Since my past couple of columns have been on serious matters, I thought it would be fun to do a year in review. I cannot believe another year has passed and it was quite an adventure!

The year began with a ball python, Kaa, going on a hunger strike. I ran some blood work, checked her for infection and was relieved to find that raising the temperature and humidity in her enclosure a bit solved the problem. It is common for ball pythons to refuse food in the winter, since they are very sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. If you have a reptile refusing to eat, be sure to have it checked by a veterinarian because it could be a sign of a respiratory illness.

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the unusual patients I get to see. In February, a toucan came to visit. The toucan was seen for a check-up, and similar to my ball python, an increase in temperature was recommended. Keep in mind, most of the birds we keep as pets are from tropical environments. Be aware of the temperature of their enclosures. Most tropical birds should be kept in temperatures 70 – 90 degrees. Anything colder or warmer can be harmful. They also benefit from a UVB light, since in the wild they spend much of their day soaking up the beautiful sunshine of their tropical home.

March brought us another addition, Aragog, the tarantula. She was brought in by a pet store for a growth on her abdomen. Some may find them frightening, but I am very fond of tarantulas. I offered to attempt to save the beautiful spider, so the pet store opted to surrender her (or him, it is difficult to sex tarantulas). I put the spider under anesthesia and used a scalpel blade to remove the abnormal tissue. I wasn’t sure if Aragog would live, since little information can be found on sedating or operating on spiders. I’m happy to report that she continues to do well. I had planned to take Aragog home to join my other two tarantulas, Shelob and Charlotte, but my staff grew attached to her. She resides in a terrarium on the clinic manager’s desk. Tarantulas can make great pets. They are low maintenance and eat only a few crickets per month. Most species are docile, but they prefer to be left alone. If you want a low care pet, that is interesting to watch, a tarantula may be right for you.

April brought a beautiful, but very ill chameleon. Unlike tarantulas, chameleons are extremely difficult to keep. I question if they should be allowed in the pet trade. Be mindful of the high level of care they require before purchasing one. During my time as a veterinary assistant and now a veterinarian, I have seen several. Sadly, all have been very ill, due to improper husbandry. Personally, I believe some animals are better off to be left in the wild, since their environments are almost impossible to mimic in captivity.

May brought two birds that ate their feeding tubes. The birds required surgery to remove the rubber gavage tube they were being formula fed through. Happily, both birds recovered. If you have a baby bird, please use a metal gavage tube for feeding. They are readily available online and your baby bird will not be able to bite it in half.

June was an exciting month because I chose the winner of our logo contest! July was also fun, when we held our third birthday party to unveil our new look to the community! August was more quiet than usual, as children finally got to return to school in person!

September brought us a very exciting change, the arrival of Dr. Elizabeth Collins. She moved to California from the east coast. The addition of Dr. Collins has allowed us to see more patients, which has been great news for our clients. She arrived just in time for our staff appreciation trip to Zoo to You in Paso Robles. Zoo to You is amazing facility and open to the public. It is worth a trip for any animal lover!

October, I organized the Skeleton Soiree. Lemoore showed great community support and approximately 30 skeletons were displayed in the downtown. Trend Setters Salon won the $500 prize! With the assistance of the Sheila at the Lemoore Recreation Department, I hope to make this an annual event.

My most memorable case in November was a dog that swallowed a sewing needle. Fortunately, mom kept a hold on the thread! In all the years I’ve been in the veterinary field, this was one I’d never seen. Thankfully, I was able to remove the needle and within the hour, the sweet pup was able to go home with mom.

December was full of puppies and kittens, as families welcomed new fur babies into their homes. I had a Christmas party for my staff. Finally, I closed out 2021 with my staff at Hanford’s Winter Wonderland skating rink on New Year's Eve. I feel blessed to work with such an amazing staff and to live in such a supportive community. Thank you to Kings County for another great year. Happy New Year everyone! May 2022 be happy and healthy.

Dr. Kaitlen Lawton-Betchel grew up in Lemoore. An alumni of West Hills College and Fresno Pacific University, she graduated from Midwestern University in Arizona with her doctorate of veterinary medicine and her business certificate. Dr. Kait currently practices out of Karing for Kreatures Veterinary Hospital, also known as K+K.

The hospital is located at 377 Hill St., Lemoore. To make an appointment, call 559-997-1121.

Her column runs every other Thursday.

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