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Do You Know Someone Who Wants To Become A Veterinarian?

Whether meeting a client for the first time or even while traveling on an airplane, it’s not unusual for a veterinarian to hear something similar to “Oh, I always wanted to be a veterinarian!”  Veterinary medicine consistently ranks among the most respected and admired professions.  Pet owners and animal lovers do think highly of veterinarians, but many don’t know the incredible schooling that these animal doctors must complete.

Additionally, when asked what a veterinarian does, most people will respond with a phrase about “taking care of animals.”  While that is certainly true, most are unaware of the incredible diversity of careers found in the veterinary profession.  Not only do veterinarians care for our companion animals and our livestock, but they are also found doing important research that benefits both people and pets or even helping governments track and prepare for newly emerging diseases.  Veterinarians are active in the military, our food inspection services, in the public health sector and even in designing new foods and medications to help animals.

So, what does it take to become a veterinarian?

First, good grades throughout high school and an undergraduate program in college are essential.  Course work should be strong in math and sciences, but it is also important for the student to be well rounded.  As an example, communication courses are vital as the majority of veterinarians will need to effectively explain complex medical diseases and terminology to pet owners or ranchers and farmers.

4H steer showingThese early years are also a great time to focus on finding a job or volunteer opportunity that gives hand on experiences with animals.  Veterinary hospitals and animal shelters often accept school age volunteers, but don’t forget about the possibilities offered by Future Farmers of America programs or the local 4H.  These days, weeks and months of working closely with animals can help a prospective veterinary student understand the challenges of animal care.

After a minimum of two years of undergraduate work, the process for applying to veterinary school can begin.  Competition for the open spots is extremely fierce.  There are 28 schools of veterinary medicine in the United States with 4 in Canada and another 4 located in the Caribbean.  Compare that to the 134 human medical schools in the US!  Also, each of these universities generally only accepts about 100 students for each veterinary class, meaning that about 3000 slots are available for each new class.   Again, human medical schools graduate about 20,000 new doctors each year.

Once accepted, new veterinary students will find that their school days will be very regimented and filled with an incredible amount of information.  For the first two years, the focus is on the sciences.   Lectures on the anatomy of various animal species, physiology, microbiology and many more subjects are the focus on the student’s days.

DVM student and dog on exam tableThen, as the students progress into their third and fourth years, all of the information they committed to memory can now be used in a practical manner as they move towards more hands on work in the veterinary teaching hospitals and labs.  Students interact with veterinary instructors and actual clients as they learn the important skills of client interaction.  These “soon to be veterinarians” also find opportunities to assist in surgeries, extensive dental procedures and, of course, daily rounds with the attending veterinarians at the hospital.

When graduation finally arrives, the learning and education process is not over for these brand new animal doctors.  In order to practice veterinary medicine, new graduates must pass national and state board exams.  Then, even as they are learning the expertise of daily routines at their new job, continuing education (CE) is a requirement of all veterinarians.  This CE helps veterinarians stay on top of a variety of technological and treatment protocol changes.

Some veterinarians continue their education, specializing in areas like dentistry, radiology, or even lab animal medicine.  There are almost 40 different specialty organizations and veterinarians who seek to become a specialist may add another 4-6 years on to their education.

As you can see, becoming a veterinarian not only takes passion and intelligence, but a fair amount of sacrifice and commitment as well.  The degree of “Doctor of Veterinary Medicine” or “Veterinary Medical Doctor” is one of diversity and certainly a rewarding profession.

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Cats Often Overlooked for Veterinary Care

Experts believe that cats and humans have interacted with each other for more than 10,000 years.  From their humble beginnings chasing rodents away from our food, cats have vaulted into our homes and hearts as North America’s favorite pet.  Unfortunately, despite their popularity, cats aren’t treated to the same veterinary care that we provide our canine friends.

There are more than 80 million cats in US households and, after reviewing veterinary medical records, experts have concluded that our felines are actually 30% less likely to visit a veterinarian than dogs.  What could possibly cause this difference?

Cat with toothbrushMany people believe that a cat’s independent nature and their self-sufficiency mean that they are pretty low maintenance.  After all, owners don’t need to walk their cats in a heavy rain or freezing blizzard.  So, if cats are so good at taking care of themselves, they must not need a doctor, right?

Additionally, more than 50% of cat owners report that they have a difficult time transporting their pets or that the last trip to the veterinarian was too stressful for the kitty.  Still other owners express concerns about adverse vaccine reactions or costs of treatments and preventive care.

Not only that, but as small to medium sized predators, cats instinctually hide their illnesses to avoid become dinner for a bigger predator.  Owners can often miss the subtle signs that their kitty isn’t feeling well.

Insulin syringe and vial of insulinThe unfortunate result out of all of this is that when we do see cats, they are often faced with advanced problems that are more costly and difficult to treat.  Extensive kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes and even widespread parasites top the list of feline issues.  One study published showed that flea infestations in cats have increased by 12% in the last five years and ear infections are up more than 34%!

Thankfully, organizations like the CATalyst Council and the American Association of Feline Practitioners are stepping up to help educate owners about their feline friends’ medical needs.  By stressing the importance and value of preventive medicine, these groups are working hard to insure that cats aren’t forgotten when it comes to veterinary care.

Our goal is to help owners understand that a visit to Deerfield is more than just a couple of vaccinations for their cats.  A full physical examination done annually by our veterinarian is the first and probably most important thing a pet owner can do for their beloved feline.  This exam can often spot early issues before they turn into big, expensive problems.

Additionally, cat owners are urged to have open communication with our veterinarians about which vaccines their pet actually needs and which ones can be avoided.  We can review the cat’s risk factors and the overall prevalence of specific diseases in our area to make the best recommendation.  Although adverse reactions are always a risk, this dialogue can help minimize any potential danger.

We have implemented recommendations from the CATalyst Council to make our practice more “feline-friendly”.  Changes to scheduling, a separate entrance to the hospital, special waiting area and exam room for cats and their owners can help White Persian Catto encourage veterinary visits.  After all, no cat wants to be seated next to a big, scary dog!!

Cats have been described as “aloof” or even “narcissistic”, but there really is a lot to admire about these wonderful animals.  They are athletic, graceful and innately curious, qualities that we really seem to appreciate.  The CATalyst Council is a great resource for finding out how you can insure your cat will live a long and healthy life.

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Question and Answer on Generic Rimadyl

Our clients regularly ask us great questions regarding their pets.  This was question Dr. Denise answered via email in August of 2011 regarding the use of a generic carprofen (Rimadyl).

Dr. Denise,

Can you get me a prescription for the generic of Rimadyl? Spot currently takes Putney Carprofen Caplets, 75mg twice a day. Our current bottle has 180 caplets in it, non-chewable.

I can go on petmeds.com if you cannot order it but need the prescription from you, correct?

Thanks,

Jane

Hello Jane,

Yes we can certainly write you a prescription to order the Carprofen caplets.   My question is, are you using the caplets because they are less expensive or because Spot would not take the chewable Rimadyl tablets?

The reason I ask is that we competitively price our Rimadyl chewables in line with the generic carprofen tablets so that our clients have the ease of giving the chewable tablets rather than trying to hide the caplet in something every day.

If Spot would eat the chewable, you could use the Rimadyl 100 mg chewables and give 1 tablet in the morning and 1/2 tablet in the evening (which is equivalent to 75mg twice daily)  The Rimadyl chewable tablet is scored so it is easy to split.  The Rimadyl can be given only once a day (Rimadyl was tested with once daily dosing). However with a pet the age of Spot, I usually divide the dose up to get really good 24 hour coverage. If you went to the bigger size and gave 1 1/2 tablets total for the day rather than two of the 75 mg tablets a day you would end up saving money since you would be using less tablets each day. I’ve included cost comparisons below for you to look at – our hospital versus Pet Meds.

Pet Meds  Carprofen caplet  75mg  #180count  $178.44  ($1.00/tablet)    2 tablets a day = $2.00 a day  $60/month

Pet Meds  Rimadyl chewable  75mg  #180count  $215.19 Deerfield Rimadyl chewable  75mg  #180count  $194.00

Pet Meds  Carprofen caplet  100mg  #180count $188.94   ($1.05/tablet)

Pet Meds  Rimadyl chewable  100mg  #180count $236.19

Deerfield Rimadyl chewable  100mg  #180count $199.99 ($1.11/tablet)  1 1/2 tablets a day = $1.67 a day   $50.10/month

So you could go to the Rimadyl chewables, give 1 1/2 tablets a day and spend $10 less a month than the generics you are using twice daily. Now obviously if Spot won’t take the chewables then all bets are off and we will stick with the caplets. One last note, if we do go with the chewables be sure to keep them out of reach- some dogs have been known to “counter surf” to get to the bottle of chewables because they taste so good.  Unfortunately, that becomes a medical emergency.

Dr. Denise

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Deerfield Veterinary Hospital First To Offer Stem Cell Therapy to Pets in Springfield

Early in my professional career, I was advised to avoid publicly discussing three controversial subject matters; politics, religion and money.  Of late, the term “stem cells” could certainly be added to this short list of contentious topics.  Weekly, we see news reports and read editorials on the uses of human embryonic stem cells and the moral-ethical questions surrounding the collection of these powerful cells. There are, however, new breakthroughs in the science of regenerative medicine that draw on the use of adult stem cells, harvested not from embryos but from an adult’s own body.

Research now teaches us that stem cells are an important part of a healthy body’s defense and regeneration process.  Simply put, we could not thrive without these primitive repair cells.  Just as embryonic stem cells have the ability to grow into a completely new human or animal, adult stem cells have the ability to change and differentiate into bone, cartilage, muscle or any tissue in the body.  Recently, a detailed study on the use of fat-derived stem cells in dogs showed that animals receiving stem cells demonstrated a significant improvement in lameness when compared to dogs in the control group.  In clinical trials, over 80% of pet owners report improvement after therapy.  This news has excited veterinarians and pet owners alike and has many asking about the potential for a real world application.

More than 15 million (20%) dogs in North America suffer some form of degenerative joint disease, better known as osteoarthritis (OA).  Unfortunately, many dog owners are completely unaware of the pain their pet is experiencing, chalking up the slow movement to the effects of “old age”.  Some dogs may receive daily doses of pain relievers and oral joint care supplements.  Still others might find their way to physical therapy or rehabilitation.  But for some, any or all of these options are not enough to relieve the pain.  Sadly, many owners decide to euthanize their faithful companion because of the severity of the pain or the continued high cost of on-going treatment.

Adult stem cell regenerative therapy is now an accepted treatment for OA and is available for both dogs and cats.  Deerfield Veterinary Hospital is pleased to be the first veterinary hospital in the Ozarks to offer stem cell therapy.  All of this seems pretty miraculous and for some pets, the results are truly nothing short of a life-saving miracle.

If you are trying to decide if stem cell therapy is right for your pet, please consider the following. Not all pets are considered good candidates for this therapy.  Since anesthesia is involved in both the cell collection step and the reintroduction of the cells, this may not be ideal for all patients.  Additionally, any dog with serious systemic disease, such as cancer, might not benefit from these treatments.  Even though there has been great feedback from owners, this is not a one shot therapy.  Some pets need to return regularly for follow-up treatments.  Scientist report that over-exertion after treatment seems to lessen the benefits of the treatment, often leading to another trip to the veterinarian.  Finally, cost will certainly come into play as owners and veterinarians discuss this option.  Prices will vary among veterinarians, but in general, plan on spending at least $3000 to $3500 for initial treatments.

Arthritis can be painful and even debilitating in any dog or cat.  If you suspect your pet suffers from this disease, talk with us about testing to confirm arthritis and then discuss the many treatment options.   We will recommend a multi-modal approach to pain relief, combining appropriate medications, controlled exercise, weight loss, and environmental changes to make your pet’s life easier.  In some cases, new technology, like stem cell therapy, can be beneficial!

This video segment from ABC’s Nightline in 2008 reviews the process of harvesting and transplanting stem cells in pets.

[youtube mVCnhrwIKBA 420 350]

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Do Generic Flea Products Meet Your Pet’s Needs?

For a long time, flea control consisted of harsh products that were related to nerve gases of World War I. Many of these carbamates and organophosphates worked well at killing fleas, but unfortunately, they weren’t very safe for pets and had the potential for severe toxicity. Then, about fifteen years ago, modern chemistry helped give us safer topical flea treatments. Because fleas, ticks and other parasites are medical problems that need educated medical recommendations, the companies producing the new products chose to sell these flea medications only through veterinarians.

Fast forward to present day and you can find many flea products both over the counter (OTC) and through veterinary or “ethical” channels. Annual sales of flea and tick medications exceed $1 billion and there are many companies eager to get their share of the pie.

Recently, the compound, fipronil became available for generic use. The original patent holder, Merial, produces an excellent flea product (Frontline®) that was our main choice for many years. Now, no less than 15 “generic” fipronil flea products will be offered in the OTC markets.

What does this mean for you and your pets? Can you feel comfortable with generic flea medications?

First, let’s look at what a generic medication is. When a specific pharmaceutical company develops and patents a new drug, they are allowed the exclusive rights to sell that drug for a period of time. When the patent expires, other companies can then market their own products that use that drug. Since the generic companies don’t have any research and development costs and very little advertising is needed, their costs are much lower and, therefore, their selling price is also lower.

Although generics utilize the same active ingredients as the original, they are not exactly the same product – and that is very important to know. Different inert ingredients that are generally recognized as safe may be included. In the case of flea medications, these inert ingredients are usually the carrier molecules, or what helps spread the medication across the pet’s body. The FDA requires that generic manufacturers prove their product exhibits bioequivalence to the original product.

In the case of topical parasiticides, many of these products are actually regulated by the EPA instead of the FDA. This means that a veterinarian’s prescription is not necessary to purchase the product, although, as mentioned above, most of the original pharmaceutical companies chose to sell their product “under veterinary supervision”. The generic manufacturers do not have that same belief and the new copycat flea products will be found on shelves of Wal-Mart, Target and other big box stores across the country.

So, if the product is essentially the same and at a lower cost, is it ok to buy these over the counter flea preventives?

Fleas, as well as other parasites, can cause a host of medical problems that go beyond simple itching. Serious diseases can worsen if the issues are not handled properly. In a general merchandise store, you will not find anyone with the expertise or training you’ll find at our hospital. Not to mention someone to call should your pet have an adverse reaction to any topical treatment.

Believe it or not, it might be more economical and more convenient to purchase the preventives through us at our hospital. Not only can you get all the products (flea preventive, heartworm preventive, etc) at one location, some of the ethical products sold can actually help with other parasite diseases.  So, a single product could be the answer for your pet instead of several that end up costing more.

We will also provide a single dose of the flea product instead of the six pack you find at the store. It’s another way we can help you save money!

It’s also important to note that the federal government has actually ordered multiple manufacturers of these generic flea products to remove some products from store shelves.

We understand that your pet is unique and may not tolerate certain products as well as others. We hope our medical advice has real value…especially since the wrong product used improperly actually have the potential to be fatal! We understand if there are other possible interactions between flea preventives and other medications your pet is taking.

Finally, our healthcare team  can not only show you how to properly use the products in question, but they will keep a complete record of what you have used in the past, taking the guesswork out and possible preventing future complications. And you already know we will keep track of your pet’s overall health and find medical problems early while they are still inexpensive to treat. We strive to be part of your pet’s health care team.

All of this valued information is not something you will get from a cashier at the grocery store or a display unit in a big box retailer.

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