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A DAY IN THE LIFE — Veterinarian

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ For over 20 years, Dr. Grant Jacobson has been a veterinarian. Helping animals live their best lives is what makes this profession fulfilling.

Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series spotlighting various professionals in our community, highlighting the impact of their work. Have an idea for the series? Email sjordan@timesrepublican.com.

When your patients can’t talk to you, you have to play detective to figure out what’s going on.

Veterinarian Dr. Grant Jacobson said unraveling an animal’s medical mystery and getting the creature on the road to good health is what makes his work worthwhile. A native of Ferguson, he completed veterinarian school at Iowa State University in 1997 then was employed for a brief time in Minnesota before returning to Marshall County to work for a vet clinic. In October 2018, he opened his own practice — the Hometown Veterinarian, 101 Iowa Avenue West, Suite 300.

A family business, his wife Jami manages the office and takes after-hours calls.

Dr. Jacobson arrives at the clinic each weekday at 7:30 a.m. in preparation for his first patient whose tail wags through the door anytime after 8 a.m.

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Here, Dr. Jacobson looks into the ear canal of a cat named Smokey.

When designing his clinic, he wanted it to feature the latest in technology and serve as a one-stop shop for the care of pets. He’s able to do X-rays, lab work, ultrasounds and surgeries in-house, plus provide pharmaceuticals. Surgeries are usually reserved for Tuesday and Thursday mornings and include orthopedic (his speciality), spaying/neutering, dental care and removing tumors.

Dr. Jacobson treats what he terms “pets” — cats, dogs, rodents, reptiles and small mammals — as compared to livestock.

He said a form of technology he enjoys using is laser surgery, which involves making incisions using laser light.

“It’s rare that I’d even touch a scalpel blade for surgery, although I do dissect a tumor with a scalpel, but that is after its been removed from the animal,” he said.

The merit behind using lasers is a decrease in pain after the procedure, as compared to a sharp instrument, and less bleeding.

“What the patient will perceive is less pain afterwards, and as a surgeon, it stops most bleeding as you go. The beam is only .25 millimeters in width,” he said. “If you were to look at cells under a microscope and used a blade to cut them out, there’s 3-5 layers of cells that are damaged by that blade, but with a laser, you can see individual cells that are just cut in half.”

Cold laser therapy helps speed up the healing process and reduces swelling.

“You see it advertised now for humans but we were doing it first for animals,” he said.

Making the examination process as pain and stress free to the patients is of paramount importance to the veterinarian. He only examines cats and small animals in certain rooms of his practice, while dogs are seen elsewhere in the building.

“If a cat smells a dog it may become nervous,” he said.

In addition, the rooms in which those smaller critters are seen features aromatherapy that cats like, plus a heated table.

“If a cat is nervous, it will over-produce sugars in the blood, so we want to make sure it is not an on-set of diabetes instead,” he said.

While the vet tries to keep normal business hours, he sometimes comes into the clinic on the weekends. For established patients, he has made house calls, especially in the case of an emergency C-section being required. In the past, he’s examined animals that were taken from hoarding situations and one time even had to testify in a court case.

Like any job, there are days that can be emotionally draining. He said despite how long he’s been in the field, it never gets easier having to tell someone their beloved pet may need to be euthanized.

“It’s also hard when someone gets referred to you and you realize the condition is bad, and so now at the first meeting with the owner you have to tell them that news,” he said.

Changes in technology have improved medical treatments.

“When I look at tearing of ligaments, the techniques used on that have changed widely since I graduated. What was the state-of-the-art thing I was doing then is nothing like it is now, and I suspect within five years, I’ll be doing something completely different again,” he said. “If you think the way you’re doing it is the best way it can ever be, you’ll find you’re not offering the best quality anymore.”

While all vets need to pursue continuing education to maintain licensure requirements, Dr. Jacobson often surpasses these. He recently joined the board of the Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association. He also likes to mentor students.

In his spare time, he enjoys being out in nature, especially on his family’s acreage. He also plays guitar at his church.

“I like helping people. I try to make a point to meet with everybody when the pet goes home and explain what we did and help them understand. I like it when an animal who came in severely injured walks out of here with his/her owner all better,” he said.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com