From Dino Doc to Exotics Doc…

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Olivia Petritz, DVM, DACZM, joined ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital, Los Angeles, in the fall of 2013 to head up our new Avian and Exotics department. Although her future was fairly clear cut, Dr. Olivia Petritz has had a few very exciting moments along the way. We sat down with Olivia to find out what led her to veterinary medicine and learn more about her.

How did Dr. Petritz decide she wanted to work with animals?
She has always loved animals and science. Since childhood, Olivia was certain she wanted to be a paleontologist. “I wrote letters to Paleontologists all over the world from the time I was five to about eighth grade. I have big manila envelopes full of letters from about 40 countries.” Once in high school, Olivia went to visit paleontologists in several museums and realized she wanted to work with living animals. Despite her change in occupation, the Brontosaurus still has a place in her heart.

What is her favorite animal?
Great Danes and Guinea Pigs. Why? “They have great personalities!”

Why exotic animals?
Dr. Petritz’s first job was at the Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette, Indiana, which housed several species of big cats, primates, birds, lizards, and more. At 18 years old, Olivia Petritz was simply cleaning cages and assisting staff to make sure the animals were happy and properly cared for; but she fell in love with the idea of being an exotics/zoo veterinarian and having the knowledge to treat all species. This job inspired her to become the avian and exotics specialist she is today!

What is the coolest procedure Dr. Petritz has ever done?
As a resident, Dr. Petritz treated an electric eel that had swallowed a plastic bag. “It swallowed not only the food in the bag but the whole bag as well! The bag got stuck in its mouth, and the eel couldn’t spit it out. We anesthetized the eel, removed the bag with an endoscope, and the eel did great!”

What is her favorite procedure to do?
Abscess surgery on any species. Dr. Petritz likes being able to fix, clean, and help heal patients with these infections.

Does Dr. Petritz collect anything?
“Masks. I have some from about nine different countries!”

Where is her favorite place to visit?
Dr. Petritz went to South Africa as a veterinary student. There, she helped dart and anesthetize rhinos, wildebeest and giraffe, and learned about conservation medicine. She fell in love with the country and was even able to extend her trip to see more of the area.

What’s her favorite dish?
“Anything with mashed potatoes—I’m still Midwest at heart!”

What about the Norman Rockwell painting?
Dr. Petritz’s father has been a Normal Rockwell historian for over 30 years, and has interviewed numerous people who modeled for the famous artist. Through her father’s hobby, she was able to meet the man who was the subject of Rockwell’s 1961 “The Veterinarian.” She even has a signed copy framed and hanging in her office.

What does she consider to be her greatest achievement?
“Becoming boarded in zoo and exotic medicine.” Dr. Petritz happens to be the first American and the second person in the world to become a board-certified veterinarian under the sub-specialty ZCA (Zoologic Companion Animal) in the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM).

What is one thing Dr. Petritz would like to tell pet owners?
Become knowledgeable about your pet before purchasing or adopting. It is so important to know about their diet, husbandry, life expectancy, and more before bringing your new family member home!

Dr. Olivia Petritz is one of over a dozen skilled and interesting doctors at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals, but one of less than 200 to be board-certified in her specialty worldwide. She brings cheery optimism, fierce knowledge, and passionate dedication to each patient she works with, and we are thrilled to call her part of our team. Dr. Petritz is available by appointment Monday through Friday, but is on-call 24×7 for emergencies with the assistance of our emergency department.

 

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Rex, the dog with nine lives.

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In November 2014, Rex, a nine year old Chihuahua mix, was rushed by his family into the Los Angeles ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital after collapsing at home. “Triage to the front, STAT!” rang out over the intercom as his lifeless body was brought up to our front desk. Veterinary technicians and assistants promptly dashed to the lobby to get the little guy back to the emergency room, as our triage team prepped the area so that the doctor, Dr. Nicole Skilling, was able to immediately begin chest compressions.

Dr. Skilling and her team were able to revive Rex, though suction was needed to clear the airway and due to low oxygen levels, he was intubated, which means his breathing could be done for him. Now safely on oxygen, Rex was given cardiac medication to help stabilize him. Things started to look better for the pup but when he went into cardiac arrest for the second time Dr. Skilling and her team leapt to his side once again to begin chest compressions. They were able to revive and stabilize Rex, keeping him comfortable until he was able to see our specialists the following day for further work up.

The following morning, Rex was transferred to the care of Dr. Tina Son, one of our board-certified Critical Care specialists, who kept Rex intubated on full oxygen support and medications. Board-certified veterinary cardiologist, Dr. Steven Cole then saw Rex to check his heart.

Eventually he was weaned out of the oxygen unit and allowed to eat on his own, with as much vigor as his “big heart” could muster!

Although Rex’s prognosis remained guarded and his care critical, his owners remained hopeful that their boy would make it. Slowly and almost as if by will, Rex began to recover. He was able to be extubated, which means the breathing tube was removed from his trachea, and Rex was doing well in his oxygen unit. He was sitting up, and even able to drink water on his own! Despite Rex’s exuberance, his owners and doctors insisted on taking things slowly. Eventually he was weaned out of the oxygen unit and allowed to eat on his own, with as much vigor as his “big heart” could muster!

Miraculously, Rex was discharged just three days after entering the emergency room dead on arrival; with what some may have thought was little chance of survival. No one was happier to have Rex reunited with his family more than our wonderful team of doctors and support staff….except maybe Rex and his parents.

Although Rex’s story is inspiring and resulted in a happy ending, it is important to remember that not all pets are this fortunate. That’s why it is important for pet owners to plan for emergencies. Simply knowing where the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital is can mean all the difference; because every second counts.

We wish Rex and his family all the best and look forward to following his recovery progress.

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Shannon Brown
Marketing Coordinator | ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals

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