Vets, or veterinarians as they are more formally known, have undergone something of an image transformation, largely due to the evolution of a new species – the TV vet. Where once tweed and manure may have dominated public perceptions; movie star looks and exotic locations (and animals) are the order of the day – a world away from the daily duties of your local vet. petpages decided to separate fact from fiction and spoke to the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) for an insight and advice from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
Very simply, what do vets do?
“Veterinarians look after the health and well-being of animals. They diagnose, treat and help prevent disease and injury in animals. They also give expert advice on the general care for each animal species. Most vets tend to specialise in a particular field such as small animals, horses, or livestock. Many also focus on special interests within these fields - such as surgery, medicine or dentistry.”
And what is the role of the AVA?
“The Australian Veterinary Association is the professional organisation that represents veterinarians across Australia. The association is there to serve the community as Australia’s premier reference group for animal health and welfare, and to represent the veterinary profession and to promote the interests of members.”
What sort of training does a vet undergo?
“A veterinary science degree is fairly long. It takes around five or six years of study, depending on the university. The level of entry into each of the universities is very competitive, and commitment statements need to demonstrate a firm and continuing commitment to the study of Veterinary Science. Evidence of such commitment could include work experience in veterinary practice or in primary animal production; and membership of relevant organisations.”
What should I expect from my first visit to the vet?
“Veterinary practices are usually very welcoming and caring places. Initially you will be asked the details of your animal’s medical history, and the vet will perform a thorough clinical examination. If treatment is required they will discuss the diagnosis and treatment options. If your pet needs routine treatment they should also be able to provide you with an estimate of the costs involved, while more complex procedures may be more difficult to cost.”
How would I go about choosing a vet?
“Word of mouth is the most effective – ask several local residents who they attend and whether they are happy with the service they receive. The AVA also has a Find-A-Vet faculty on its website”
Are vets regulated in Australia?
“Each state and territory in Australia has separate legislation covering veterinary practice which is regulated under the relevant state or territory Veterinary Registration Board (VSB). Consumers of veterinary services in Australia can be comforted by the fact that they are visiting a registered veterinary practitioner who have to have achieved a high level qualification and must continue to perform at a professional level set down by these legislations.”
How important is an annual health check for my pet?
“Regular health checks are crucial as they can detect early signs of disease, and make sure your pet’s teeth, skin, eyes and ears are all healthy. Yearly health checks are a minimum recommendation, although your vet may recommend more frequent checkups depending on your pets’ health status or age. They may also need to update their vaccinations, as well as keeping an eye out for problems as your pet gets older.”
What is the most commonly neglected aspect of a pet’s health?
“Dental problems are a significant problem in dogs and cats. Obesity in pets is also of major concern, as with humans this and can dramatically shorten your pet’s life and lead to other problems such as diabetes.”
What else do I need to do to keep my pet happy and healthy?
“In addition to the annual check up, there are some other basic fundamentals you need to take care of. These include feeding your pet a balanced diet - which your vet can advise you on - making sure they get plenty of exercise, keeping them company, ensuring they have enough stimulation; and last but not least - giving them lots of love and affection.”
How important is pet insurance?
“Our pets are often much loved members of the family, so owners want more sophisticated treatment options. However, unlike with the other members of the family, pets are not covered by the Medicare rebate! There are a number of unforeseen expenses of pet ownership, particularly on how we can deal with the health costs of the more complex medical problems that can beset our pets.”
What are some of the more unusual pets your members have had to treat?
“Besides native Australian mammals some of the more unusual pets one might encounter include snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, rats, mice, ferrets and even tarantulas! The AVA actually has an Unusual and Exotic Pets special interest group which specialises in the treatment of less traditional pets.”
Finally, with the holiday season approaching what advice do you have for pet owners?
“There are a few things that you can keep an eye out for to will help to ensure that your pet dog or cat also enjoys the holiday season without a major health issue arising. Paralyses ticks are a major problem, and are found right the way up and down the eastern seaboard of Australia, mainly in the coastal zone, which is also where many people head during the holiday season. Both cats and dogs are susceptible, and once again we are expecting particularly severe tick season this year due to the wet weather. Snakebite is a major concern for pet owners, particularly during the spring and summer months, and this year is no exception with a bumper season for snakes expected due to the extremely wet weather in many of our States This year veterinarians across Australia have also been treating unusually high numbers of winter cases of a deadly dog and puppy disease canine parvovirus or parvo. This is frustrating as this virus is highly preventable if your pet has the appropriate vaccination.”