How much do you care for your pet? For most pet owners the answer to that is a no-brainer—a lot. In most households, pets are treated as family. To some, they are as treasured as children. Having an intense love for your pet inclines you to want a vet that treats them with the best care. The Blue Cross Animal Hospital (BCAH) does just that. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I met with Dr. Hazel Eaglesome—who has worked at Blue Cross Animal Hospital for over 28 years and has been the owner for nearly 20—to talk a bit about her practice. The moment I walked in I felt comfortable. It is a small yet cozy hospital located on the Danforth, only a corner away from Broadview Subway Station. I was waiting in the reception area with two cat owners when Dr. Eaglesome greeted me with a smile and told me we could talk in one of the rooms.
Owner Dr. Eaglesome and cat Batty
I asked her if she always knew she wanted to be a vet. She told me that her father was a vet and she grew up taking care of animals. “So yes, I’ve always known I wanted to be a vet. Except for those few minutes when I was six that I wanted to be an astronaut.” On her way to becoming the vet that she is today, the process was a bit different 30 years ago. To get into veterinary college, Dr. Eaglesome had to achieve high marks in both math and science (this is still a requirement for candidates today), followed by two years in university before she could apply. After that came the five-year course; one year pre-vet and four years training to be a vet. All-in-all, Dr. Eaglesome had a long seven years of schooling, but it was worth it when she graduated in 1986. Back then they treated all kinds of animals from hamsters to cows to pigeons. “I had to know all species and all the different physiologies,” Dr. Eaglesome recalls. Though she now only treats cats and dogs in her practice, she has worked with exotic animals in the past. “Not here, but I worked in a practice 25 years ago and there was a boa constrictor. But that’s not for me,” she laughs.
Her career at BCAH started in 1988 when she worked for the previous owner Dr. Kalm. By 1992 he sold the practice to Dr. Tanney, and in 1997 Dr. Eaglesome and Dr. Tanney became partners. By 2008, she was the sole owner. “Our day at the hospital usually starts at 8 AM, and if there are any patients in the hospital we see them first, those who have been admitted and stayed overnight.” Those who have appointments are seen throughout the day between 8 AM to 7 PM. While some vets deal with surgical cases, dental cases, and diagnostic work, others are taking appointments. The Hospital also provides a service of pet drop-offs. This still helps those with busy schedules to get great care for their pets in a timely manner.
Registered Veterinary Technician, Karleigh
There is no doubt that Dr. Eaglesome and her colleagues are dedicated to their jobs and the animals. There are close to thirty people working at BCAH including seven vets, five technicians (acting nurses), seven patient care helpers, and eight receptionists. During the hiring process they look for those who will fit in. Someone who is knowledgeable, highly compassionate, gentle, and is willing to work hard. “We are very cramped,” Dr. Eaglesome says. “But we manage. And we get along very well.”
How does BCAH differ from any other animal hospitals? Well not only is the staff warm and inviting, but between the seven qualified vets they have a collective amount of 150 years of experience in pet care. It’s good to note that your pet isn’t getting just one vet’s opinion but the insight of several. “Every day at 3:30 we do rounds. All the doctors and technicians… everyone’s there, and we talk about who’s been in the hospital that day or if we have a difficult case we run it by everyone.” BCAH is also accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). To acquire this level of accreditation they were assessed rigorously and achieved high standards in terms of patient care, record keeping, pain management, safety, and overall policies. They are also working towards being Fear Free, a goal where they help the animals feel comfortable in their new environment. “We are very big on low stress here. We don’t want the reputation among the pets that we’re scary.” They also made it a point that they no longer declaw cats. “We think it’s a pointless and painful procedure. It’s also like taking tails off puppies. It’s unnecessary.”
When asked about some of the highlights of her career, Dr. Eaglesome had some interesting stories. “Just recently I had a very, very sick young dog who ate some underwear and it got stuck in the intestines. Not feeling very well, vomiting and feeling very sorry for himself. We managed to get him to surgery, and got that out. He popped up the next day 100%!” For Dr. Eaglesome those cases are always her favourite the ones that influence a full recovery. She even noted that sometimes the most interesting moments are the people as well as their pets. “Sometimes the clients are really fascinating. They will tell you things about their lives. You get to know them.” She’s known some of the clients for years, and to have their children grow up and then bring their pets in, is something she always looks forward to. “Everything’s interesting,” she says with a smile. “This is one of those professions that there’s not a day that goes by and you think ‘well I wasted that day.’ There’s always something.”
Patient Care Attendant, Tamsin
The Hospital also offers a number of different services from therapeutic diets to behavioural counselling. They believe that a lot of medical conditions can be managed through nutrition. In Canada, there is no regulation in pet food. Anyone can mix one up, put a label on it, and market it, which can lead to serious health problems in your pet. With the therapeutic diets, BCAH assesses what is wrong with your pet and puts them on a diet of nutritious vet-approved food to help put them back on a healthy path. As for the behavioural counselling, they deal with dogs that have separation anxiety. They give advice on how to re-train your pet and give them pharmaceuticals to help calm the anxiety down. Also, they deal with things such as cats urinating outside the litterboxes. They have trainers that help the owner as well as the pet, but for serious cases they will recommend a specialist.
Does the BCAH have any advice for new pet owners? Dr. Eaglesome gives some tips.
- Think about the costs. In the first year, after all the vaccinations, food, leashes, beds, and spaying/neutering, it can cost several thousands of dollars. Dr. Eaglesome advises planning ahead. Have an income that can sustain a new pet and be prepared to hire a dog walker.
- Research the breed. You want to have a breed of dog or cat that suits your lifestyle. “For instance,” Dr. Eaglesome says, “Border Collies are working dogs. They work, work, work. You can’t leave them at home while you’re at your job from eight to five because without work they don’t know what to do with themselves, and could potentially get into trouble.” So make sure that you do your research and figure out which breed of dog or cat will be the best fit for your household.
- Take them to the vet. During a pet’s first 16-18 weeks of life they require a series of vaccinations. Every time an owner comes in they get more and more information on feeding and training. This is to make sure your pet is the healthiest it can be and ready to take on the world. Usually around six months of age they get neutered or spayed.
Dr. Eaglesome recommends insurance for all pets. “As they get older things happen. It seems kind of harsh to be paying all their life and nothing ever happens, but eventually something will.” Every pet should be seen for a physical exam and recommended vaccinations every year, and as they get older they should have at least two exams per year. The purpose of this is to catch age related diseases early on and to maintain their overall health.
The Blue Cross Animal Hospital Team is dedicated to their clients and their pets. Their aim is to treat your pets like family and care for them as if they were their own. If you have any more questions about BCAH, give them a call at 416-469-1121 or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be happy to iron out any concerns you might have. It’s a rewarding job and it brings them joy to be able to be a part of the process that keeps your pet at their best health. “It’s a fascinating profession and that’s why I’m still doing it 30 years later, because I love it.”