Baxta launches its first podcast! Baxta Talks with Steve Price and our resident veterinary expert, Dr. Simone Maher

Baxta Talks with Steve Price and our resident veterinary expert, Dr. Simone Maher

Episode 1: pet personalities


Here at Baxta Pets, we are so excited to reveal to you our new segment titled Baxta Talks, focusing on everything pets – health, advice, wellbeing, and much more.

Join TV personality, Steve Price and resident veterinary expert, Dr Simone Maher, as they cover everything from pet health and nutrition, pet personalities, animal welfare to being a great pet parent. Don’t miss their insightful discussion – it’s a must-listen for all pet lovers and pet parents

In our very first podcast, Steve Price interviews Dr. Simone Maher, veterinarian for the Animal Welfare League in New South Wales, and our resident vet at Baxta Pets who will answer all your pet-related questions.

In this episode, Dr. Simone shares what it’s like to be a vet talks about her role in the animal welfare sector, and discusses whether pets and owners develop similar personalities after spending long periods of time together. Imagine that!

Listen to the podcast on the links above, or read the interview with Dr. Simone r to get all the info:

Steve – Hello and welcome to the first edition of the Baxta podcast with our resident vet and animal behavioural expert, Dr. Simone Maher. Now look, Baxta, as you know, is your pet-friendly destination. Baxta friends, of course, have the advantage of knowing venues and destinations, those that have the Baxta seal of approval, places you can take your animals.

Now this podcast series will react and respond to your questions and queries about your treasured pets. It’s also going to bring you pet news from right around the world. How many pet stories do we see on television, on YouTube, online, on Twitter, on Instagram, every day of the week?

But first up, let’s introduce the amazing, Dr. Simone Maher, Animal Welfare League New South Wales vet. Simone, welcome.

Simone – I’m so pleased to be here chatting with you, Steve.

Steve – How much do you love animals?

Simone – Oh, well, you know, I guess you could say they’re a really big part of my life. A very big part of my life. Absolutely love them.

Steve – So, you couldn’t really be a vet, could you, unless you genuinely loved cats and dogs? Cats and dogs are the main thing, I guess for suburban vets. So, if you didn’t have a genuine love for those sorts of animals, it’d be hard. I mean, I know it sounds weird that a doctor doesn’t have to love his patients. But a vet almost has to.

Simone – I think you’re right, Steve. It’s very much a profession where it’s all focused on care. And you’re right, it does. You do have to have a strong connection with animals, because you have to use non-verbal skills. You need to be really tuned into body language and use all of these different clues that we use to work out what’s going on with a patient, who can’t verbalise it to you.

But I would say that to be a good clinician and an effective clinician, you actually also have to love people. Because a big part of what we do really comes down to a really good relationship with the pet owners or pet parents.

Steve – Look, that’s a fascinating point that. I mean, I’ve lived through my 65 years and never thought about it. You take even a four-year-old child into the GP, the GP can ask the child “well, when did you start coughing? And how bad is it at night?” You can’t ask a dog or cat that.

Simone – No, you cannot. You’re relying on the owner for a lot of that information. But as I say, you’ve also got to use so many aspects of a clinical examination. You’re also looking at a lot of clues while you’ve got that animal in front of you to try and work out what’s really going on.

Steve – Give us an example of how that actually works. So, I present with a dog that I say, “look, I’ve got some concerns here. I think the dog has a problem. It seems to be not eating at the moment. And it’s just not itself. It won’t come out for a walk. It’s not been like this ever before.” I mean, what are the sort of common clues that would give away what might be wrong with the dog?

Simone – Oh, you’re looking at all sorts of things to see here, you’re looking at the animal demeanour. A big part of what we do is informed by the history that the owner gives you. You’re looking for clues in there. How long has it been going on for? What changed in the household over that time? The specific things that they’ve noticed, because that really helps inform the next stages of diagnosis.

And there’s a real skill involved in a physical examination. It’s about looking into eyes. I mean, we have to do lots of things that people might find unpleasant. We’re sort of almost subconsciously taking note of odours coming from the mouth or from the ears or, you know, patches on the skin, responses to touch – when you’ve got your hands on the animal, how are they responding to you? Are they in pain or uncomfortable or are they guarding an area? You’ve got to bring all of that together in the first instance to work out the next point to progress, to get to a diagnosis and a treatment plan.

Steve – How do you deal with… Simone, how do you deal with a dog that gets snappy?

Simone – Oh, that can be tough.

Steve – You’ve got some scars, have you? Got the scars up and down your arms?

Simone – You develop very, very quick reflexes, see, once you’ve been doing it for a few years. But it also comes down to what I was talking about before – understanding body language as well. It’s understanding, when they come into an examination room, what they’re trying to tell you, are they nervous about you approaching?

If they’re trying to signal to you “look, I really am so uncomfortable with having you near me,” you’ve got to work out ways to be sensitive to that without pushing them over the edge and making them have a really negative experience. And also, you know, putting yourself and potentially the owner in danger as well.

There’s a lot of interpretation of body language that comes into it. And as I say, being sensitive to what they’re trying to tell you and how to respond to that appropriately.

Steve – Who’s harder to deal with Fido or Frida, the owner? Come on, you can be honest, there must be some real shockers with bringing their pet.

Simone – I’ve had some interesting experiences you see, from both ends. You know, owners that have found themselves in a situation with a pet that just, you know, is really challenging to handle. And despite all of their efforts and best intentions, it’s a real ordeal when they do become unwell or when they need an annual check-up. And equally, I’ve had some lovely pets belonging to some rather difficult owners and it’s always nice in those instances when you can perhaps just suggest that the owner waits in the waiting room. Suggest gently, of course.

And I guess the thing is Steve, is that oftentimes when we talk about having difficult encounters with owners, again it’s about understanding where that is arising from. Often, visits to the vet are driven by anxiety or grief if they know there’s not going to or they’ve got a feeling that there’s not going to be a happy outcome. Often, they experience guilt if the animal’s unwell and they blame themselves, “I should have brought the pet in earlier, I shouldn’t have done this, I should have done that.”

A lot of that can culminate in an almost confrontational personality when they actually get to the vet, but I think showing compassion and patience, it really can turn those situations around.

Steve – Throughout this podcast series, Simone, I’m gonna get you to bust some myths for me because there’s so many myths out there. How frequently do pet owners look like their pets?

Simone – [laughs] Now you’re not gonna make me say anything incriminating, are you?

Steve – No not at all, I see it in the park all the time.

Simone – Oh, do you know what I think it is? I think often it’s less about physical appearance, than demeanour. And I think that demeanour gives an impression that they look similar. So, you might have a really vibrant, bubbly, bouncy person and their dog responds to that and they are also a really sort of bouncy, happy, vibrant dog. A shy, slightly anxious person might have a cat that sort of just wants to hide in the box, and you know, really doesn’t want to have any interaction with the outside world at all. I think that often those behavioural traits give an impression of similarities that might not necessarily be physical.

Was that a diplomatic answer?

Steve – That’s a very diplomatic answer. I just wonder, though, when you’re a vet in suburban Australia, and you know, we all have preconceived ideas about people. Say some young guy covered in tattoos turns up with a with a Pitbull you go, “Hi, hello, welcome.”

Simone – Do you know what? I think the opposite are the ones that particularly stick in my mind, those ones that really challenge the stereotype.

Steve – Yes, we should never prejudge, should we? We should never prejudge.

Simone – Yeah, for example, one of my clients very much fits that, I guess what we call the tradie stereotype, you know, he’s always in his high vis and his work vest and you know, drives his ute and stuff. And he has the most delightful Himalayan cat. The most beautifully cared for, long haired cat that he chose and the way in which he speaks to them is just delightful. They’re probably the ones that stick in my mind even more than, as you say, the sort of heavily tattooed, tough looking bloke with the Staffy or the Pitbull. I’m more likely to remember it if he actually comes in with maybe a Chihuahua or a French Bulldog or something.

Steve – I did a television show with a very famous footballer who’s completely covered in tattoos and had a reputation of being someone who liked to party and go out all night and travel around the world having a great time. He kept talking about this dog he had and when we got back to Australia, because we didn’t have our phones in the jungle. I said, “show me a picture of that dog” – he had a fluffy Cavoodle of all things! I couldn’t believe it!

Simone – It’s so funny, isn’t it? And see, hasn’t that stuck in your mind?

Steve – It has completely stuck in my mind and he absolutely loves that dog. He posts about it all the time. Absolutely all the time. I mean, it’s just extraordinary, really.

Tell me before we end up this first episode. How did you… I mean to graduate into vet science from year 12, you have to be very smart, which clearly you are. You’ve got to have as high an ATAR mark just to get into medicine, it’s quite challenging. Did you always want to be a vet?

Simone – Oh, well, look, I have to say Steve, I’ve always had an affinity for animals but most of all I wanted to do one of two things. I either wanted to be Vicky from a country practice, that’s showing my age I know, or I wanted to marry Tristen from all creatures great and small. So clearly, the way to do that would be to become a vet. So, I had my goals set and yeah, the rest, as they say was history.

Steve – And the rest is history. You do some extraordinary work in the animal welfare area. How important is that to you? You are, of course, with the Animal Welfare League of New South Wales. What does that work entail?

Simone – Yeah, well, that was my most recent clinical position. I’m now at the University of Sydney. But my career has always been centred around working with organisations that do have a focus on animal welfare. I think that really drives my passion for the profession. And I think it’s about supporting, it’s not just about supporting animals who, you know, don’t have anyone else to support them, which is an incredibly rewarding thing to do. People might say, “Oh, that’s wonderful that you do that for the animals.” I don’t think they realise how much we actually get out of it. It’s really an incredibly rewarding thing, but, I’m also passionate about helping people to be the best pet owners or pet parents that they can be.

I’m really passionate about that other side of welfare, which is about the human-animal bond and how we can maximise that so that everyone’s needs are met.

Steve – I’ve never heard that term pet parents before. Is that something that is common language among vets? Or is that something, the way you feel about it?

Simone – I think that reflects the transition that we’ve seen in society. Over the last 20 years or so, there has been a widespread transition from pet ownership, where you know the pets are nice to have and they’re out in the backyard and you throw out a bit of food, to your dog once or twice a day. To where we are now, which is very much pets are a part of the family.

They’re integrated into our lives; they feature on our social media. They’re very much a part of our families. And I think that’s probably where that that term has arisen from.

Steve – On another episode, I’m going to get you to talk about the importance of pets for the well-being of people’s mental health. But it’s been fabulous chatting to you today, Dr. Simone Maher and I’ll talk to you very soon.

Simone – Terrific, thank you so much, Steve. Lovely to chat.

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