Archives for October 2011

The Laundresses of Encina

I happened to capture a photo of two of our resident blood donor kitties “helping” with the laundry. Squeakers is the beautiful tuxedo kitty on the left, Sammi is the sweet tabby to the right. We adopt good-tempered adult cats that are over nine pounds from local shelters and utilize them as in-house blood donors for two years. After the two year period, we adopt them out to forever homes. Sammi is currently looking for a home, and would do well in a dogless home. If you are interested in learning more about our blood donor program, or would like to inquire about Sammi, please e-mail us at or call (925)937-5000.

Homeward Bound, Charlie's Big Adventure

When one of our dear neurology patients went missing this winter, we were both sad and worried. “Charlie” Hallissy was well known around our hospital for his warm hugs, and for being so relaxed during his exams that he would actually groom himself while Dr. Adamo spoke to his mom Aileen. Please welcome our guest blogger Aileen Halissy, as she shares the story of how “Charlie” was tragically lost and triumphantly found.

Charlie’s Return

On January 28, 2011 at about 9:00 p.m. Charlie wanted to go outside. This was not unusual for him to go out at night. I let him out planning on bringing him back inside for the night in about an hour. When I went out an hour later I couldn’t find him. This did not worry me at first because he had spent the night out before. He would go into the garage where it was warm/dry and be on the porch in the morning for breakfast.

When he did not come home on Saturday morning I began to worry. I notified everyone
I could think of, i.e. AKC Animal Companion Recovery, the vet, Encina and a host of others. After a couple of days I posted flyers with Charlie’s photo all over the neighborhood. I lost count of how many I put up on various telephone poles.

When I spoke with Encina they suggested I put Charlie’s information up on Craigslist. I had never used Craigslist before so I didn’t do it right away. About a week after I spoke with Encina I figured “what the heck” and put Charlie’s information up on Craigslist and I prepared to wait.

A couple of days later, I was chatting with a friend of mine on Facebook and we decided to go around the neighborhood and hand out flyers with Charlie on it asking them to call me if they saw him. People in my office kept asking me if I had heard anything about Charlie. I don’t think any lost cat had so many priests, nuns and religious praying for his safe return. He even had a candle lit for him at the Vatican in Rome.

Well, after about a week of having Charlie on Craigslist (about 2-1/2weeks after he disappeared) I was at work and happened to check to see if there was anything and there was! Someone posted that they sent me something three days prior which I never got. They said they thought the cat that had been living in their garage might be Charlie. They even posted a photo. It sure looked like Charlie. I had my boss and a couple of other people take a look to make sure. I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

When I had trouble responding to the post from Craigslist, I called Encina and a very nice person there took the trouble to respond to it for me since my computer at work wouldn’t do it properly. The tech at Encina gave the person all the information to get a hold of me and she even gave them their phone number so all bases would be covered.

Well, within one hour of that e-mail being sent I got a phone call from the person who had been taking care of Charlie. My boss lent me her car to pick him up. When
I got to the house where he was “staying” and the minute I saw Charlie I knew it was him! My baby was back!

I called Encina to see if it was ok to bring him in to have a quick “check up” since he had been gone for awhile. They said fine. Other than losing a little bit of weight he was fine. I thought it was cute that every tech in the office came to see him. I am especially glad that Ashley, Dr. Adamo’s assistant happened to be there to see him.

Charlie is doing fine although he is not happy about being in “kitty cat jail” right now. The only way he is going outside right now is on a tether. It does look a little funny “walking” a cat but I don’t want to take a chance on losing him again.

I can’t thank Encina enough for giving me the idea to put his photo up on Craigslist. I may never have gotten him back if I didn’t. He is my baby and now my heart is whole again.

Welcome to Chez Encina!

The Unique Structure of Encina Veterinary Hospital

When describing my workplace to friends, the easiest metaphor I have found to liken our hospital structure is to that of a restaurant. Encina boasts four teams, Client Services, Doctor’s Assistants, Patient Care, and Doctors. Read on for a break down of each team’s description and duties.

Client Services: These are the faces you see when walking through our over-sized wooden front door. Also known as receptionists, it is the duty of the client services team to field phone calls, and also to check clients in when they arrive and charge them out upon their departure. They also give hospital tours, so if you are interested in venturing beyond the exam rooms please feel free to ask for a tour. Barb E. is the leader of this cheery pack. In my restaurant metaphor, they are the hostesses of Chez Encina.

Doctor’s Assistants: Each daytime doctor has their own personal assistant, and emergency doctors have rotating assistants. It is the responsibility of the assistants to put clients in the exam room, and to expedite all aspects of the visit (filling prescriptions, scheduling appointments, preparing vaccines, filling out paperwork, etc.). Doctor’s assistants also help to answer phones. When you call Encina and you are transferred by client services to another person, it is typically a doctor’s assistant that fields the more involved questions. Kathy is the team leader for this diverse group of ladies. Basically, the doctor’s assistants can be likened to the waitress position in a restaurant.

Patient Care: The most varied of the teams, patient care handles all aspects of carrying out medical procedures and treatments on pets, under doctor supervision. This team encompasses kennel staff (that handle boarders and hospital duties such as stocking and sterilizing), surgical technicians, inpatient technicians (who care for hospitalized patients) and outpatient technicians (they perform services for pets that are only here for a short time). The team is so large, that both Amanda and Rebecca are needed to lead the pack. They are the line cooks of our Encina restaurant.

Doctors: The chefs at Chez Encina oversee all medical cases, see patients, perform surgeries, and are in a leadership role in nearly every aspect of what we do.

Meet Melina…And Melina!

We couldn’t have been more surprised when a very cute new patient strolled into our hospital on a Sunday morning this fall…because she shared a very uncommon name with one of our client service representatives! Melina is truly an uncommon moniker, as it is number 2,397 on the list of popular names in the United States. Both Melinas you see above share a warm and friendly personality and beautiful brown eyes. Please send us your unusual pet names at!

Albuterol Inhaler vs. Bella

Recently, a client of ours brought their precious dog Bella into Encina Veterinary Hospital on an emergency basis, after the owner noticed Bella had chewed on an Albuterol inhaler. While at home, Bella’s owners noticed that Bella had became very restless and had an extremely rapid heart rate while at rest. She even tried to eat but ended up throwing it all up soon after. They knew they had to get her emergency care right away.

What Bella had chewed on is a very common medication found in American households; Albuterol inhalers. This inhaler is commonly used in human medicine to help relieve bronchospasm associated with conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Albuterol is also used in animals for similar reasons to help alleviate cough.

But a too high of a dose can be life threatening, elevating the heart rate to life-threatening levels. Toxicity can also cause very low potassium levels in the blood which, in turn, leads to extreme weakness, in-coordination, and, potentially, death. Other signs which are often seen in dogs that puncture albuterol inhalers include vomiting, dilated pupils, severe agitation/hyperactivity, elevated blood pressure and vomiting.

Bella was admitted to the hospital for overnight treatment and monitoring. Blood work was performed to reveal any electrolyte abnormalities, as albuterol toxicity can cause a decrease in potassium and other important electrolytes. Low potassium can have severe consequences on an animal, as it is necessary for all muscle and nerve function. Too low of a potassium can lead to difficulty breathing and irregular heart beat.

Fortunately for Bella, her potassium levels were only slightly lower than normal. She was supplemented with potassium and her levels were normal by morning. Bella also received a drug that helped stop the effects of albuterol, allowing her heart rate to decrease and reducing her excitability.

By morning, Bella seemed much improved. She was now resting comfortably and had a normal heart rate. Bella was sent home later than morning, and owners report her to be back to her old self again!

Dr. Nadia Rifat

Meet Our 2011-2012 Interns!

Every July, we welcome 6 newly graduated veterinary doctors for a one year rotating internship in our hospital. Once someone graduates from veterinary school, they are free to practice veterinary medicine but a select few decide to continue their education; those select few are our interns.

During their one year rotating internship with us, each intern spends some time with each of our doctors; internal medicine doctors (Dr. Roger Johnson, Dr. Peter Nurre & Dr. Jenifer Wang), general practice doctors (Dr. Jill Christofferson & Dr. Blythe Jurewicz), dentist (Dr. Katrina Hall-Essoe), neurologist (Dr. Filippo Adamo), oncologist (Dr. Stephen Atwater), surgeon (Dr. Carl Koelher), emergency doctors (Dr. Gerry Martin Del Campo, Dr. Molly Priest & Dr. Dorothy Hoppe) and even get to help manage the Antioch emergency clinic (East Bay Veterinary Emergency).

Often times, veterinary students graduate and begin practicing without much “real world” experience; they receive impressive grades, excel in school work and clinics but they haven’t seen the inside of an exam room and a concerned owner. Our rotating internship not only broadens their educations and improves their techniques, but it also gives them an opportunity to ask for help, guidance and advice in their first year as doctors.

Meet our 2011-2012 interns!

Dr. Cindi Hillemeyer
I went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder and attended veterinary school at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska but have called Sun Valley, Idaho home for about 15 years – I love the mountains! I wanted to be a veterinarian for many reasons, most of all because I love the job and people involved. I have a curious/medical mind and enjoy helping people as a past EMT, but much much prefer working with animals and their people!
Growing up in Alaska, wildlife was a part of me; I’ve always wanted to help with their conservation, so while in veterinary school I decided to pursue a masters degree in conservation medicine. I was one of 3 people to get a ‘dual degree’ DVM/MSc and part of that was a summer in Africa, learning about conservation in Africa as well as wildlife handling, poaching and the problems Ugandans face with the human population encroaching on wildlife habitat. It was an eye-opening experience and the people were amazingly appreciative of what little they had. Ultimately I’d love to incorporate those experiences with veterinary work down the road working with wildlife conservation, reintroductions, etc. For now, I’m enjoying learning top notch medicine for small animals and next year may incorporate some large animal work as well. I love surgery as well as the huge variety involved in this career. There are so many fun options to choose from being a veterinarian!

Dr. Christine Fabregas
I grew up in Northridge, CA which is part of the San Fernando Valley just North of Los Angeles. As I was growing up, my family bred Shih-Tzus and as soon as I saw those little puppy faces, I knew wanted to take care of them. The runt of the second litter became sick a few days after she was born. She needed special attention with bottle feedings, heat support, urination/defecation. Unfortunately, she passed away the following days after treatment. This event solidified my goal to becoming a veterinarian in the future. I also enjoyed Mathematics and the theory behind the science. I graduated with a Bachelors in Mathematics from University of California, Los Angeles and then perused my degree in veterinary medicine at Ross University, finishing my clinical year at the University of Pennsylvania. During my time in veterinary school, I joined numerous clubs such as the SVECCS (worked emergency shifts throughout semesters, coordinated a speaker for multiple day talks to the student body), Pathology Club (working with green vervet monkeys, green sea turtles, dogs, and cats), and the Feline Club. Every Friday in the afternoon, I played beach volleyball with other students. It was just the right balance I needed to keep me stress-free during the week. I am currently deciding between General Practice, Emergency Medicine, and Cardiology. This year will guide me in the right direction, I’m sure of it!

Dr. Ruth Dunning
I grew up in Milwaukee, WI but luckily, my entire family now calls California home. I am a proud graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine (GO BULLDOGS!!!). I knew I wanted to be a vet because I love working with animals AND the people who love them unconditionally. Plus, medicine is fascinating! When I wasn’t busy studying in veterinary school, I found time to work on animal welfare reform and issues. One of my proudest moments was when I was named the Humane Society of The United States 2011 Veterinary Student Advocate of the Year. General practice medicine is what I enjoy the most, so I will probably focus on that once I’ve finished my internship at Encina Veterinary Hospital.

Dr. Nadia Rifat
I am originally from Laguna Niguel in Southern California and went to veterinary school at University of California, Davis. I was one of those kids who wanted to be a veterinarian and then just never grew out of it! I have always had a love for animals and a desire to help them and their human companions. Although I enjoy working with companion animals, I also have a passion for zoo/wildlife, particularly marine mammals. During veterinary school, I had some really amazing opportunities: I was able to work with seal pups in Washington, work at Sea World in San Diego, and work at a wildlife sanctuary in Australia.

After this internship, I would ideally like to go into private practice and/or emergency with a bit of wildlife work in the mix.

Dr. Maryam O’Hara
I grew up in the Bay Area and attended UC Davis School of veterinary medicine. I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian and help animals in their time of need. Although I grew up in the Bay Area, I call Moscow, Russia my home as it is my birthplace.

While in veterinary school, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA. This was a great experience as it showed me what the veterinarian’s day to day role is in maintaining the safety of our nations food supply. I plan on working in small animal general practice after completing my internship here at Encina Veterinary Hospital but in the future, I hope to expand my knowledge and work with small mammals and exotic pets.

Dr. Erica Chiu
I’ve always been an avid dog lover my whole life and as I got older, I began developing an interest for medicine, science and weird infectious diseases — it seemed natural to become a veterinarian! I completed my undergraduate education at UC San Diego and graduated veterinary school right here at UC Davis. One of the greatest experiences I had in veterinary school was the educational opportunity to spend a summer at the San Diego Zoo researching Avian Tuberculosis. Once I complete my internship in July of 2012, I am hoping to practice small animal (cat and dog) general practice and emergency.

National Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week!

This week is the National Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to say “thank you” to the hard working members of our patient care team! Without the dedication, expertise, and hard-work of our technicians and kennel assistants, Encina Veterinary Hospital would not be able to provide the high level of patient care that we boast about! If you happen to stop by the practice this week, please take a moment to say “thank you” to the registered veterinary technicians, technician assistants, and kennel assistants who excel at keeping our patients happy and healthy.

Thank you to Registered Veterinary Technicians: Jessica, Susan, Meg, Rebecca D., Amanda, Elaine, Kailie, Danielle Q., Pattie, Sarah, Rebecca S, Barb, Lisa, and Nicole.

Thank you to Technicians: Julia, Zavira, Kristyn, Vanessa, Lesette, Danielle P., Lindsay, and Alicia.

Thank you to Kennel Assistants: Fiona, Lauren, and Tim.


Thank you to Registered Veterinary Technicians: Jessica, Susan,Meg, Rebecca D., Amanda, Elaine, Kailie, Danielle Q., Pattie, Sarah, Rebecca S, Barb, Lisa, and Nicole.

Thank you to Technicians: Julia, Zavira, Kristyn, Vanessa, Lesette, Danielle P., Lindsay, and Alicia.

Thank you to Kennel Assistants: Fiona, Lauren, and Tim.

Don't Let the Rain Get You Down

A little bit of cuteness to brighten up a dreary day. The photo above was taken by our technician Julia, who moonlights as our hospital photographer. Julia has a passion for taking pictures of animals, and as you can see, is very skilled at doing so. To see more of Julia’s work, please see our Facebook page at, she took all of the picture for our Staff Halloween Costume Contest!

Dr. Jen Wang Becoming Board Certified

I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a child. I was always drawn towards stuffed animals and the very first one I got was of the Snoopy character from Peanuts, which I just LOVED to death. Over time, Snoopy’s neck got very limp and worn out from playing with him so much so I performed surgery on his neck using cotton and sewing materials.

My parents didn’t allow me to have pets growing up but one day, my high school Spanish teacher was giving away hamsters. I said, “Two please!”, and brought home 2 female hamsters appropriately named “The Black One” and “The White One”. Oh, how I loved these hamsters! They were great! I made a homemade harnesses and a yoke and let them run around strapped to each other. After 3 years, they passed away but I had no access to a veterinarian back then. My high school teachers knew how much I loved those hamsters because I talked about them so much, they had a moment of silence for me when they passed. It didn’t really dawn on me to be a vet until then – I guess it was always just an underlying assumption everyone had about me.

I completed my undergraduate courses at UC Berkeley and then went to Ross University in the Caribbean (St. Kitts Island). After that, I did a one year clinical at University of Wisconsin and graduated in 2007. When I first started attending veterinary school, I thought I wanted to specialize in surgery but as the classes went on, I found that I was much more interested in medicine (and better at it). Then while in clinics, the medicine rotations were much more interesting to me than any other ones, that’s how I knew Internal Medicine was the specialty for me.

To become board certified means that you have dedicated more time to studying medicine at a deeper level. It’s far from easy too; once you graduate veterinary school it’s required that you do a 1 year internship (optional additional 1 year medicine internship), 3 year residency, 2 huge tests, 1 published paper and then board certification!

The hardest part of the entire board’s process was disciplining myself to read and study after working full-time (plus more) while trying to balance my family, friends and pets. It wasn’t east but I am so proud to have done it!

Dr. Jenifer Wang