I get a real kick out of people’s perceptions of veterinary medicine. Our personal perceptions will be formed, like with all things in life, from our interactions with family and friends, our formal education, our personal experiences and our exposure to media. Because my parents were relatively poor, new Canadian immigrants, there simply was little or no money for any kind of formalized veterinary care. So my perception of veterinary medicine came mostly from reading (James Herriot) and TV (All Creatures Great and Small).
A prevailing truth when it comes to public perceptions of veterinary medicine is that there is little or no way that the average client entering an veterinary clinic is going to understand what it is that we animal doctors do “back there”. There is some notion that what we are doing is somehow akin to what happens in “people” medicine.
Now, to be fair, not every animal hospital will perform the same range of procedures. In veterinary medicine, there is the full gamut of facilities from some very small and simple clinics that perform mostly very simple diagnostic procedures and prescribe medications for treatment of illness, much as your family doctor does. These are often single doctor practices. Then there are animal hospitals. These tend to be more significantly equipped and can usually provide for some diagnostic testing (ie. Xrays) and can perform less complex surgical procedures. Larger animal hospitals may have more significant capacity for diagnosis and treatment including laboratories and capacity for advanced surgical procedures. And finally, animal medical centres which are usually quite large, have a large staff that includes veterinary medical specialists who can perform highly specialized diagnostic and therapeutic treatments. These tend to be in large urban centers only.
The complexity of what we veterinarians can do in a well equipped facility rivals any human hospital. At our animal hospital in Chilliwack, BC we are somewhat larger than the average, have a large staff and are exceedingly well equipped and trained. We are able to perform diagnostic, treatment and surgical procedures that would normally require travel to a medical center in the city. For example, we can perform advanced dental procedures including complex surgical extractions. We can perform a multitude of different medical imaging techniques that allow us to see the “insides of pets” to determine exactly what is ailing them. These imaging techniques include digital radiography, digital ultrasonography and endoscopy. We have a fully staffed laboratory that can perform virtually any diagnostic test needed and provide results usually within the hour. We have capacity to perform complex surgical procedures including many advanced orthopedic procedures such as ACL repairs with the latest TTA procedure. We provide round the clock hospitalization for the critically ill. We provide cancer and palliative therapies. We have isolation wards for those afflicted with infectious disease and we even provide acupuncture therapy as an adjunct to all of our specialized “western” medicine and surgery techniques.
So why the little brag fest? Often when a sick pet is handed back over to an anxious owner, the owner is the recipient of all the infrastructure of diagnostic and therapeutic services that we have in place. Often, how successful we can be at returning the pet to you with the problem rectified is directly dependent upon our access to specialized equipment and training. The owner cannot completely know how this came to pass. I can attest that it required more than a bar of soap and a bucket of hot water as in the days of James Herriot.
Posted by: Dr. Mark Steinebach