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Veterinarian

Veterinarian reflects on family business

The Huntington Animal Hospital, located on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station, is celebrating 63 years. Photo from Dr. Jeff Kramer

A four-year-old boy’s dream of being a veterinarian and following in his father’s footsteps has led to decades of business success.

The Huntington Animal Hospital is celebrating 63 years of business, and owner Dr. Jeff Kramer, who is living his lifelong passion, plans to mark the milestone with a special client appreciation day on June 6.

From the time Kramer, 61, was brought home as a baby from the hospital to his bedroom, which now serves as the exam room in Huntington Animal Hospital on Walt Whitman Road, he has been surrounded animals and the veterinary office.

“Growing up all I was ever going to do was be a veterinarian,” Kramer said in a recent interview. “I was always going to be a vet, there was never any other options.”

The animal hospital that Kramer owns once served as his childhood home and his father Mort Kramer’s veterinary office, which is where he got first-hand experience working in the field. The younger Kramer would hold animals, clean cages and observe as his father performing daily duties. Every free second he had was spent working with his dad, Kramer said.

“I’ve worked in this animal hospital since I was a little boy,” Kramer said. “I skipped Saturday morning cartoons and came here.”

Huntington Animal Hospital's Dr. Jeff Kramer is hard at work doing what he does best — helping animals. Photo from Kramer
Huntington Animal Hospital’s Dr. Jeff Kramer is hard at work doing what he does best — helping animals. Photo from Kramer

Kramer attended Johns Hopkins University and then went on to attend veterinarian school at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where he worked hard to fulfill his dream of becoming a vet.

After graduating from veterinary school, Kramer spent time living in Virginia and working at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  He then returned to Huntington Station where he teamed up with his dad and worked at the family’s animal hospital. Once his dad retired, Kramer took over the business and has been operating it ever since.

“It has been an all-around wonderful experience, giving back to people and providing the animals and people with care and help,” Kramer said.

In the past Kramer has treated ferrets, guinea pigs and hamsters, but the practice now treats cats and dogs. Kramer said the staff would treat other animals if they came in.

While he loves treating dogs and cats, he said a big part of his job is treating their owners and helping them cope through difficult times. Through his more than 30 years running the practice, he said he has seen some sad cases that are just part of the job.

“It’s hard to see a dog and cat that has been hit by a car,” Kramer said.

The veterinarian said his job is very rewarding and he loves helping animals and owners. He said he loves giving back and providing animals with the care they need.

“It’s a wonderful profession,” he said. “I’m very very lucky to be a veterinarian. I’m one of the family doctors, that’s my favorite part.”

Sal Migliore, an owner of four cats, visits Kramer regularly and has been for the last three years. He called the veterinarian a good person who is very caring with animals.

“He is our Dr. Doolittle,” Migliore said. “He is a doctor for animals. We don’t know what we would do without him, we have so much faith in him.”

Next week, at the June 6 client appreciation day, people will get to meet a dog trainer, groomer along with Kramer and his team. Attendees will also be able to enjoy snacks and drinks, Kramer said.

“It’s really saying thank you to our Huntington Animal Hospital family,” Kramer said.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I recently read an article in Time magazine entitled, “The Mystery of Animal Grief” and found it fascinating. The author, Jeffrey Kluger, referenced evidence that crows and elephants hold “wakes” for their fallen mates, and female chimpanzees have been known to carry their dead young sometimes as long as two months. This forced me to ponder the fact that as much as I know how people feel about their pets dying, how do pets in the household feel? And how can we get them through the grief?

Yes, it is proven that dogs and cats grieve after the loss of both another pet and a human owner. However, dogs and cats see this loss as more of a change in the dynamic of the pack or pride. If we can understand that concept, it will make it not only easier to tolerate their behavior but help them through this difficult time as well. Remember, we are grieving also; behaviors that do not make sense to us might make us less patient during these stressful times, as well as create lifelong behavioral issues for our pets.

The biggest mistake made in interpreting (or misinterpreting) any animal behavior is anthropomorphizing. Anthropomorphizing refers to giving human characteristics to things not human. Dogs and cats are not furry little humans, and we should not expect them to act as such. When dogs and cats grieve, it is usually for a much shorter period of time (sometimes as little as 3 to 5 days), and, in some cases, they do not grieve at all. If the pet that has passed was the dominant partner, the surviving pet may have been repressed (and now suddenly thrives). Do not resent this lack of remorse but rather realize what stress this pet was going through up until this time. Also, the more dominant pet may show no grief and this is normal also.

What to do? In the immediate aftermath, let the pet grieve. If your dog or cat is still eating/drinking normally and somewhat active, give him or her 3 to 5 days to adjust to the change in the “family” dynamic. In cases of severe grief, positive training may be the release he or she needs.

Positive training is really just setting aside some time for activity or interaction at the same time every day either with the guidance of a certified trainer or just the two of you. Positive training could be long walks, trips to the park for off-leash exercise, playing with toys (if your pet is more active),  short walks to the mailbox or grooming/massage (if your pet is less active). In rare cases, medications like anti-depressants are necessary.

What about adding a new pet? It is recommended to not replace a deceased pet immediately. Many dogs and cats are just as happy to live out the rest of their lives with just humans, so it may not be necessary to get a new pet. If you do decide to get a new dog or cat, make sure that you know the new pet will get along with the existing one. Consider getting a new pet of opposite gender even if the previous one was of the same. This will help to reduce the risk of fighting.

It is never easy to lose a member of the family, but I hope this article gives some general information on both the way that pets grieve as well as how to help them through this difficult process. Remember, each case is different, so consult your veterinarian for specific questions or concerns.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 17 years.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

In our previous article we discussed predisposing factors to obesity such as breed, spay/neuter status, age and underlying disease. This article will focus on a brief overview of tackling the obesity problem. The short answer here is there is no magic bullet for weight loss, but rather the same answer there is for humans: diet and exercise. With that said let’s take a closer look at that and give some more specific recommendations.
Diet:    In a veterinary article I recently read, management of obesity in dogs and cats is as easy as following the three A’s: awareness, accurate accounting and assessment.

Awareness refers not only to coming to terms with obesity in your pet but also certain risks as well (breed, spay/neuter status, etc.). How does one identify obesity in a pet? Usually it’s a vet (the bad guy) that hints at the fact that Spike has gotten a little husky or Fifi a little fluffy. However, you can actually assess your own pet at home. Just go online and look up “Body Conditioning Score,” or “BCS” for short. If, after reviewing information online you are still unsure, I would recommend scheduling an appointment to consult with your veterinarian.

Accurate accounting may be the hardest thing (for us as pet owners) to face.  Food can be an act of bonding not only with other people but also with our pets.  We had one pet owner at our clinic with an obese dog she swore was only getting its food and no extra snacks or table food. After a bit of investigation I found out that the owner loved to cook and the dog was the “official taster” for every meal.  No table food meant no food directly from the table. This was a smart woman, but she felt that the dog would no longer love her if she took this bonding moment away. Unfortunately, this also meant the dog would soon have to be rolled into the clinic and not walk in under its own power.

To make life a little easier, there is a way to actually calculate calorie requirements by using a calculation called the Resting Energy Requirements, or RER for short. The RER is a starting point, and then in conjunction with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist you can calculate how much food to give at each meal. After accurately calculating how much food your dog needs for the whole day, you can break that up into as many meals as you’d like. It has been found that it is more effective to feed at least two and up to four smaller meals a day to lose weight than to free feed (fill up the bowl).

Treats also have calories and should not exceed 10 percent of the diet. There are now low-calorie treats available both commercially and as prescription low-calorie treats through your veterinarian.

Lastly, in terms of assessment, it is important to either weigh your pet at home or bring your pet to your veterinarian’s office for a weight (this helps with consistency especially for larger pets). We encourage pet owners with obese pets trying to lose weight to bring their pets in (at no charge) to be weighed.

Exercise: Exercise is key to good health for many reasons: It helps to maintain and strengthen muscle, it promotes cardiovascular health, it provides mental stimulation, and it increases energy expenditure and fat oxidation.

Obese dogs should be given low-impact cardiovascular exercise (a longer walk or swimming rather than chasing a ball) to avoid heat stroke or injury.

Obese indoor-only cats should have their play geared toward outdoor hunting and playing behaviors (climbing, balancing, scratching). Toys work well for some cats, while others prefer cat trees or play stations.  Interactive toys with the owner are best (especially for single-cat households) to lose weight, as well as promote bonding with the owner.

I hope that this series of articles will help to make our pets the healthiest and happiest pets ever this summer.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 16 years.