Looking after pets in California’s Central Valley

When entering Ripon Veterinary Hospital in California’s Central Valley, one is immediately struck by the hustle and bustle of a well oiled, all female veterinary machine with Dr.Debra Daniel’s – the principle – with over 40 years of clinical experience, calm and confidently in the center of the storm…..

Today the focus is on neutering cats for one of the local animal shelters.

Several cat traps had been placed in local gardens over night and a decent number of stray cats had been caught. If there is evidence that they already had been neutered (eg a clipped off ear tip), they are only checked over and released again.

The others are with great efficiency been sedated by the team of technicians and after they have been treated against parasites, they are prepared for surgery. Here as well, the middle approach is favored over the flank technique. New to me – once castrated or spayed – a small incision is made just 1 cm or so next to the operation site and a small amount of green tattoo ink is applied to the wound, to identify the cat as being castrated in the future.

Unlike in the UK – and much to the envy of Dr.Debra – microchipping isn’t compulsory in this part of the world, neither for dogs nor for cats.

Comparing typical prices for veterinary procedures, I learn that a course of initial vaccination, neutering and parasite treatment can easily cost an American cat owner $500 – considerably more than in most clinics in the UK.

Despite these prices the number of insured pets remains fairly low though – something which unfortunately is making it not uncommon that treatment can not be given because of the cost involved.

A huge change for me – after working so long in Sweden – is to see once again a well stocked veterinary pharmacy, enabling the team to send patients home with all the medication they need at the end of the consultation or operation, rather than relying on the limited amount of veterinary drugs at the local pharmacy. It certainly is making life much easier…

However – this in turn means that antimicrobials remain far more readily available and are also used more frequently. So are there some raised eyebrows when I report that following my experiences in the North, I no longer use antibiotics for the treatments of cat bite abscesses. I wonder if Debbie and her team will follow my recommendation to give it a try as well……

A piece of equipment I am not familiar with is an automated testing device for the detection of parasite eggs in faecal samples. With the Mediterranean climate in the Central Valley, both endo and ectoparasites have a pretty comfortable life, but rather than relying on the environmentally probably questionable regular worming, pet owners are encouraged to have their pets’ droppings frequently checked. This still requires a standard flotation test, but the machine will then take care of the rest.

Here too the pandemic had impacted on the team with kerbside consultations and the emergence of the COVID puppy phenomenon, but slowly at least the consultations were getting back to normal.

In the waiting room I come across a number of Govinder Nazran prints.

I had some other works of this Yorkshire based artist in my own clinic in Virginia Water and considered myself in fact lucky that I got one signed when I met him in Birmingham not long before his accidental death in 2008.

Having traveled so far, I am not only struck how easy and straight forward it is to communicate with the whole team, but also how similar the daily work load is and memories come up to the happy times with my own team in Surrey….

Published by The Blue Vet

I am a veterinary surgeon with a German and Norwegian educational background. I have been the founder and for over 20 years I have been the senior veterinarian at the Virginia Water Veterinary Clinic in Surrey, England. When starting this blog I was also the President of FECAVA, the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations. In the summer of 2019 I left my clinic to work as an international locum and clinical advisor. I am interested in all aspects of clinical companion animal medicine, in endurance sports and in traveling and meeting people with and without their pets and especially in sharing my knowledge with colleagues in other parts of Europe and the World.

Join the Conversation


  1. I apologize in advance for the diatribe here, but insurance, including pet insurance, is a sticky issue. Insurance is probably quite different here in the U.S. that what you are used to seeing in Europe. For one, you have national health care over there for the humans. Nothing like that here. The human better have a good job with good insurance (increasing more difficult to find) or enough money to cover the premiums which can be $1000 or more per month for what is basically a catastrophic plan with deductibles in the $8,000+ range. I won’t go into that any further.

    The last time I looked at pet insurance, which was some time ago, they didn’t accept older pets, who are more likely to ring up large bills for kidney problems and cancers. Insurance sounds like a nice idea, but it is no panacea for dealing with the bills, especially if one has multiple animals from people dumping them or feral colony spill over onto one’s property. Sometimes the humane society can help with neuter/spay, and there is (maybe was?) “Neuter Scooter” mobile units that would come to town. I had a feral mother and kittens I took in fixed that way many years back. They got green tattoos in the left ear. The take away lesson for me at that time was that pet insurance here is for wealthier clients with only one or two animals.

    I would humbly suggest that if you are looking for ideas for a post on this topic, that you might enlighten readers as to what is available in Europe for pet insurance as compared to what is available here. That would be very interesting and educational, and perhaps help change the system.


  2. Maybe a bit off topic- but if your travel plans happen to have some wiggle room, Oregon state is only a hop-skip-jump away from California and if you are feeling adventurous we’d love to show you what we get up to at Salem Veterinary Emergency Clinic! Being one of the few emergency clinics in the surrounding area we have clients that travel sometimes up to 2-3 hours to bring their pets to us and we could always use a helping hand/brain.

    Back to the subject of pet insurance. I always encourage clients to read the entire policy document. Often times there will be certain requirements for specific disease processes that aren’t necessarily clearly outlined. For example, with Petplan, if I wanted to make sure that any issues with my dog’s knees would be covered later down the line, I needed to have a complete exam at a specific date/age where the doctor specifically mentions that no abnormalities were observed upon physical exam. If I didn’t complete the required exam at the required date/age or if the doctor didn’t address her knees specifically then I ran the risk of ANY condition relating to her knees not being covered in the future. So, make a day out of it and read the small novel of your pet insurance policy (it also helps to know what your specific breed is predisposed to) before you select a plan. And if your plan is finicky, bring a list of things you need your vet to specifically address in their SOAP notes.


    1. Thank you so much for your interesting comments and for your kind invitation. I might indeed pay you a visit the next time I am in the Central Valley. Thank you also for your information about pet insurance policies in the US – it appears that the entry criteria are much tougher in the US than in the UK. Over here you just declare the previous treatment your dog has had and your are insured. The vet is not involved in the initial phase and we are discouraged to advice on different insurance policies as we have not been trained as financial advisors. Because insurance is easy obtainable (and vet fees are high) – most dog and a lot of cat owners have their pets insured.
      Kind regards from sunny Surrey

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: