By Lauren Zeugner
WARSAW — Dr. Carla Carlton, DVM, has felt called to be a veterinarian for as long as she can remember. “It’s all I ever wanted to be and I tried not to be a vet,” she said.
She talked herself out of going to vet school, telling herself it would take too long, and instead majored in English and history in college. After graduating, she traveled for a while and then went back to school, attending the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A & M University. After graduating, she worked in Houston, Texas, at a 24-hour care hospital.
She relocated to Indianapolis in 1997 where she worked as an emergency care veterinarian. She found she really liked Indianapolis. Soon after arriving in Indianapolis she got a call about being a relief veterinarian up in the Warsaw area for veterinarians in solo practice. Eventually she was splitting her time equally between Indianapolis and Warsaw.
When Lake City Animal Health & Wellness Center went up for sale in 2007, she purchased the practice and relocated to Warsaw. She said it made sense since many of the clinic’s patients saw her as their vet.
During her practice Carlton has worked on a number of interesting animals along with dogs and cats. She said in Houston and Indianapolis she saw a lot of birds. In Texas, while still in vet school, she had the opportunity to work on a tiger. She also had an opportunity to assist on a dental exam on a beluga whale.
Carlton is most proud Lake City Animal Health & Wellness Center is a certified fear free practice. Being a fear free practice means the animal care team aims to reduce an animal’s fear and stress during a vet visit.
She explained this means the veterinarians and staff use minimal restraints when dealing with patients, instead opting to use treats and toys to lead the animal to accept treatment. Additionally all treatment that can be done in front of the owner is. Carlton explained procedures that may pose radiation exposure, such as X-rays, or chemical exposure aren’t being done with the owner present for safety reasons.
The clinic received the fear free certification virtually since it was done at the height of the pandemic. “They had cameras all over the practice,” Carlton explained.
The certification requires she and her staff to take continuing education and document it to maintain the certification.
She is also a member of the Kosciusko County Animal Welfare League, where she has served for about three years. “I feel like this is one of the best board of directors and best executive director,” she said. “They are very hands on, they do a lot of volunteer work.” The shelter staff has also taken fear free training.
She is also happy the Animal Welfare League is in the process of expanding to have a cat only facility. Carlton explained cats are very different from dogs and in a shelter environment where the cats can hear and smell the dogs, it can be very stressful for them.
The new cat facility will be quieter for the cats. Carlton has also been educating shelter staff about how some cleaners can affect cats exposing them to potential respiratory issues.
She is also involved with Rudy’s Dog Park in Winona Lake.
When she isn’t at the clinic, Carlton is an avid gardener, she likes to grow pollinators and raises Monarch butterflies. This year she also has a cutting garden for flower arrangements.
She also likes to read “just about anything.” She also shares her home with two dogs and two cats.