A couple of weeks ago my veterinary class celebrated our 25th class reunion. I couldn’t attend because I was at a horse show, but I started thinking of all the changes that have occurred in veterinary medicine in the time I have practiced.
- Pain medicine has advanced greatly, and our understanding of pain has also improved. 25 years ago, dogs rarely got Bute or aspirin, which we now know universally causes stomach ulcers. Today we have different classes and choices of pain medication. Infusions of pain medication are routine but underheard of then. While we are currently struggling with an opioid shortage, we still have many more choices then we use to have. 25 years ago, cats had nothing for pain. Due to their unique metabolism, we still have only a small amount of choices compared to dogs, but at least we have something.
- Drugs available for anesthesia are safer and we have more choices. We also have drugs that allow us to safely sedate your pet in the office and then reverse the drugs and send your pet home shortly after a procedure
- Flea control consisted of shampoos, dips, sprays and bombs. Today’s choices include topicals, orals, and collars.
- We have a better understanding of the role of diet in our pet’s health. Dog and cat food has better ingredients, made into better formulas. Dog food companies are now actually changing diets to change the gene expression of animals to control disease.
- Veterinary specialists are more readily available and accepted. In my first practice the closest specialty hospital was over 2 hours away. It only offered limited specialists. A lot of times, we did things because we were the only option for our clients. It was fun because it allowed us to stretch our wings and do procedures that we are obligated to refer today. My first boss told me he felt sorry for me, because he predicted correctly that as my career went along we all would be sending more and more to the specialists.
- As I write this, I am on call for our patients. Our hospital is one of the last hospitals in the county that take emergency calls. 24/7 emergency clinics are commonplace now, providing supervised care for patients. This allows our patients to have the best care possible and allows veterinarians and their staff to have a work/life balance that didn’t exist before. At the first hospital I worked at, I got 3 days off out of every 14 days. That schedule was commonplace.
- The internet didn’t exist, so our research was limited to books and phone calls to specialists we had a relationship with.
- Dental care has advanced, and we understand the relationship of periodontal disease to the health of the rest of the body.
- Allergy treatment has improved just in the past 2 years, and as a result we are able to keep a lot of pets comfortable without having to resort to treatments with long-term side effects.
I don’t feel as if I have been practicing for 25 years (my mother can’t believe she has a daughter that has been a vet for that long either). I can only imagine what the next 25 years will bring.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.