A Minute With… Jim Martin

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Flu outbreaks, immunizations, and obesity: they’re not just for people anymore. Jim Martin, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and owner of Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital, says many of the hot topics of human health care are also of high concern in the world of veterinary science—including health insurance. Raised on his family’s beef cattle ranch in Lake County, Martin, 44, has had a lifelong devotion to animal health and well-being. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Florida in 1994, Martin spent several years specializing in food animal medicine before turning to companion animal medicine.

Though the animal-named/people-affecting Swine Flu has more than made an appearance in Central Florida, Martin says he’s not expecting a mass outbreak among local dogs of the more-appropriately-named Canine Flu. While immunizations are a constant controversial topic among his contemporaries, Martin’s approach is to tailor vaccines to a pet’s individual lifestyle, rather than simply administering yearly shots. And while more and more Americans become obese, the effects of the health crisis could be trickling down to their pets.

Martin took time to share his thoughts on pet care and trends with us at Watermark. For more information on Martin and his clinic, visit LochHavenVet.com or call 407-896-0941.

JimMartin_253346302.jpgWhat pets did you have as a child?
We had the typical cats and dogs, and we had all the other farm animals: chickens, pigs, but the livelihood of the farm was the cattle. My first pet was a poodle; her name was Fifi. She was a family pet, but we had a lot of working dogs for the cattle.

Health care finances are certainly a hot topic of discussion these days. Are there health insurance options for pets?
There are, and they are underutilized. Probably 80% of pet owners, maybe more, do not utilize pet insurance for companion animals. Thank goodness it doesn’t work in the same mode as health insurance for people. It’s simpler and it leaves the pet owner in charge. It doesn’t go through my office. Insurance for pets can make a trip to the vet much less expensive.

A recent poll showed that many pet owners are willing to perform CPR on their pets, but when it comes to some basic safety precautions, many don’t practice them.
All of us here are trained in pet CPR. We do CPR when there’s a critical case, like a cardiac arrest. The last time I performed CPR was just two weeks ago. It’s the same exact principles as people CPR—airway, breaths, compressions.

There are some things though in a first aid kit for people that you wouldn’t give to a pet. You can’t go stuffing Advil down a dog’s throat. And Tylenol could kill a cat. A disaster kit would be a good idea, though.

How should we prepare our pets for disasters, such as hurricanes?
I think all pets should be micro-chipped. It’s a permanent identification that cannot be altered. You should keep copies of basic medical records, including what vaccines the pet has had and any medical abnormalities that might need specific care. Also, have water and non-refrigerated food available for your pet, just like you would for yourself.

Another aspect of people health that’s of current high discussion is childhood obesity. Is that crossing over into pets too?
It’s actually one of the hot topics in the last couple years with pets. People literally kill their pets with kindness because they think they’re being good to them when they over-feed them. It has a lot to do with lifestyle, a lack of exercise, and poor feeding habits. Some of it is genetic, but a lot of it can be the lifestyle of the owner.

Obesity in pets is a huge problem. We consider it a disease. And it does have its consequences. You can kid around about pets sometimes looking like their owners or vice versa…a pet can come in and be a plump butterball and their owner is a plump butterball. Or some of them are really fit pets; you know they go out running, and their owners are runners. There are studies on whether pets emulate their owners and there may be some truth to that.

But pet obesity is one of the biggest problems we see in veterinary medicine right now. And it’s so subtle some people don’t even realize it. Fat pets are cute, just like fat kids. They’re huggable and loveable but it’s a disease. It can be a disaster waiting to happen.

People have strong emotional attachments towards their pets, but it’s been said that for gays and lesbians that draw can be stronger, usually because of a lack of children. Do you see any of that in your practice?

I think it’s absolutely true. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a stereotype that is definitely validated that many gays and lesbians treat their pets like children. It seems to be that gays and lesbians are more meticulous about their pets: keeping up on health care, immunizations, check-ups, grooming.

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