Vet Tech Students Help Rescue Group

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Vet Tech Students and Dog Image

Ashley Geraci and Meredith Standish are veterinary technician students helping the RTRS rescue 19 Maltese.

Community partnerships can benefit both the volunteer and the organization — additionally, in a unique collaboration between students and a rescue group, many small furry individuals also now walk with a little more spring in their step.

The Veterinary Technician Program at Truckee Meadows Community College has been partnering with Reno Tahoe Rescue Society (RTRS) since the time the organization was founded in 2011, said Michele Noreen, D.V.M., Veterinary Technician Program Coordinator.

“We’ve worked with Reno Tahoe Rescue Society helping many animals that come from Washoe County Animal Services needing veterinary care and new homes,” she said. “Some of the harder to place animals go to the RTRS and other local non-profit rescue organizations.”

RTRS is staffed by volunteers who foster animals in their homes. Their main website is located on Facebook. In addition to dogs and cats, they also handle birds, reptiles and some exotic animal rescues. Recently, they cared for baby goats who were dying when they were taken away from their mothers and not properly cared for.

The organization helps TMCC vet tech students further their learning by bringing in to class animals such as pot-bellied pigs, and other unique species.

During the 2015 Fall Semester, students assisted with caring for a tiny three and one-half pound tri-color Chihuahua. The three-year-old small breed dog was visibly terrified in a shelter environment, surrounded by noisy animals and a lot of activity.

“She was so scared, nervous and biting, that you could hardly pick her up, so the students picked her up in a towel and held her” she said. “Then she calmed down and we were able to get bloodwork done, assess pain management, and spay her. She ended up getting adopted through RTRS into a good home.”

The organization matches animals to their forever home.

“RTRS really gets to know the animals — fostered in volunteers’ homes — and therefore they can match them with a good adopter,” she said. “This was definitely the case for the Maltese dogs.”

Vet Tech students helped care for rescued Maltese dogs

There was a hoarding situation in Lyon County with 30 Maltese breed dogs in the home of an elderly woman with dementia, Dr. Noreen said. The dogs were taken away from the house, and RTRS was given 19 of them. The rest of the dogs went to other rescue groups.

Dr. Noreen provided rabies vaccines and a physical exam. They needed to be spayed or neutered, and many needed dental care, she said.

Eight male dogs were neutered and given dental care by Dr. Noreen and the veterinary technician students, free of charge to the non-profit RTRS.

Students provide patient care and monitor anesthesia during surgery. They then do the dental cleaning. If any extractions are needed, these are completed by Dr. Noreen.

“We had trouble intubating many of the dogs for the surgery, and learned that they had been ‘debarked’ in an unethical manner,” she said. “There was permanent damage to the entrance of the trachea.”

Dr. Noreen told this story of one of the little dogs.

“Patients need to be intubated for anesthesia, and one small male was particularly challenging to intubate,” she said. “He had suffered even more serious consequences of his debarking than the other dogs, but he needed dental care. Usually the students intubate the patients, but his was especially difficult. Finally the smallest tube available was placed, and we proceeded to perform a dental, with the extraction of multiple diseased teeth. He has done well and no longer has all of that infection in his mouth.”

Because spaying is a longer surgery than neutering, and becomes an even longer procedure when dental work is added, the females were treated by Dr. Dose’s Pet Vets in north Reno. Veterinarian Sharon Dose provided spaying and dental work at a very reasonable fee, Dr. Noreen said. Prior to the spay surgeries, the TMCC vet tech program was able to complete some of the physical exams and bloodwork on the females in order to lower the additional veterinary bill for RTRS.

“You could really see how much better the dogs felt after receiving appropriate care and their procedures,” she said. “All have been adopted to date except four of the females who still need to be spayed. Rescue groups rely on donations for medical expenses, so I’m glad we could help where we could.”

Assisting with this rescue effort became the semester-long project for the advanced animal nursing class.

“It involved further anesthesia, surgical nursing, and dental experience for the students, and there was a lot of gratification helping these little dogs,” she added.

Shea Schultz, Vice President of RTRS said that the collaboration with TMCC has been invaluable.

“Everyone at RTRS is extremely grateful for Dr. Noreen and the students for all they have done to help the rescue animals that come to us,” Schultz said. “They have gone above and beyond in every situation, and we can't even begin to express how thankful we are. Without them it would not have been possible.”

Fourteen students will be graduating in May

Next month, 14 students will receive their Associate of Applied Science, Veterinary Technician degrees. “Most of the students have jobs already, putting their skills to use,” Dr. Noreen said. She wishes to express gratitude to the Washoe County Regional Animal Services. “The Vet Tech program thanks the Washoe County Regional Animal Services for the use of their facilities to support educational and rescue work in the community,” she said.

For more information about the Veterinary Technician Program please call 775-850-4003.