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June 2016

Veterinarians in Cinema

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This blog post is for fun.

I love the movies. One of these days I’ll pass along more of my favorites, but for now I’ll cover the ones I like that have veterinarians in them or relate to the profession. There haven’t been that many and most of the time veterinarians are only bit players. I’ll stick to the ones where we star. To start, I don’t think the animal specific ones like Dr. Doolittle count.

Groucho Marx played Dr. Hackenbush (his first name was never mentioned), a veterinarian who impersonates an MD to help save a sanatorium that has fallen on hard times; 1937’s A Day at the Races. Interestingly, it is the only Marx Brothers film to ever to garner an Academy Award nomination; for best dance direction…back when they gave awards in that category.

A day at the Races                   Groucho Marx


“Emily, I have a confession to make. I really am a horse doctor. But marry me, and I’ll never look at another horse.”

Dr. Hackenbush (taking pulse) ” Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped.”

Baby Boom starred Diane Keaton (Alert #1: She was in two of my all time favorite movies; Annie Hall and The Godfather) and her love interest in the movie was a veterinarian played by Sam Shepard. ( Alert #2: who was in another all-time favorite: The Right Stuff). Interestingly, Sam Shepard grew up on a ranch in California and originally wanted to become a veterinarian before he ended up in Hollywood. I figure, he and I are like…..connected. He wanted to be a veterinarian and I am one. I wanted to be in the movies and he is. Whew. I know, weird.

Babay boom        Sam Shepard

This is getting interesting.

Another movie with a veterinarian in it was a Steve McQueen/Allie McGraw drama, The Getaway. The guy who played Howard Sprague on the old Andy Griffith Show on tv, Jack Dodson, played a veterinarian kidnapped by McQueen. Here’s Dodson.

Jack Dodson

Incidentally, the little boy, Opie, in the Andy Griffith Show was played by Ron Howard who grew up to direct The Right Stuff with veterinarian wannabe, Sam Shepard. Here he is again.

Sam Shepard

Sally Struthers, from the old All in the Family television series played Jack Dodson’s wife in the Getaway. After All in the Family, she went on to star in a spinoff of that series called Gloria which featured a veterinarian played by Burgess Meredith. Here he is.


Meredith played the trainer of Rocky Balboa in all the Rocky films. (Alert #3, I loved Rocky I and II, but not III, IV or V or VI…..) So even though Rocky didn’t have a veterinarian in it, it did have an actor who played one on television. That counts.

And here’s the 6 degrees of Dr. Beebe. We have a wonderful client, Mrs. P, who is a retired actress who had a role in Rocky II with Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire. Talia Shire was also in….ta da….The Godfather with Diane Keaton before she starred in Baby Boom with veterinarian wannabe and Dr. Beebe alter ego, Sam Shepard. Amazing, right? Again…just in case you forgot what my “wanted to be a veterinarian but became an actor instead” alter ego looks like.

Sam Shepard

Finally, actor James Caan was also in The Godfather and another of my guilty pleasure films, Rollerball (the original one from 1975, not the crummy remake of 2002). Before he went to Hollywood, Caan attended Michigan State University. A few years later that’s where I went to veterinary school. Who knew? Here’s a picture of Caan, another MSU Spartan who became an actor…like…well… know….

James Caan       Michigan















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Without question dental problems are the most common issue we deal with in our patients on a daily basis. Pet owners need to understand that it can be very difficult to know if their dog or cat is suffering from oral pain. Certainly, if you can detect a foul odor from the mouth, see blood or your pet shows a reduced interest in his food a dental issue may be the culprit.

This is where we come in.

Many times a pet’s appetite may not be affected very much by bad teeth. Our pets are usually well adjusted and they try to get through their day as best they can. They don’t understand why their mouth hurts. They just deal with it; maybe by eating a little more slowly, chewing less and swallowing the food whole or they manipulate the food around inside their mouths in order to avoid the sore spots. It can be difficult to know.

Lots of things can affect your pet’s appetite, but in general, if your dog or cat acts hungry but doesn’t eat as enthusiastically as you are used to seeing, think about dental issues.

This year we upgraded our equipment so we can now take dental X-rays just like your dentist. In fact, the equipment we use is the same as my personal dentist’s. Unlike you and me, however, we can’t place the films between your dog’s teeth and snap a film. They need to be under anesthesia. They don’t sit still and won’t hold that disgusting cardboard thingamajig that makes us gag between their teeth vhbjffwhile we say “hold it”.

And the good news is we can now see lesions we could not see before. Seemingly normal looking teeth and gums can have significant damage below the surface. Broken teeth and root abscesses are more common than you think. When we perform a dental cleaning now we recommend a full set of oral X-rays. It doesn’t add that much to the cost and it frequently allows us to fix a problem right then and avoid futu
re problems and added expense. Your dog and cat will be much happier too.

Afterwards, we can recommend a number of ways for you to keep your dog’s teeth clean and avoid future dental expenses. The new “OraVet” chews made by Merial (the Heartguard and NexGuard people) are terrific. They look like a traditional “greenie” but contain delmopinol which is a human dental, plaque preventing product found in pastes and mouthwashes. It really works and most dogs love them. They taste like peanut butter. Check them out at our front desk.

hgdhjdjoravetAnd believe it or not, marrow bones are also wonderful plaque preventing tools for dogs who accept them.



We recommenBrushd alternating OraVet and marrow bones 2-3 times each per week to keep plaque at bay.Dental

Even brushing your dog’s teeth helps…if he or she will let you. You don’t need any special pastes. Just using a soft, moist tooth brush will do. Brush the outside and crowns of the teeth. Don’t worry about the inner part. Plaque doesn’t form there very well.
Now, as for kitty cats….well….that’s entirely different. They don’t like having their teeth brushed. Try it if you like. Let me know how you do. There are also a number of chew toys on the market that claim to keep cat’s teeth clean but I’m suspicious. Sometimes these gadgets get swallowed and cause all sorts of digestive problems, so I say avoid them. T/D, a dental diet for cats can be very helpful. The key is that your cat must chew them….crunch, crunch, crunch.  They’re very crusty in the middle; like a crouton, and they can scrape off plaque and keep it from building up. There is a doggy version of the diet too. We have them at our front desk.


In the end, clean teeth and fresh breath are well worth the effort. When I see an elderly dog or cat with all their teeth still there, most of the time they are very healthy pets.