Dr. Aaron Walton, a veterinarian with more than 26 years of experience in small animal medicine, has joined the Osceola County Animal Services team as their staff veterinarian.
Walton is an advocate for the injured or ill animals that often arrive at Animal Services – either because they are lost, have been mistreated or their owners no longer have the means to care for them.
“A lot of animals have medical issues when they come here,” Walton said. “It’s the sensible thing to handle some medical and surgical cases in-house. Some need to be referred to other practices for treatments but in the end, it’s really rewarding to help treat an animal so that it is ultimately adoptable. My goal, when it is all said and done, is for the shelter to be in a better place than when I started.”
Strays can present with a lot of issues – from malnourishment to fleas, skin ailments or injuries, he said.
Walton is a 1996 graduate of Michigan State University and sold his practice several years ago to begin working as a “relief” vet at a shelter. He and his wife, Deb, relocated from Flint, Mich.
“You can learn something new every day,” he said. “You never know what you’re going to run into. Most vets are animal lovers, so being able to treat and rehabilitate the animals here and see them placed in a good home is part of the appeal of shelter medicine. It’s a good challenge at this stage of my career.”
He cited an example of work at a Michigan shelter as one of the rewards of the job.
“This dog came into the shelter,” he said. “It was completely neglected, underweight, terrified of people. We couldn’t walk him for three weeks. But we gave him some time and he filled out physically. Eventually, we were able to start handling him and get him out of his shell. He was fostered and ended up being adopted. That’s really rewarding because many people would have looked at him as a lost cause, but he was a success story. Those kinds of outcomes make you happy.”
Walton said that it’s tough to encounter a case where financial constraints may limit treatment options. “But working with animals is the easy part,” he said. “Through experience, I’ve learned that the human part is often more of a challenge.”
Walton’s favorite area of practice is surgery and orthopedic work.
Asked the universal dog vs. cat question, he answered: “I’m more of dog person by nature, but as I’ve gotten older, I became more of a cat person. It’s about 50-50 right now. Dogs are needy and cats are like a tame wild animal — they have a lot of personality.”
For the record, he owns 3 cats and 1 dog (a German Shepherd). He and his wife enjoy the outdoors, camping and bike riding, which are all perfect ways to explore their new home. He’s also something of a foodie, and enjoys cooking at home to relax. “The worst thing that can happen is that somebody doesn’t like food,” he said.
Animal Services Director Kim Staton said Walton’s experience and knowledge will help Animal Services adhere to recommended best practices to enhance the care and health of sheltered pets.
“Having a veterinarian on staff will improve our efficiency and free up valuable time to focus on other areas of the operation,” Staton said. “I’m excited to have Dr. Walton on board as part of our team to save animals and help our community.”