Normal isn’t something we tend to strive for at my house in most things. But seeing clearly when something isn’t normal can be a life saving perspective.
One of the reasons I wanted to use Gigi Ta as a case study (look one post back) was to introduce an idea – learning to recognize when something falls outside the range of what you might expect. In medicine, we learn to call that the reference range. We understand that just because something falls outside of it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong – but it does mean you need to check it out.
For most of you, that means contacting someone from your source organization. Hopefully, when you picked up your new foster pets, you got information about what to do if you have a concern or problem. We love it when shelters provide really clear instructions about who to call even after hours if you need help. I’ll come back around to that in the next post.
So how do you learn to recognize problems? The best way to recognize when something isn’t normal is to have a really clear picture of what normal looks like. My favorite way to introduce this concept to vet students is to ask them to look at the undercarriage of a Guinea Pig. Try it sometime. If you haven’t spent some time looking at that you’ll never be able to guess if everything’s ok on a pop quiz! To humans, Guinea Pig normal looks a little strange.
I noticed from the poll we had on the first post that many of you are experienced foster caregivers. A big special welcome to those of you who are just getting started! I’m guessing almost all of you have spent a lot of time looking at animals and interacting with them. That kind of experience is invaluable. Don’t underestimate your powers of observation. One of the best tip offs I ever had as a shelter veterinarian was when a caretaker asked me to look at a dog because “his pee looks clear”. The caretaker didn’t have any idea what that might mean for the dog but understood it was outside her expectations. The dog had an infectious kidney disease we were able to treat because we picked it up early. The more you are conscious while you’re looking, the more information you’ll pick up, and the better off your foster animals will be. Think of each walk or foster interaction as a training session for you and an opportunity for your foster to tell you if something’s wrong.
So here’s a fun and easy pop quiz to get you rolling? Look at the picture of baby Ken at the top of this post and then answer the poll.