Musings of a Veterinarian

Archive for the ‘Questions’

Reader Question Answered

May 25, 2011 By: Dr. K Category: Questions, Veterinary School

From time to time I will receive a private message from a reader with a specific question regarding veterinary medicine. Chances are that reader isn’t the only one wondering. Check out this response to a concerned high school student:

Q: I have a slight (or major, depending on your perspective) dilemma. I’m a sophomore in high school, and I’m taking an honors Chemistry class. I really want to get into veterinary school because I know veterinary medicine is the field I want to spend my life in. Unfortunately, I’m horrible at Chemistry. Anyway, I’m wondering if you could help me with this little problem. I actually have been wondering if I should start really pushing to learn this on my own, or if I should just take a remedial course before college.

A: Congratulations on making a decision to enter the veterinary profession! I’m impressed with your forethought and concern over understanding chemistry and your courage to face the challenge. As a sophomore in high school, I know there is a lot of pressure to earn good grades. Those grades meter acceptance into colleges and determine scholarship awards.

Your success in a high school level chemistry course is not necessarily an indicator of how you might perform in college and then veterinary school.  There are many extraneous factors at work: The quality of your chemistry teacher, the way the course is taught, and the way your brain processes this new subject. All three of these factors change as you enter college. My best advice for you is to try your best. This sounds cliché but it is the most important factor. That might mean extra study and self teaching or even hiring a tutor. I would not go so far as to take a remedial course before college for the same reasons I mentioned above.

Let me tell you a little story: I was one of those kids in high school who never needed to study and still graduated toward the top of my class. My freshman year of college was no different – or so I thought. I barely studied for my first freshman biology exam which I realized was a huge mistake as soon I started trying to answer the questions. I was rewarded with a 64%  –  I was a Biology Major! Student career services told me to rethink my career path and consider dropping biology and changing majors. No way! I learned how to study and how to fill the gaps in my knowledge. I never could have done that in high school. The way you learn, study, and adjust to new material changes as you age. A couple of years make all the difference. I finished that semester with a “B” in my major and I’m still a veterinarian today!

If my math is right you are close to 16 years old. You have 10 years until you become a veterinarian! It’s important to keep perspective that you are still young and have the world in your grasp! You need to embrace your youth and limit your worry. You will have ample time to grasp chemistry: general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry (in both undergraduate and vet school). It will come to you, I promise.


How Safe is My Pet’s Flea Preventative?

May 29, 2009 By: Dr. K Category: Questions

flea1If you have a pet, you’ve most likely heard about the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent investigation into the safety of topical flea and tick preventatives. As a whole, prescription spot-on flea and tick preventatives are fairly safe. As with any medication, allergic reactions and drug sensitivities can occur. Most sensitivities involve irritation at the site of application or several days of lethargy following application. Other signs can include but aren’t limited to poor appetite, seizures, and rarely death. These side effects are uncommon when using medications as directed in healthy animals. The adverse event rate to these medication reported by the EPA is still very low compared to average event reaction rates in human medicine.  Over 100 million doses of spot on flea preventatives were sold in the United States last year. Around 44,000 adverse events were reported to the EPA. That is a rate of 0.04%, an increase from 0.02% in 2007.  Some adverse events will always go unreported. A very generous estimate of a total of 1,000,000 adverse events would yield a rate of 1.0%. This is still quite low compared to the adverse event rate of medications given to hospitalized human patients. Their average adverse event rate is 6.7%.

One of the things the EPA has failed to note during their investigation is the emergence of multiple new spot-on treatments in the last year. Promeris and Profender are both new topical medications advertised for the treatment of fleas and/or intestinal parasites, respectively. Both of these products emerged on the market last year and could account for the substantial increase in reported adverse effects. In addition, with recent pet food recalls, consumers may be more likely to monitor for and report any adverse side effects. Media sensationalism only heightens the public’s awareness of potential side effects and may also ignite a flurry of reported incidents.

Frontline and Advantage have been around for years and the “adverse reaction” rate has held relatively steady. When used as directed in healthy animals of the appropriate age, these products have long been considered safe by veterinarians. Most veterinarians do not recommend over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives due to the lack of scientific based evidence the active ingredients work and lack of regulation.

In addition, despite many warnings and attempts at client communication people are STILL using canine only products on cats. Cats are exquisitely sensitive to permethrins and pyrethrins along with amitraz. Use of these products on cats can result in their deaths. Over-the-counter (OTC) products are typically very poorly marked as to canine only, feline only dosing which leads to errors in use. Be cautious with whatever flea and tick preventative you use.

More is not better. Cats are not small dogs.

How do I increase my chance of getting into veterinary school?

February 15, 2009 By: Dr. K Category: Questions, Veterinary School

Congratulations on making the decision to pursue a career in veterinary medicine! May you find it rewarding and challenging. The decision to become a veterinarian is the first in many steps to actually receiving a degree. Being a veterinarian carries great responsibility and necessitates a life long commitment to learning. The most important thing to remember: Loving animals is not enough of a reason for becoming a veterinarian. VETERINARY MEDICINE IS FIRST ABOUT LOVE OF MEDICINE AND SECOND ABOUT LOVE OF ANIMALS. Once you are sure veterinary medicine is the career for you, read below for a few tips to improve your odds of getting into veterinary school.

1. Do Your Research

There are only 28 veterinary schools in the United States.  The average number of new veterinary students admitted to school nationwide is only 2,100. On average, about 43% of applicants are accepted to veterinary school yearly. Certain schools are more difficult to gain acceptance into than others. Your chances of getting into one of these schools sometimes depends on the state in which you reside. For example, the University of Pennsylvania typically accepts a high percentage of in state students. However, every year the state of New Jersey (with no veterinary school) purchases several seats for New Jersey residents. Other states may have similar contracts. Knowing your chances at different schools can help you narrow down the application process.

2. …More Research

Most veterinary schools prefer students to have their bachelor’s degrees prior to matriculation. Other schools will allow students with a certain number of credits, typically junior undergraduates,  apply and matriculate prior to undergraduate graduation. Know the undergraduate course requirements and GPA requirements prior to application. Preveterinary programs can tailor your undergraduate education to ensure all of the prerequisite courses are completed but does no guarantee admittance. Make sure your undergraduate institution has a network to assist with the application process.

3. Get Experience

You should have in depth experience in at least one field of veterinary medicine prior to application. Some schools, like Cornell University, emphasize breadth of experience over depth of experience. That means the admissions committee seeks applicants with experience in small/large animal medicine, research, shelter medicine, and even human medicine. Most schools recommend at least 1000hrs of hands-on veterinary experience: equivalent to 2-3 summers of full-time work. Cleaning kennels or mucking stalls shows you aren’t afraid of hard work. Of course, the more technical experience the better.

4. Emphasize Other Relevant Experiences

Have a few bad grades but salvaged your GPA? Dealt with the public as a waiter/cashier/fast food provider? Use your non-veterinary experiences to emphasize highly desirable traits like perservereance and social aptitude. Good communication skills are a MUST. Any previous occupations or volunteer efforts that extoll your interpersonal skills need special attention.

5. Be a Man

Sorry ladies. This one is out of your control. Only 25% of veterinary school students are male. Schools are actively seeking men to try to even the field.

6. Pursue a Career in an Under Served Area

Recent updates reveal critical shortages of large animals veterinarians, public health veterinarians, and governement veterinarians. Don’t limit yourself to private practice! Check out this article at AVMA.org!

7. Visit Veterinary Schools

Visit veterinary schools you are interested in at least 6 months to a year prior to application. You will most likely meet with an admissions officer. This is a chance to show initiative and interest in a particular school. This is your first chance go make an impression: ALWAYS DRESS WELL! Take copies of your transcripts and be prepared to discuss any grades under a “B”.

8. Be Persistent

Even if you don’t get accepted to veterinary school your first try, don’t give up on your dream! I know of veterinarians who were accepted on their 3rd attempts. In the interim, strengthen your application with more veterinary experience, a master’s degree, or research.

With proper preparation you can greatly increase your chances of acceptance to veterinary school.