While Dr. Lori Scarlett, DVM, started out wanting to be a human doctor, she says, “I didn’t like the guys in my class, so I went into research and received a master’s in genetics. But I missed people contact when I worked in a lab. Then when my fiancé got me a cat—which I never had growing up and always wanted, but my parents weren’t pet people—I thought to myself, ‘I can work with pets for the rest of my life.’”
After graduating from Michigan State University in 1995, Dr. Scarlett worked in Durham, North Carolina, for 11 years until her husband, Cameron, was offered a position at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Dr. Scarlett then worked at McFarland Animal Hospital until she opened her own practice in 2013. If you’re thinking about being a vet, she says, “Being a vet is not only loving animals, but you really have to like people. If you don’t like people, then this is not the field for you.”
Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic has always been known for exceptional patient care, and it’s now even more appealing after an expansion and renovation by dm architecture. Dr. Scarlett explains that the new layout affords both staff and clients to enjoy a flow from waiting area to exam rooms, one side for cats and the other for dogs. “The previous space was great when it was just me, when we were small, but as we got busier, we’d have to put big dogs in the x-ray room when they were dropped off because there was no space for them.” The expansion was completed in July 2018.
After the renovation, Dr. Scarlett also added a new associate veterinarian, Anne McClanahan, DVM, a local graduate of UW–Madison. Dr. Scarlett says, “Before, I was limited and couldn’t take on additional clients. Now we can because of the expansion.”
Having separate dog and cat exam rooms accommodates their varied sizes and needs. Cat rooms are smaller with a cat tower, while dog rooms are bigger and have the option of lowering the exam table if more space is needed. Pheromones are in the exam rooms to help relax four-legged patients. The rooms also feature patient pictures from Dr. Scarlett’s Fill the Frames contest each February. People can submit their pet pictures to be voted on for display in the clinic.
The clinic has an in-house lab, pharmacy, x-rays, dentals, and surgery area, and the treatment area is also separated by species. A new, bigger reception area allows the clinic to house foster kittens and cats from Angel’s Wish Pet Adoption and Resource Center, and Monona Bakery & Eatery (next door) provides baked goods for clients. And you’ll meet Charlie, the clinic cat ambassador, adopted from the Dane County Humane Society. Dr. Scarlett says, “Charlie is a sweet guy—just don’t brush him!” He commands everyone’s attention and adoration.
The clinic became a gold-certified Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) in 2014, and Dr. Scarlett has to go through accreditations every year and follow a checklist to make the clinic cat friendly. She also goes to feline conferences to learn new methods and information that lends to the techniques used to be a CFP.
And recently, the clinic earned its Fear Free certification. “It has made a huge difference. The dogs aren’t so nervous coming in. I will have the dogs come in for ‘happy visits’ to the clinic. Dogs step on the scale, get some treats, then go out, and this helps them to get desensitized to what’s happening. The cats do really well with canned wet food or cat nip in the room, and if the cats or dogs are really nervous, we do have antianxiety medications to give while they are home to make the trip to the vet much easier.”
The clinic also has American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accreditation. Not all vet clinics have this, and to be eligible, an AAHA representative will do a thorough evaluation, reviewing the practice protocols, medical equipment, facility, and client services before awarding an accreditation.
A program unique to the clinic is a free vaccination for life program. Dr. Scarlett says some people think their pet only needs to go to the clinic for vaccinations, so yearly exams are skipped when vaccinations aren’t due. She wants to see dogs and cats annually to assess health and diagnose disease. So if people pay a one-time enrollment fee and then visit within 30 days of the annual exam date each year, they will only pay for the wellness exam while the core vaccines are at no charge. Within two years, people recoup the enrollment fee. Dr. Scarlett especially appreciates this incentive for senior pets.
As a writer for Madison Essentials , Dr. Scarlett discusses many pet-care and well-being topics, like proper pet diet to avoid overweight animals. Many people don’t recognize what a normal-weight dog should look like. Dr. Scarlett gives an example of a Labrador that is the perfect weight with a slim waste—you can feel his ribs. She asked the owner if people think the dog is too skinny, and the reply was, “All the time.” It’s because many dogs are overweight and owners just don’t recognize it.
Another example of Dr. Scarlett’s dedication to education is handouts on “What to Expect this Month” for kittens and puppies, similar to what expectant parents would get. And new pet owners are given at least an hour appointment time to discuss pet care. Dr. Scarlett also has handouts for adult and senior pets so owners know what to look for and expect as their pets age.
Four Lakes participates in a summer dog wash to benefit WisCARES, a joint project with the vet school and UW–Madison School of Social Work, which provides free basic pet care to low-income/home-insecure people. They have also raised money for Pets for Vets, a program that helps get service dogs for veterans, and when there was a hurricane in Florida, Four Lakes took in supplies for Key to Happiness Rescue to deliver them to the state.
Four Lakes has won Best of Monona, Star of Madison, and Best of Madison. “Between the two main vet technicians, there’s over 30 years of experience,” says Dr. Scarlett. “We try to stay on top of the latest information, like a new sedative for cats. We want to provide the best customer care and the love for the animals.”
Krystle Engh Naab is a freelance writer and copy editor for Madison Essentials.
FOUR LAKES VETERINARY CLINIC
4504 Monona Drive
Madison, WI 53716