A passion for caring for critically ill pets

The young Labrador retriever was in critical condition when it arrived after hours at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

He was unresponsive and displaying signs of hypovolemic shock. Emergency and critical care intern Dr. Valentina Dazio and her peers immediately went to work stabilizing their patient, unsure if their efforts would save the animal.

One week later, the dog left with its owner. The cause of his sudden illness was never identified, although it is suspected that the dog could have been exposed to blue-green algae. In hot summer months, conditions can become ripe in waterways to produce toxic blue-green algae – or cyanobacterial – blooms that can be deadly to animals.

“Sometimes even if we don’t know what is going on, that is OK, as long as they get better. Every day he got a little bit better. He started to walk with help, then he started to be able to do it alone,” Dazio said. “That was really cool to see.”

Dazio began her year-long internship at WSU this past summer after having earned her degree in veterinary medicine and completing a small animal rotating internship at the University of Bern in her home country of Switzerland.

It was during her rotating internship she discovered her passion for emergency medicine and working with critical cases. It’s also when she met Dr. Sabrina Hoehne, now a faculty member and emergency and critical care veterinarian at WSU, who encouraged her to pursue an internship in the United States.

“I did not know if it would be possible with the coronavirus, but I tried, and now I am here,” she said.

Dazio is thousands of miles away from her family, boyfriend, and friends, but her hectic schedule at the veterinary hospital has made it so she doesn’t have much time to be homesick. The biggest challenge has been communication.

“At the beginning, I had some problems with English, but I think the best way to learn a language is to just jump in,” she said. “But I’m getting better.”

That’s not surprising, considering that Dazio now speaks five languages: Italian, French, Spanish, German, and English.

“Where I grew up, in the Italian part of Switzerland, if you don’t learn another language, you are closed there forever,” she said.

Until her internship concludes in the summer, Dazio hopes to gain all the veterinary experience she can and learn from the faculty and staff at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“The faculty in Emergency and Critical Care are really great. I get to discuss cases with Dr. Sabrina Hoehne, Dr. Linda Martin, Dr. Beth Davidow, and the residents as well – they all bring different experiences, so it is really cool to get to learn from them.

“It is such a great opportunity to learn and get invaluable experience that I can take back home as I continue my veterinary career.”