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Monday, Jan. 11, 2010

Milwaukee Vet Builds ‘MECA’ for Animals

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Healing critically ill pets occupies Marla Lichtenberger’s mind 24/7. This nationally renowned veterinarian specializes in emergency and specialty care, which she combines with her expertise in exotics—unusual but legal pets that include birds, ferrets, rabbits, reptiles and rodents, to mention a few. Lichtenberger accomplishes these tasks inside the exceptional facilities of the recently built Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals (MECA). MECA’s staff provides 24-hour service and may see as many as 50 pets on a Saturday. Last August Lichtenberger added another accomplishment to her distinguished list when she began co-hosting the “Pet Vet” program every Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m. on Newsradio 620 WTMJ.

 

What was your inspiration for the 24-hour Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals?

I knew from when I was 10 years old that I wanted to be a vet. I didn’t have a dog, but my aunt had a sheltie named Duke. After receiving my degree in 1987, I worked in Milwaukee for a time and looked around the area and found there was no place that suited my needs. With the point to serve the surrounding veterinarians in the city, I also wanted to bring the best veterinary medicine along with that special care and concern for all owners and their pets, including the exotics, to Milwaukee.

 

Why are pets so important in today’s world?

Pets are important because we are faced with a difficult world—very fast-paced. Pets are on slow speed and offer unconditional love. There are also couples not having children, but [taking] time for pets. And we’re living a lot longer, so they’re companions for those well into their 70s and 80s. I find it rare that people have only one pet these days; now they have two or three.

 

Is this pet popularity what led to the “Pet Vet” radio program?

Yes, and now we’re thinking of extending the hour-long program to take phone calls at the end of the show, because 15 or 20 people are left waiting and disappointed when their questions go unanswered. The show is sponsored by the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association, and they chose two vets to be on the show. It’s an honor. It’s all questions and answers, very spontaneous and fun.

 

What types of questions do you discuss on the radio program?

There are a lot of behavior questions, and those about exotic pets, or skin diseases in animals. The owners also ask where to go with this condition or illness they haven’t found an answer for. And there are a lot of questions about end-of-life decisions. When do we let a pet go? Decisions that the doctors don’t have to make in human medicine. My patients are comfortable talking about these subjects and how to give the pets dignity. I think sometimes we treat animals much better than humans.