All Creatures Great and Small

Dr. House on _House_ tells us that everyone lies. I doubt that applies to animals. But also, they don’t talk.

Is it weird that we expect any well-trained veterinarian to be able to diagnose and treat a broad gamut of ailments across dozens (hundreds?) of different species? I noticed Jake exhibiting some mild muscle spasms on his back and near his right rear leg and Googled for it, coming up with this interesting clinical question about another cat exhibiting similar (but more advanced) symptoms, along with ten responses suggestion methods of diagnosis and treatment. Many of the things they discuss sound very familiar — tox screen, MRI, thyroid test, urinalysis, etc.

The lay person who occasionally watches medical TV shows has some basic understanding of the range of expertise and stored knowledge necessary to be a good doctor, not to mention the insane amount of specialization necessary in modern human health care. Does the same level of specialization exist in animal care? I really doubt it. And it is clear from the discussion at that link that treating an animal like a cat can be just as complicated as a human.

Then again, the amount of money we are willing to spend on animal care pales compared to human care, so maybe it doesn’t really matter — the cat may have some very complicated and specialized disease, but in the end its most likely just going to be euthanized anyway, I doubt in animal medicine there is any concept of “heroic measures.”

*Addendum:* Wikipedia tells us there is some degree of specialization.

3 replies on “All Creatures Great and Small”

  1. You know, you should have asked you’re resident expert before posting this ;P

    There is actually a very wide variety of specialization and an intensive range of residencies and interships that train vets to the same, if not higher, levels of education in these realms as doctors. As you mention, we’re expected to work with multiple species (though the average vet could probably work confidently on 6 species, not a dozen, we could apply our knowledge outwith this circle). The process we go through is more rigorous than my human counterparts, from the application all through our education.

    As for heroic measures measures many vet hospitals, generally associated with vet schools, often go “above and beyond” what the average person might do for their pets, including laser surgeries, mri and custom built wheelchairs.

    So, at any rate, I hope your cat is okay, and remember, at a local vet your options will be reduced, so you could always just spring for one of the things House often leaves unsaid – a simple cbc, which the generation of House and ER often neglects because it isn’t flashy.

  2. Dr. Jess-

    My ox moos everynight from about 930 to 10pm. He has plenty of water, grain, and a little shed warmed by three dexters who revere him as king. Last winter he was distressed when he was moved from a diary barn with twenty holsteins & guernsies, to a field with scottish highlands, however then he complained during the day, whereas this year when we moved him, hes been complaing at night. I’ve tried apples, fresh bread and onions, what should I do?


  3. Hi Mat!

    If he was sad to move from a dairy barn the only answer: get him a girlfriend 😉

    How goes?

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