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Aviano Veterinary Clinic
Doctor Stephanie Kraft (right) and veterinary technician Dani Wheeler insert a tracheal tube into a patient before he goes into surgery to get a growth removed. The clinic, which services mostly dogs and cats, averages about 100 appointments a week, including roughly eight surgical procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Taylor Marr)
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Aviano Vet Clinic proves vital to four-legged friends

Posted 12/24/2008   Updated 12/24/2008 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Lindsey Maurice
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/24/2008 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Most everyone has heard the term "man's best friend" in reference to a valuable member of many people's families - the household dog. Like any family member, a dog's health and well-being is important.

This is something well understood by the Aviano Veterinary Clinic, an organization which is not only vital to base families with four-legged friends, but the 31st Security Forces Squadron's military working dog family.

The 10-person clinic staff averages about 100 patients a week, conducting routine services and roughly eight surgeries on dogs, cats and smaller animals such as hamsters.

"I've really enjoyed my time here (in the Aviano clinic)," said veterinarian Stephanie Craft, who has been working in the clinic almost two years. "It's nice to be able to see my patients through their ordeals from beginning to end. It makes you really appreciate what you do."

The veterinary clinic staff includes three veterinarians, a military veterinary technician, licensed veterinary technician, veterinary assistant, office manager, two receptionists and several Red Cross volunteers.

"We have a great veterinary staff here at Aviano," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Marta Acha, Aviano Branch Veterinary Services acting chief, who has been filling in for Maj. April Ulmer since October. "We've received lots of positive feedback in our recent survey about our staff and the services we provide. The only concern our customers noted was the limited parking our facility offers, with only seven parking spots."

Currently, the clinic has about 3,000 patients registered, including the eight military working dogs stationed on the base.

"We give all of our patients the best care possible, especially our military working dogs," said Dr. Acha, who is the Southern California Veterinary District Commander in her regular capacity. "We give our MWDs what I call the 'premium service' as they are a vital part of our military team and a major DoD investment."

Among the services provided to MWDs, each K-9 is given two regular exams a year, immunizations, dental exams, blood work and aid with any additional concerns that may come up such as dehydration or x-rays to ensure their hips are okay (a problem that some MWDs encounter).

The staff also trains military working dog handlers in basic medical care for their K-9 partners when possible for those times they are out in the field downrange and a veterinarian isn't close by.

"It's important that the handlers are trained in basic care," said Dr. Acha, whose has been a veterinarian for 20 years. "There won't always be a veterinarian nearby and they need to know what to do in certain instances."

The clinic staff spends the majority of its time servicing those pets of base families with everything from vaccinations and microchip insertion to physical exams, dental exams and sick calls. 

The clinic has also formed a good working relationship with local veterinarian Dr. Franco Carnevali, who provides pet passport exams for people traveling commercially with their pets outside of Italy. His authority would be the equivalent of a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian, said Dr. Acha.

In addition to routine exams, the clinic also contains a fully equipped surgical area complete with x-ray and in-house laboratory capabilities.

"We dedicate one to two days a week to surgeries averaging about seven to nine surgeries a day," said Dr. Acha. "This includes everything from neutering to tumor removal."

Another unique service the clinic is offering while Dr. Acha is there (until April 2009) is acupuncture.

"Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body," she said. "These stimulation points have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to achieve a healing effect. It can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasms and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body's pain control chemicals). This type of treatment can be particularly effective on older animals."

For more information on any of the veterinary clinic's services, to schedule an appointment or to register a pet, (which is a base requirement for all military members) call 632-8485.

"We understand how important our customers' pets are to them," said Dr. Acha. "They value them as part of their family and we treat them as such."

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