog-to-dog. H3N8 had been known to infect horses for more than 40 years but was first detected in dogs in 2005. H3N2 jumped from birds to dogs and was found in dogs in southeast Asia as early as 2005, but the first cases in the United States came in 2015. Since dogs in the U.S. had never been exposed to either of these strains, they had no natural immunity to them. Additionally, since we have very little experience with this disease, annual boosters (after the initial vaccination which is followed by a booster in two weeks) are required.

Heartworms. In the Mid-South, if you do not protect your dog against heartworms, it is a virtual certainty your dog will become infected. And while we do understand that heartworm prevention medicines are not technically vaccines, we include them on this list because they produce the same desired result- the prevention of infection.

So, there you have it- the list of vaccinations and their schedules we require of every customer at Barks and Medication.

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Parainfluenza
  • Bordatella
  • Canine Influenza
  • Heartworms

We will gladly accept a vaccination report from any licensed vet clinic as proof of vaccination. We will not accept statements or receipts showing that any of the required vaccinations were administered by anyone other than a licensed veterinarian, including the owner, any Rescue Group or shelter.

And while we are on the subject of vaccinations, let’s cover one more area that sounds reasonable, but is not based on science or extensive studies. We’re talking about 1/2 doses for small dogs, or carried further, vaccinations doses calculated on the size of your dog. This seems to make sense because logic would dictate that a 5 lb. Dachshund should not be given the same dose that a 125 lb. Great Dane would receive. And, we’re all accustomed to doses of other medicines based on weight- particularly antibiotics. This is a great comparison- vaccines and antibiotics- used by those who don’t like vaccinations in general, but this argument is not even close to apples and oranges, much less apples to apples. Put simply, antibiotic dosages are designed to give a desired concentration level of the drug in the patient’s bloodstream or tissues. So, the larger the patient, the larger the dose that is required to get the same amount of drug throughout the patient’s body. A 100 pound dog would need ten times as much of a drug as a 10 pound dog. The medical and scientific reality is much more complicated than that, but vaccines do not work by getting to or maintaining a level of a vaccine throughout the body. Vaccines work by eliciting an all-out response from the patient’s immune system. There is no response to less than the required amount of vaccine and there is no over-response to giving more than the amount that is required. There is, however, a minimum dose required to fully stimulate the patient’s immune system and achieve the desired level of protection. Somewhere comfortably above the minimum immunization dose (MID) is where you want to be. Vaccines are tested on “average” sized dogs. No one knows exactly what size an “average” dog is except the manufacturer, but it is very safe to assume that it is somewhere between the 5 lb Dachshund and the 125 lb Great Dane. Maybe the MID for your small dog can be achieved with a smaller dose, but there is no data to support that line of thought. Here’s the obvious danger: you follow Dr. Alternative and demand a 1/2 dose because your dog is very small- now, you have to hope that you gave enough to get the desired result. You’re gambling with your pet’s life when hoping is what you’re relying on. The more likely bad outcome of giving a small dog what you think is a dose that is too large is an injection site reaction. The vast majority of injection site reactions are not caused by the actual vaccine, but by adjuvants- chemicals and biologicals that are added to the vaccine to illicit more of a response from the immune system in an attempt to enhance the overall effect of the vaccine, increasing the chances of achieving the desired result: immunity. We absolutely agree that injection site reactions are undesirable- regardless of whether they’re a little redness or tenderness, or a good-sized knot just under the skin. Many people look at injection site reactions in small dogs and decide that the answer to solving that problem is to give smaller doses. We think a much better answer is to split the dose over two or even three injection sites. Yes, your dog will be stuck 2 or 3 times instead of once, but that’s over in a few seconds and you get the satisfaction of knowing that your pet has been given the proper dose.

None of this is easy, but everyone’s only goal should be keeping your dog safe from as many threats as possible. If you have any questions about our vaccination policies, we will be glad to discuss them with you in person.

#6 YOU AND THE EXAM ROOM

We are happy to have you accompany your dog into our Exam Room- in fact, we encourage it. When you check in, we’ll ask if you are staying or dropping off. Depending how we’re running on time, if you’re staying we’ll either take you back to an exam room or let you wait in our waiting area while your dog waits in our V.I.P. Lounge. Please understand that we will not allow your dog to wait with you in the waiting area for safety reasons- we don’t always know who is coming in the door next! We’ll generally be pretty close to on-time because we don’t schedule appointments as close together as most clinics. As soon as we’re ready, we’ll get you and you dog in an exam room and one of our staff members will log in some info (weight, temperature, etc.) and get things ready for the vet. Here’s where things might go a little differently than you might expect. Many clinics have very small meet and greet rooms where the vet meets the patient and the owner, gets the information about the visit and then the patient is taken to a much larger, central exam and treatment room and the owner is either left in the meet and greet room or taken back to the front. There may, or may not, be other dogs in the central room being seen by other vets or clinic personnel. Generally, there are holding cages in the central room and in our opinion, the overall design is meant to streamline the exam and treatment process for the vet. Here’s a great example of what we meant when we said someone always needs to think like the dog. The vet’s office is probably not on your dog’s favorite places to go list. Too many new smells, new sounds, memories of getting poked or stuck. Then you take him to another room, maybe he goes into a holding cage- he sees and hears other dogs not having a particularly good time. He’s a little bit scared and nervous. That’s one way of doing it. Another way is to make the exam rooms a lot bigger than normal. Stock them with pretty much everything you need for a normal visit. Keep Mom or Dad in the room at least long enough for him to get comfortable with the staff and then get on with anything that is going to be unpleasant as quickly as possible. The longer he has to wait, the more he hears, the more apprehensive he will become. And make no mistake about it, there will be things that are unpleasant and when they come along, you have to trust us with your best friend. Sometimes, in spite of everything you can do, the patient is having none of it. Sometimes, the patient comes in hurt or injured and already in pain. Sometimes the patient is just downright aggressive towards anyone but a family member. Sometimes, you will not be allowed to stay in the room and we understand that’s hard. We know you think you can help, but you can’t. We know you think you can do a lot of things when it comes to your pet, but not in this situation. There are only three things you can do by staying in the room- make everyone less safe, slow down the exam and treatment process, and this one is important, wind up being blamed by your dog as at least partly responsible for whatever he had to go thru. Understand that we have many things at our disposal to slow him down a little, make him less anxious- or ease the pain and we will not hesitate to use them, but when we decide that you will do more harm than good by staying in the room, we’ll explain what we have to do and escort you back to the waiting area.

#7 RESCUES AND THE POUND

Thank goodness for both of them- thank goodness for all kinds of both of them, but there are problems. Lots of problems. Rule #7 is simple: if you adopt a dog from ANY RESCUE or ANY POUND, we will not schedule an appointment for your new dog- or any other dog you have at the time of adoption, until your new family member has lived with you for 14 days. The exception to this rule is if you adopt or rescue a dog that is obviously already ill, we will accept that dog if you tell us everything about the situation before you bring the dog in. You must understand that our responsibilities- in order- are the safety of our staff, the safety of the patients already under our care and then, and only then, working to bring a new pet safely into your household. I’ve never seen a Rescue or a Pound that wasn’t under-funded and under-staffed, over-crowded and over-worked. Too many dogs in close quarters, that under the circumstances are impossible to keep clean- and I don’t mean hosed down- are a breeding ground for more viruses and bacteria than you can possibly imagine. Diseases spread like wildfires in those situations and when you adopt under those circumstances, it is not possible to know the vaccination history of your new dog. It is not possible to know anything about the health history, or genetic history, or the abuse history, or the behavioral history- what his aggressive triggers might be. You are truly rolling the dice when you adopt or rescue. While it’s true that a lot of emotional issues can be overcome with a lot of love, no amount of love in the world will cure any of the diseases we list as required vaccinations. So, our 14 day rule is based on simple science: every one of the diseases on our required vaccination list has a generally accepted incubation period of 14 days or less. If your new family member has not shown any of the symptoms of those diseases in 14 days, chances are very good that he does not have one of them. The exception to that assumption would be heartworms, but unless your new pet is already exhibiting symptoms of a heartworm infestation, a 14 day delay in the start of treatment is not likely to affect the outcome.

#8 PUPPIES

Puppies are just about the best thing in the whole world! Losing one is just about the worst thing in the world. There aren’t quite as many dangers out there for puppies as there is for older dogs, but one in particular prompts Rule #8. We will not make an appointment to see your new puppy in the clinic until he has lived with you for 10 days. What are we so afraid of? PARVO. This virus is a puppy-killing machine. Most deaths occur within 48-72 hours after the onset of the first symptoms, which are lethargy, followed by vomiting, a fever and then bloody diarrhea. Puppies that develop the disease almost always start showing symptoms in less than 10 days, so if you’ve had your new pup for 10 days and he’s still as playful as the day you got him, he likely is Parvo-free. That’s great news for all of us, because this virus is HIGHLY contagious and an infected pet can shed the virus literally for years after he recovered… if he recovered. So, we want your pup to live with you for 10 days before we see him- unless he’s showing any signs that make you concerned. Once again, tell us exactly what’s going on and we’ll get him in the clinic without endangering any other pet who’s with us and we’ll use every weapon in our arsenal to find out exactly what’s wrong and get the proper treatment going as quickly as possible.

We live in an age of unprecedented access to information. Ask a question on the internet and you’ll have access to millions of answers in less than one second. Here’s the unfortunate part of getting all those answers- they are not listed in order of correctness.  Wouldn’t it be great if every time you asked a question, the correct answer appeared as the first one on the list? Our goals are simple: if your dog is healthy and doing great, we want to keep him that way. If your dog is not healthy or injured, we want to make him better. We want to use science, not theory, to treat your family member. We have the best equipment, access to proven information, the best medicines and access to a wealth of experience accumulated and shared by some of the best veterinarians in the country and we’ll use all of those things to make sure your dog receives the best care possible. Our rules are not arbitrary- they are meant to eliminate arguments over what is best for your pet. Arguments and compromises over how your dog is treated result in only one thing- less than the best treatment we know we can deliver. That is unacceptable to us and we thank you in advance for understanding that.