Tuesdays with Tony
First for a little housekeeping: Don’t forget to join me on Thursday at 6:30 for my Skin Funk Seminar, right here at the clinic! One of our most popular topics of the year, this Seminar is always well attended, and there are sure to be a bunch of free giveaways. Sponsored by Kinetic Vet, makers of Equishield products such as IBH and CK, this Seminar is definitely one you don’t want to miss!
I was at a family reunion this weekend talking to my cat cousin, whose owner is a human Anesthesiologist. He asked me about my job and the people I work for, and he was astounded to learn how many hats veterinarians wear. I guess it is kind of surprising when you think about it, especially compared to the highly specialized world of human medicine. In a given day, either of our docs might be a dentist, a surgeon, an ophthalmologist, an internist, a radiologist, an orthopedist, an anesthesiologist, a neonatologist, a podiatrist, a dermatologist, and a GP! So, in case you were wondering, here’s how it works in the world of veterinary medicine.
What is a DVM?
A DVM, which stands for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, is a degree which confers the right to treat ANY species of animal in any capacity with only one exception: Homo sapiens. With a DVM, you can work on lions and giraffes in a zoo, you can work for the USDA inspecting meat, you can work in Public Health studying diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, you can be a large animal vet, or a small animal vet, or anything in between. The possibilities are endless, and the choice is yours. Our DVMs here at Springhill Equine have chosen to focus primarily on horses (although we extended our services to pet pigs starting 3 years ago.) If they so desired, either of our docs could decide tomorrow that they want to go work at an all-feline practice (an obvious choice in my mind), or move into the veterinary pharmaceutical industry. However, both our vets chose to focus on horses because they had a lifetime of personal experience with horses, so I doubt either will change their mind anytime soon. Side note: just to be different, graduates of the University of Pennsylvania are granted a VMD (Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris) as opposed to a DVM. The degree still means the same thing, it’s just that the “Penn-We’s” prefer the Latin name.
What is a DACVIM, DACVS, DACT, DACVO, etc?
While many veterinarians in general practice are proficient at services that would be considered the purview of a specialist in the human world, specialists do exist in veterinary medicine as well. In fact, there are currently 22 recognized veterinary specialties. As a vet, if you feel like going to more school after 4 years of college, 4 years of vet school, and a 1-year internship, more power to you! Most veterinary residency programs consist of 3 very intensive years of work, study, and research. But once they graduate, these guys are pros! They know just about everything there is to know about their field of expertise. My docs regularly consult with specialists including surgeons, internists, ophthalmologists, theriogenologists, and radiologists. Another great thing about my vets is that they are more than willing to refer your horse to a specialist if the problem is one they are not comfortable treating. Oh, and all those letters? They stand for “Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary…”. So DACVS is Surgeons, DACVIM is Internal Medicine, etc. Many of these crazy smart vets have gotten a PhD somewhere along the way too, so they often have 10-12 extra letters after their name!
So, why horses?
My docs often get asked, if you can treat any species, why do you work exclusively on horses? Well first of all, there is enough to know and continue to learn about horses alone to last a lifetime. Even if they practiced until they were 100 (hopefully they will retire before then) they would probably not diagnose every horse disease, see every type of surgery, or treat with every equine medication out there. The world of equine medicine is evolving so rapidly, there is always something new to learn! Did you know that each of my docs goes to one or more Continuing Education events every year? As if 8 years of higher education wasn’t enough! They both find CE enjoyable as well as educational, and they go out of their way to stay current.
In addition to the unlimited learning opportunities in equine medicine, our docs both have a lifelong love of horses and a passion for riding. Anyone who grew up with horses will understand that once you catch the horse bug, you have it for life. I think it’s pretty awesome that my docs figured out how to turn their hobby into a rewarding career. Now I just have to figure out how to earn money by napping…