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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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More than a meal

Vet 01

Whenever a Meals on Wheels team serves a senior or disabled citizen in the Bryan-College Station area, care for their pets isn’t far behind. 
Dogs and cats provide critical companionship to the home-bound and disabled, but their owners are sometimes unable to care for them — a need Meals and Wheels and the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation, TVMF,  teamed up to address. Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors, PALS, provides free food and veterinary care to the pets of clients served by Meals on Wheels. The organization just completed its first full year of activity and will continue to serve pets across the B-CS area with the help of Texas A&M students. 
Dr. Stacy Eckman, chief of the primary care service at the Texas A&M veterinary hospital, said Meals on Wheels identifies clients who have pets with needs that would otherwise go neglected.
 “What we do is send out a team of technicians and students to the client’s home, and the students get to interact with the clients,” Eckman said. “They take a history of the pets, and then we actually bring them back to the hospital where they get their full examination and any tests that they need.”
The PALS program is primarily concerned with giving the animals of home-bound individuals basic routine care.
“The basis of the program is annual examination, checking [the pets] for heart murmurs or cancerous masses, or if they have really bad dental fatigue or they have any other issues that need addressing we do that first and foremost,” Eckman said. “Then whatever immunizations they need, most animals need at least one or two or three vaccines on an annual basis. We also do heartworm screenings and do different checks for internal parasites.”
TVMF is able to cover the costs of any necessary medical procedures through several different routes of donations and fundraising. Merial, a pet pharmaceutical company, provides a year’s worth of heartworm and flea prevention and control for the pets, along with any other needed vaccines. The hospital then donates its services to administer these medications and treatments, resulting in zero cost to the client.
“Now that we have been doing this for a year, TVMF has been able to do some fundraisers for us to be able to provide some extra treatment or above and beyond just routine care like dental care, spays or neuters,” Eckman said. 
PALS benefits the community, but it also benefits Texas A&M students by providing them with first-hand experience. A&M veterinary hospital students are able to get experience working with clients and dealing with animals in clinical settings like they would in a veterinary practice of their own.
D’Lisa Whaley is a veterinary technician who works closely with the program. She said students involved in PALS perform various veterinary services.
“We help the students draw blood,” Whaley said. “We help them administer vaccines and any other type of testing that we might do. We teach them how we do it here versus how they learned when they were getting experience in the past.” 
Eckman said the experience is very rewarding for students. 
“It really has a big impact on them, you kind of get to see a twinkle in their eyes when they get to educate someone, and share that moment with someone,” Eckman said. “They make those connections here in the exam rooms too, but it just seems to have a deeper impact on them when they are out there in the world.”

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