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On the Edge of Common Sense: The rookie DVM

Contributed by Baxter Black Published on 11 March 2019

How many of you have ever had a new veterinarian out to your place? You think you’re scared?

One of the hazards of a livestock veterinary practice is: It is the one specialty in vet medicine where the client almost always knows more than the new graduate veterinarian. Ya see, in vet school, we spent years learning diseases and treatments. We were taught hundreds of possible ailments that might afflict yer critters.

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By the time we finally escape and are turned loose on the unsuspecting public, we are bursting with knowledge. They’ve packed it in our brains like sand in a rat hole. Only problem is, we haven’t figgered out which diseases get priority when we’re tryin’ to come up with a diagnosis.

Say I was lookin’ at a feedlot steer with a swollen foot. My brain would be swimmin’ with possibilities – ergot, frostbite, fractured sesamoids, BVD, corns … While I’m sifting my computer-like memory bank for tests to run to determine how to diagnose the limping steer, the feedlot cowboy is shuffling his feet. It’s the third steer like this he’s pulled this week and the 99th one he’s seen in the last five years. He knows what it is. The odds are in his favor.

Or the rancher with an anaplasmosis cow. He’s seen hundreds of them. The new vet’s never seen one. Same with erysipelas in hogs or bumblefoot in sheep. New livestock vets learn a lot their first year, thanks to the kindness and patience of many livestock producers.

The new vet who goes into a dog and cat practice still has the same problems sorting out priorities, but the average dog or cat owner is not as knowledgeable in pet diseases. Horse practice is probably the strangest of all specialties. Backyard horse owners are much like pet owners in that they really know very little about the ailments of their equine.

But those brave new vets who take up racetrack practice or a horse show specialty face a mysterious clientele. In addition to the extensive list of legitimate problems and treatments encountered, they must also deal with a blithering array of mythical ailments and mystical treatments. Superstition, patent medicine and secret ingredients abound in the horse world.

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So all I can ask is, when you have a “wet behind the ears” graduate veterinarian out to your place, cut ’em a little slack. Who knows – with your help, they might amount to somethin’ someday. end mark

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