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Changes in Animal Health

Fellow Pet Lover,

This is my first entry for Adrian’s wonderful new website. As you may know, different pet experts are contributing to this blog in their particular area of expertise. My intent is to inform you, educate you, and perhaps entertain you a little about the animal health world. I’ll try to give you useful information about your pet, show you some interesting things that I have run across, tell you what’s new in my profession, and ask for your opinions and feedback. Hopefully the scope of this column will evolve and mature into something that you feel is worthwhile.

A few weeks ago I was rummaging through the pile of junk mail that had accumulated on the desk in our kitchen.  (Truly, I am totally convinced that that stuff reproduces by mitosis like a pathogenic bacteria and doubles in quantity every 45 minutes.  I am confident that one day I will write a horror flick about this and retire very rich when the movie goes to DVD.)  When “Lo and Behold” my Purdue Vet School Alumni magazine had arrived! What a relief!

Historically this document has gone directly into the circular file without passing “go.” For some reason this time I thumbed through it and found myself more than astonished by what I saw. No, it wasn’t a remarkable medical case or a new multi-million dollar addition to the School of Veterinary Medicine. It was only a photo.

It was a photo of the current veterinary students. “Big deal,” you say under your breath. (Oh yes, I can pick up on these things. After talking with dogs for 38 years one acquires those skills, so please be more careful what you mutter in future columns. I am a very sensitive person and my feelings get hurt very easily. ;-))

So what is the “big deal” about the photo? Let me put this in perspective. If I could show you a photo of my graduating class from 1972, what you would see is 55 young, crew-cutted, white Indiana farm boys (except for moi, the long haired  hippy from Tennessee), and five aspiring female vets-to-be.

Let me just show you the photo of the veterinary student of “today:”

Besides the fact that Adrian could take a much better photo, let it suffice to say that the “face” of veterinary medicine has changed over the past 38 years!

Now, this led me to think about, “What else has changed in my profession over the past 38 years?”  Well, it’s just EXTRAORDINARY.

Thirty eight years ago, on a regular basis, I was seeing patients that were dying from diseases such as distemper, rhinotracheitis, heartworms, leptospirosis, canine hepatitis, feline leukemia, and parvovirus. I can prevent this now! In fact, veterinary medicine can prevent most of the serious diseases affecting our pets. Most of the serious diseases can be prevented! We even have the first vaccine for leukemia. Think about that, a vaccine against cancer! Extraordinary.

Thirty eight years ago time was our enemy. If I needed the results of a lab test, it might take two weeks for the results to come back from some far off laboratory. Today, I can run the test in my own lab and have the answer in ten minutes. In ten minutes! Extraordinary.

More and more, my clients are expecting the same level of care for their pets as they themselves would receive. And you know, we are very close to providing that care. Thirty eight years ago, I had no ultrasound, no endoscope, no ECG, no laser. Today, I can transmit my patient’s ECG over the telephone to a veterinary cardiologist in another state for a consultation. Over the telephone! I can send my digital radiographs and ultrasounds to Boarded Radiologists over the Internet. Extraordinary.

My profession is evolving in other ways, too. Today, there are veterinarians practicing in a score of different specialties.  Today, there are licensed veterinary technicians with college degrees. Today, there is pet health insurance and television programs about veterinary medicine. Extraordinary.

More changes already here? Incredible technology, information and specialists at my fingertips via the internet, new therapies for many maladies such as allergies, behavior problems, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. The future is mind boggling.  Extraordinary.

If you haven’t figured it out, I’m excited about my profession. I want to tell you more, I want to inform you, educate you, and sometimes touch your heart. So leave your dog health questions in the comments below (don’t be shy) and I’ll pick one to answer in next month’s column!

Dr. Grif Haber is a fifth generation Nashvillian. Dashing he parents’ hopes that he would become a “real doctor,” he earned his veterinary degree at Purdue University in 1972 and established Murphy Road Animal Hospital P.C. in 1977. With a heart for rescue, he founded Love at First Sight! Puppy and Kitten Adoption Center in 1995 that has since placed thousands of abandoned puppies and kittens into loving homes.

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Lexi - March 12, 2010 - 9:36 pm

Dr. Grif Haber, my thought isn’t really a question but a topic I think doggy people should be informed about. Recently, well about a year ago, my fiancee and I adopted out first puppy together, and given our luck, that puppy had almost every skin problem you could think of. Everything from bad dandruff to demodectic mange, and that’s the one that freaked everyone out. You see my pup is a temperament testing dog at a private dog park and when people would ask what his little bald spots were I would tell them and I always got the same reaction. They would slowly pull their dog away, smile and quickly try to end the conversation. I think a post about the difference between demodex and sarcoptic mange mange would be a great addition to Adrian’s blog.

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