Patient Story: Coco

Today on the blog, we feature Coco. We met Coco when he came in to VCA SFVS for an appointment with Dr. Margo Mehl, one of our veterinary surgeons.

Here, Coco shares a little bit about himself, via human companion Kevin, along with some great photos!

Hello! My name is Coco.



I was born on May 16, 2005, in Washington State. I don’t remember much about my first weeks but, evidently, I was adopted by my first human, Alison, at an early age. I was very popular in the retirement home and I loved her very much. However, her mobility difficulties caused me to miss my regular walks. We thus decided it was in my best interest to adopt Alison’s son as my new human and move to San Francisco with him. It has been a good move and I even got to see her a lot afterward.

My interests? I love long walks on the beach, sidewalk cafés, and a certain Maltipoo named Celeste. She more or less ignores me. Did I mention that they allow dogs in Parisian restaurants and the cheese is delicious? Très civilisé!

café chic

café chic

oui! oui!

oui! oui!

At home, my favorites are down-filled pillows and the crook in my dad’s arm. I take my status as a lap dog very, very seriously. I may be small but I have the heart of a lion and have kept my human safe with 100% effectiveness. I also stood down my two Mastiff cousins who used to like to chase me around.

In any case, I recently visited Dr. Mehl for consultation about my liver shunt and bladder stones. Surgery was the only option and, while I hated to leave my dad for TWO WHOLE NIGHTS, Dr. Mehl did a great job and the whole staff were so kind to me. I have bounced back and am back where I belong!

coco and kevin

coco and kevin

On behalf of my dad and me, thank you Dr. Mehl and all my friends at SF Veterinary Specialists! I’m looking forward to many more walks on the beach and maybe Celeste will finally notice me.

Thank you, Coco – it is our honor to be a part of your veterinary care team. (Good luck with Celeste!)

Our staff spotlight series allows our clients and friends to learn a little more about the people at VCA SFVS. This week we feature Dr. Justin Williams, a staff cardiologist at our hospital.

Name: Justin Williams

Your position: Staff cardiologist

When did you join VCA SFVS? August 2011

dr. justin williams with crystal, vca sfvs cardiology service coordinator

dr. justin williams with crystal, vca sfvs cardiology service coordinator, at a recent hockey game

Favorite part of your job? Working with a good group of people to help improve the quality of life of my cardiac patients.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Originally from Arizona, I decided to pursue veterinary medicine while attending UCLA. I then obtained my veterinary medical degree in 2007 from Colorado State University, completed an internship in small-animal medicine and surgery at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in west Denver, and finished a three-year cardiology residency at the MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston in 2011.

Any animal companions of your own? Two cats (Luca and Nell)

What do you enjoy doing outside work? Ice hockey and photography on trips with my family

What’s in your music rotation right now? Muse, Lumineers, Matt and Kim

Favorite TV show? Lost, and Game of Thrones

Anything else you’d like to share? I have three kids (ages 5, 3 and 1).

Patient Story: Quint

Today on the blog, meet Quint! A 7-year-old German shepherd, the handsome Quint came to our hospital to meet with veterinary surgeon Dr. Margo Mehl, to have a lump checked out.

After a successful surgery, there was good news: The mass turned out to be a lipoma (a benign fatty mass). We are pleased to report that Quint recovered within a few days and is living a happy, healthy life.


quint and his family

Here’s a little more about Quint, as shared with us by his human companion Luda:


Quint has been in our family since he was 8 weeks old and has truly become a beloved family member. His favorite activity as a puppy was to walk with his dad, Paul, to a hot dog stand and get a plain hot dog (no ketchup or mustard, please!).

As Quint grew up, he developed into quite a lazy dog and his favorite “activity” was to lie on the couch. Quint also really likes to dress up in costumes, hence the “Doggula” picture below.



He is an incredibly smart and loyal pet. He loves to go to Tahoe and enjoys playing fetch in the lake. Even though he is an 85-lb. shepherd, he is absolutely terrified of our cat and begs his sister, Kaila (another beautiful shepherd), to rescue him.


that’s the ticket!

To say that Quint is part of our family is an understatement. He brings so much laughter, joy and happiness to our family, and we are eternally grateful to the staff at VCA, and especially to Dr. Mehl, for saving our boy!

Thanks to Luda for sharing these photos and Quint’s story with us. We are honored to be on his veterinary care team and wish him many more Tahoe trips to come!


Recently, a pet parent had a question about a senior Labrador retriever who developed frequent, heavy panting. The dog is at a healthy weight, and he lives in an air-conditioned house (i.e., the panting isn’t related to obesity or heat).

So what could the heavy panting be a sign of?


According to Dr. Emily Adamson, a member of the VCA SFVS 2013-2014 intern class, the description of an older Labrador with heavy breathing and panting is most consistent with a condition called laryngeal paralysis.

The larynx, or voice box, is located in the beginning of the throat. In addition to controlling sound, it protects the airway. It opens to allow air to enter during inhalation, and closes when eating or drinking. With laryngeal paralysis, the muscles of the larynx do not work correctly and obstruct the dog’s ability to take a full breath.

Labradors are the most common breed to be diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis. In addition to frequent panting, affected dogs often experience noisy breathing, have a voice change (different bark), and tire easily with exercise.

The inability to take a good breath may also lead to anxiety and restlessness, and dogs may cough, gag and sometimes vomit. Vomiting is especially dangerous to an unprotected airway.

Diagnosis involves a sedated examination of the airway. On exam, the larynx does not open and close appropriately. Surgery is the treatment of choice and usually involves tying back one side of the larynx to keep the airway open.

Excessive panting can also sometimes be associated with feeling pain or anxiety.

The dog should receive a thorough physical exam by a veterinarian, who can help determine the appropriate diagnostics and treatments.

Related Resource:

Our own Dr. Winnie Ybarra, an internal medicine specialist here at VCA SFVS, was interviewed for an ABC7 News piece on drug development for the veterinary industry. We think she (and Sookie!) were great on camera.

Watch the video here > http://abc7news.com/pets/bay-area-company-researching-human-drugs-for-animal-use/245979/


In the segment, Dr. Ybarra warns pet owners about giving human drugs to their animal companions:

Ybarra said this doesn’t mean people should be turning to their medicine cabinets to treat their pets. Pets can be poisoned by some human-approved medications. “The ER service probably sees that at least once a day, if not more,” Ybarra said.

If you have questions about your pet and medications, please contact your furry friend’s primary care veterinarian or specialist.


Our staff spotlight series allows our clients and friends to learn a little more about the people at VCA SFVS. This week we feature Terry, lead customer service representative at our hospital.

Name: Terry Green

Your position/title: Lead customer service rep

When did you join VCA SFVS? April 2013


terry with teco and dugan, marin headlands

Favorite part of your job? Meeting all the special animals and clients

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I grew up in the Southeast Coastal Region of Florida. I lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina and Upstate New York before moving to San Francisco.

I have a B.S. in psychology from Florida State University, and worked as a social worker for people living with AIDS for almost 10 years. Then, I owned an antique store and art gallery for about eight years.

I have always had animal companions, ranging from mice, gerbils, hamsters, ferrets and fish, to cats and dogs. I have been working with rescues/shelters for almost 20 years now, from volunteer to board member to shelter director. I began working with vet clinics about four years ago, and was very excited to come on board with VCA SFVS, as I find specialty medicine really interesting.

What does your work day entail? Working directly with clients to check in and out. Answering lots of phone calls. Rooming patients. Creating charts and making sure all records are here. Balancing the daily books and making deposits.

Any animal companions of your own? I have two dogs, both Pembroke Welsh Corgis. The boy is 10 years old and his name is Dugan. The girl is 11 years old and her name is Teco. I also have two cats. The female is 14 years old and her name is Luna. The boy is 17 years old and his name is Arlo.

What do you enjoy doing outside work? I spend a lot of time exploring the city with my husband, Marco. We love to go to parks and the beach with the dogs. I love to see movies. I also enjoy volunteering to give back to the community.

What are you currently reading? Journey of Souls

What’s in your music rotation right now? Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Eva Cassidy, Sara Brightman and Amy Winehouse

Favorite TV shows? Six Feet Under and The Newsroom

Patient Story: Sneezy

Today on the blog, we feature Sneezy, one of Dr. Alan Stewart’s patients. Sneezy recently celebrated his 20th birthday, no small feat for a kitty! Below, his human companion Lisa shares some really wonderful photos of this special cat, along with a little more about him.



Many thanks to Lisa for putting all this together. It’s been our honor to be on Sneezy’s care team.

From Lisa:

Sneezy came to us (Simon and me) when he was 17 years old. He was born in Austin, Texas, and spent some of his early years with Phil, his original owner, in Austin, Los Angeles, and a few cities in the SF Bay Area.

Sneezy is a very cheerful and affectionate cat; he loves to be with people either to play or eat. He especially enjoys massages and shoulder-rides to get a glimpse of everything.

He loves to eat every kind of morning pastry from French croissants to Chinese pineapple buns (see photo below) or egg custard tarts. His palate for human delicacies is pretty internationally trained as well (just don’t let the vets know): rotisserie chicken, duck pâté, cheese, corn soup, porridge and broth.

our little secret

our little secret

His favorite pastime is to nap under the sun either on the back porch or anywhere inside the house where the sun hits. But he certainly has claimed ownership of all the chairs in the living room and our bed (whenever he can successfully sneak into the master bedroom).

Sneezy is a sweet darling and everyone thinks he’s still a baby kitty with his youthful appearance. We have just celebrated his 20th birthday with a triple-layer ice-cream cake.

happy birthday, handsome!

happy birthday, handsome!

We love him a lot and wish to celebrate many more birthdays with him, our sweet Zyzy (his nickname).

this looks like a job for superzz!

this looks like a job for super zyzy!


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