Letters to dvm360: Views on homeless pet ownership, tech vs. nurse, associate challenges and more

December 12, 2018

Veterinary issues in the limelight elicit varying perspectives to help continue the conversation.

Pets on the street may be better off than their counterparts indoors

I am not advocating for more homeless people owning pets, but in response to “Can you believe that homeless guy owns a pet?!” by Dr. Mike Paul, I'd like to add a couple things.

Let's look again at that person living on the street with a pet. Pretty awful situation, right? No, actually, it's not so bad. I frequently work with, and stop to speak with, people living on the streets. I believe most of these owners feed their pets first and feed them as well as they possibly can. Most of the pets are slim but not underweight. There definitely is not the obesity problem we see rampant in pets with real houses, endless bowls of food and too many treats.

These pets have a real job-to watch over and protect their owner. They are not alone for endless hours inside with nothing to do. They are attentive and often (though not always) well-socialized. They do not have the compulsive and anxiety-related behaviors we see in pets with real houses who have nothing to do but sleep and wait.

These animals get exercise. Their owners cover a lot of ground walking between the church, the soup kitchen, and the shelter (if pets are even allowed) or viaduct where they live. The mental and physical benefits of walking every day are considerable.

I advocate that money and a roof are not what make a good home. These pets are adored by their owners and their basic needs are often covered. Sure, they could use medical care and, yes, some have chronic conditions untreated. And so do the pets I see whose owners could afford to do more.

Oh, and yes, as Dr. Paul mentioned, the mental health benefits to the owner are immeasurable. To say these folks should not have their beloved pet reeks of not understanding the life of the person or the pet. Would that animal really be better off adopted and left home alone eight to 10 hours each day with a big bowl of food and nothing to do?

I think not.

Susan McMillan, DVM

Old North End Veterinary Clinic

Vet to Pet Mobile Veterinary Service

Burlington, Vermont

A vote against adopting the ‘veterinary nurse' title

Thanks for the views of Liz Hughston, MEd, RVT, CVT, VTS, presented in the article “RNs fight veterinary technicians over the word ‘nurse.'” She has said eloquently what I also believe. The numbers listed by NAVTA on whether technicians want their title changed to "veterinary nurse" are skewed, with “con” being much higher than reported.

Donna Shepherd, LVT, CVT

Mesa, Arizona

Personal Accounts narrative highlights poor lifestyle choices

The anonymous veterinary associate who wrote the Personal Account “An associate veterinarian paying down $110K in debt” needs more than financial help. Not only is she stressed by her financial situation, she's not making good dietary and lifestyle choices. In one week she picked more than 15 fast food or fatty restaurant options! Nowhere does she mention exercise in her schedule and expense log. Walking is free! Stress can make one reach for poor food choices. Read The Hacking of the American Mind by Robert Lustig, MD. This underpaid and overworked associate needs to be encouraged to take care of herself; otherwise she won't survive to pay off her loan and enjoy being debt-free.

Janet Lawson, DVM, MPVM

Half Moon Bay, California

Shorter workweek means greater financial challenges

The veterinarian who wrote “An associate veterinarian paying down $110K in debt” describes some frustrating financial difficulties. I honestly didn't pay much attention to the details of the actual expenditures. Of note, however, was the limited workweek. I do think the trend in our profession is toward shorter hours. But it is very difficult for most to make a decent living working 30 to 32 hours a week. I would imagine it could be done in some very busy clinics with higher transaction fees. Otherwise, I'm afraid the majority will find it necessary to work a 45- to 50-hour week to pay the bills.

Ralph Pope, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline practice)

Collierville, Tennessee

Thanks for getting the word out about student debt

The November issue of dvm360 magazine had fantastic and very relevant content. It is getting the word out about student debt, and even though our “leadership” has been slow to respond, at least there has been some positive movement.

Interesting that one of the chief culprits-the AAVMC (the veterinary colleges collectively)-is charged with finding solutions! Maybe a hard look at tuition cost relative to training to make a sufficient living and serving society deserves some consideration. A total transformation in our education and delivery system is in order and maybe the discussion has begun! The individual and collective health of our profession is at stake!

Had better shut up as this only was meant to compliment dvm360 on continuing to deal with significant issues. Hang in there and keep up the good work.

Robert C. Brown, DVM

Herndon, Virginia