Keri Florida, DVM, works as an associate veterinarian with the Swartz Creek Veterinary Hospital, a walk-in private clinic, in Swartz Creek, Michigan. Most of Dr. Florida’s time is currently spent in the examination room, and, though she’s been a practicing veterinarian for just four years, her commitment to the welfare of her pet patients is clear.
“It’s my mission to be a voice and an advocate to animals, as they don’t have the ability to speak for themselves.”
Dr. Florida chatted with the Voice of the Vet™ recently on a prized day off, and she wanted to make it very clear from the get-go how she firmly believes that all veterinarians are courageous.
What do you think it means to be courageous as a veterinarian?
I feel all veterinarians by definition are courageous because the things we do are hard. We have to come up with treatment plans that match clients’ budgets. We perform life-saving surgeries and deal with aggressive animals. We also have to deliver sad news to pet owners in a way that doesn’t pass judgement or make them feel bad.
Why did you want to become a veterinarian?
It’s something I had always wanted to do since I was young. I know that’s probably something a lot of us say.
I received my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan-Flint and then my doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.
I always wanted to be a small animal veterinarian, mostly because that is where I felt the greatest connection since we always had dogs in our home when I was growing up. There is also an overwhelming support and comradery amongst the veterinary community, it inspires me every day.
Do you have a memorable rescue story you can share with readers?
Ferguson (called Fergus), who is pictured with me above at his going away party, is an English bulldog I took in from the local animal control. No one knew his age or where he came from. Fergus was flea infested when he was brought in by animal control. He also had a deep skin infection on the side of his face and had not been neutered. I cared for him and performed the necessary medical tests and procedures in order to get him healthy enough to go to a Bulldog rescue. I try to help provide as much medical care (vaccines, spay/neuter procedures) as I can to help offset some of the costs for the rescue.
Once Fergus had recovered, I gave him to the Chicago English Bulldog Rescue organization, who foster the dogs so they can be adopted. Although, Fergus was adopted, even before we arrived in Chicago, because he’s just a wonderful dog who loves to be with people and all other animals.
Fergus is the type of dog that would make a great bulldog for a first-time bulldog owner. I have worked with Chicago English Bulldog rescue on many occasions. They have helped me place approximately five English bulldogs, which is just incredible.
I have also fostered a lot of dogs over the years. In addition to my three dogs (Molly, Maya and Penelope) and two cats (Lucy and Edmund), I currently host two foster dogs: an English bulldog named Evelyn and an American bully, Chiquita. Evelyn is quite old and has many age-related medical issues; Chiquita struggles with behavior problems. Both will probably stay with me forever and that is fine by me. I could talk about them all day. They bring me so much happiness. I’ve had a penchant for dogs with “smushy faces,” including shar-pei and bulldogs ever since I was young.
What is the grossest wound you’ve ever treated?
The one that comes to mind was a Doberman named Electra that had a thermal burn all across her back from a heating pad. It was the circumference of the whole top of her body. Really bad. All the skin tissue was dead and infected, so I surgically removed the dead tissue and took underlying healthy tissue and stretched the skin closed. I placed a couple of Penrose drains and she healed very well. The surgery was performed for cosmetic reasons and to decrease healing time and pain. Scar tissue, especially of this size, burns easily and is prone to injuries and infection. I discussed options as well as potential outcomes with Electra’s owner who wanted to save her from any future pain as she had already been through so much. We both felt that surgical intervention was the best option for Electra.
Tell us the story of your favorite or most memorable animal who came to your clinic?
This one is easy to answer: her name is Hydra. She is a pit bull terrier that came to the clinic two years ago. She was very ill, not able to stand and her gums were very pale. She needed emergency surgery to remove her spleen. She had a tumor on her spleen that had ruptured and was causing her to bleed into her abdomen.
The surgery was successful—I was able to remove her spleen and stop further bleeding; however, immediately after surgery she was completely paralyzed—unable to even move her head. She also developed aspiration pneumonia. I’d never had a splenectomy patient become paralyzed before. I contacted specialists to discuss her case and they believed that she developed a blood clot. They also told me that she should be able to regain her mobility over time if that were the case. Hydra’s family was really engaged during her entire recovery—they came to visit with her at least once a day. We discussed all of their options and although we hit many roadblocks, they were totally committed to her recovery.
Twenty-four hours after her splenectomy, Hydra started moving her head and she was able to walk a few days later! It was some sort of miracle. Lab results showed that the splenic tumor was benign and she continues to be a happy and healthy dog.
“I’m not perfect at this, by any means. This is a craft I will continually try to hone.”
What is the one piece of wisdom you’d like to pass on to future veterinarians?
We just had a few vet students from Michigan State University in the clinic yesterday and my advice to them was that coming across as judgmental or disapproving with clients would take away their trust in you. And that can negatively impact your patient. After all, not everyone can afford gold-standard treatment.
For example, just the other day a big yellow Lab came into the clinic. He was about one and a half years old and had eaten about half of an eight-inch by eight-inch pan of old marijuana brownies he found in the trash. He had marijuana toxicity, which can have detrimental effects if left untreated. But, the owners couldn’t afford hospitalization. I was able to come up with other treatment options that would likely result in a good patient outcome—all because I understood the owners’ financial constraints, didn’t judge them and they trusted me. The Labrador quickly recovered and he is back to his normal, goofy self.
A HEALTHY VETERINARY PROFESSIONAL IS JOYFUL, PROFITABLE, EFFECTIVE, AND COURAGEOUS
This interview with Dr. Florida is the fourth in our series of interviews with veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and practice managers discussing their devotion to the noble veterinary profession and love for their pet patients. We hope you will follow us during this series.
If you are a clinical vet, vet tech, or practice manager we want to interview you for this series. It only takes an hour of your time and Zomedica makes a donation in your name to an animal charity of your choice.