Saturday, January 25, 2014

The final question

Last year, I was emailed a two year follow-up survey from my alma mater Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Overall, I feel it is one of the best veterinary schools and my degree prepared me reasonably well for practice. The final question on the survey had me take a moment to ponder.

"If you could do it all over again, would you still become a veterinarian?"

Hmm...all of it?

I thought about the mental/physical/emotional and financial costs of school ("Vet school broke me" one friend lamented years later), after spending my whole life trying to get in. I thought about doing all of that for the privilege of entering a profession with huge mental/physical/emotional and financial costs. I thought about all of us who paid the ultimate price with our marriages and relationships. I thought about doing all of this against a constant backlash of "vets are evil/ignorant/drug-pushers/money-grubbers".

I also thought about my clients who trust me with their most beloved family members, who are scared and confused until they have me to tell them what to do. Clients who won't listen to advice from the internet or from their sister's neighbor's cousin's friend who's "had dogs forever", until they've run it by me. I thought about puppies who are ecstatic to see me at their second visit, about split second decisions where I literally saved a life, and about helping a soul pass peacefully to the other side.

On one particularly bad day, I texted my veterinary BFF, Meredith, saying "If I'd known the price I would pay to do this, I'm not sure I would have", and she responded with a supportive message that ended "Just remember you have friends who know firsthand the price you pay every day".

Oh, and the final question? I clicked YES.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Protecting the Herd

Fletcher and Opie protect their friend Ryker
Recently we implemented a new in-house titre test at our clinic. To practice using the testing kit, we ran the blood samples of our staff dogs. Fletcher, at 15 years old, is still protected well over a decade after his last vaccine was given. Opie, at just over a year old, is still protected from the vaccines he received as a puppy. Ryker, who was 18 weeks old at the time of testing, was found to have no positive titre to distemper, parvo, or adenovirus, despite receiving an excellent vaccination protocol. We were very shocked to learn this. In the scientific literature, dogs like Ryker are referred to as genetic "non-responders" or "low-responders". Since they do not respond to vaccination in the same way the rest of the population does, they are more susceptible to getting sick. This is where the concept of herd immunity becomes crucial.

If the dogs around Ryker (referred to as the "herd") are properly vaccinated, the viruses don't have an opportunity to spread and he is protected, even if his immune system isn't working like it should. It's up to us to make sure our pets are protected, for their sake and for the sake of the dogs around them.

In Ryker's case, we decided to vaccinate him with a different brand of vaccine and he was able to respond with a positive titre. Want to learn more about titres? See my recent post about them here:

Vaccine Titres

Monday, January 13, 2014

Checking Titres

At Shaughnessy Veterinary Hospital we are very pleased to announce that we now have an in-house vaccination titre test for dogs. This allows us to determine if a dog is protected against the most common viruses we vaccinate against, parvovirus, distemper virus, and adenovirus*. Previously, we had to send out blood samples to be tested at the lab, at a significant cost. We are now able to offer this service to our clients for less than $40.

What is a titre?

A titre is a blood test that tells us how much antibody a dog has to protect them against a certain virus. A certain level of antibody is needed for a dog to be protected from getting sick from the virus.

Who might benefit from a titre?

Any dog with an unknown vaccination history, or one who hasn't had a booster in recent years. Any dog who is in for an annual wellness exam and might be due for a vaccine. Any puppy who has completed their puppy vaccines, just to make sure they had a normal response to vaccination. Any dog who has had a vaccine reaction previously, or who has an illness that prevents them from being vaccinated. There is no downside to checking a titre!

How can I get a titre test for my dog?

Make an appointment by calling 604-945-4949. We'll make you an appointment with one of our veterinarians, who can arrange for the titre to be run in hospital.

*Rabies vaccination cannot be substituted with a titre.