Dr. Chris Bern

21 Years Experience

Cartersville, GA

Male, 49

I have been a practicing veterinarian since 1997, but have been in and around the profession since 1984. I am a general practitioner and see most pet species, from dogs and cats to parrots and snakes. In my job I do everything from routine vaccinations to complex surgeries and difficult medical cases. Becoming a vet takes hard work and dedication but can be very rewarding.

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116 Questions


Last Answer on January 14, 2019

Best Rated

How can a single vet have the skills required to treat dogs, cats, parrots, and snakes? Don't they have completely different physiologies? Are vets who specialize in a single type of animal typically more skilled (as to that animal)?

Asked by vivafifa almost 12 years ago

Veterinary school is designed to give us a strong education in the main animals seen (dogs, cats, cattle, horses), a good education in secondary animals (poultry, swine, small livestock like goats & sheep), and a basic introduction to less common animals (fish, pet birds, reptiles, small mammals). During school we can focus our education in a particular area with elective courses and rotations, and by our senior year most have chosen a focus. This may be small animals (pets), equine, livestock, or something more specialized like swine or poultry. I never wanted to be a farm vet so I concentrated in small animals. I also had a strong interest in exotic pets and took extra training in this area. Once we get into practice we tend to focus a bit more. Since graduation my skills have greatly improved in pet medicine and I wouldn't feel qualified at all to work on cattle or horses in anything other than the most basic capacity. I have a greater skill in exotic pets than most vets but not as much as a board-certified specialist. Yes, the anatomy, physiology, and disease processes of these species are often radically different. But there are significant differences even between dogs and cats. Our training takes into account the variety of species, and a single person can indeed be skilled in all of these animals. In the veterinary profession we sometimes jokingly look at our human colleagues and think "REAL doctors treat more than one species." ;)

What animals do you least enjoy dealing with and why?

Asked by samantha j nyc almost 12 years ago

Aggressive ones! There isn't one species I like less than others and I'm willing to work with most of them. Regardless of the type of animal I really hate risking bites and scratches. It's part of the job, but it's no fun. Serious wounds can happen, though I've been lucky enough to not be hospitalized due to any work-related injuries.

You mentioned tail docking. Why is this done? Seems cruel and unnecessary.

Asked by ouch almost 12 years ago

Historically it was done to prevent the tails from being grabbed or caught during fights. "Fights" may have been dogs that were deliberately pitted against each other, certain hunting breeds where the pray could get ahold of the tail, or military dogs. In modern times tail docking doesn't serve a real purpose, and is continued merely for cosmetic reasons. Because it's tradition for certain breeds to have docked tails and people have grown accustomed to the appearance, the surgery continues to be performed. Many countries outside of the US have outlawed the procedure because it serves no medical purpose and is done only because people want the dog to look a certain way.

Was there a point during your education where you had to make a choice between traditional and veterinary medicine, and what made you decide to go "animal"? :))

Asked by Vivian almost 12 years ago

Human and veterinary medicine are similar in many ways but the education is quite different. I made the decision early in life, around 9 years old. But the true deciding point was towards the end of college (undergraduate). By the end of college you need to start thinking about where you are going to apply for graduate degrees, and in some cases have to take specialized entrance exams (such as the MCAT for human medicine). Undergraduate training is pretty similar in both areas of medicine. I've always loved animals and grew up watching nature shows. Believe it or not I'm actually grossed out by human medicine and injuries, and couldn't handle seeing the things on humans that I deal with daily in my job. I also have liked the variety in anatomy and physiology in veterinary medicine. We have an adage..."Real doctors treat more than one species." ;)

Is table food bad for pets, or is that an old wives' tale? (I don't mean bacon, french fries, chocolate cake, etc... I mean table food that's generally healthy for humans.)

Asked by Elle7 almost 12 years ago

This is absolutely true. First of all, an animal's digestive tract is quite different than ours and they are designed to digest different types of food. Pets given our foods may not absorb or properly digest our foods. Some human foods can severely upset their intestines or stomach, causing vomiting or diarrhea at the mild end, and life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas at the severe end. Highly fatty foods (such as meat scraps) or very spicy foods are especially likely to cause problems. Some human foods are actually toxic to pets. Onions and garlic are extremely dangerous to cats, to the point that even powdered versions can cause severe illness or death. Grapes and raisins have been known to cause kidney failure in dogs. The average pet owner won't know which foods are dangerous and which aren't. If a pet starts to get used to people food they might stop eating their own food. This can lead to nutritional imbalances and deficiencies, as a human diet isn't properly balanced for a dog or cat. It can also encourage picky eating. Bottom is a very, very bad idea to feed human food to pets.

Is there an age after which there's no point in bringing a dog to obedience school? Like, does it HAVE to happen when it's a puppy?

Asked by Mark almost 12 years ago

Training is much, much easier as a puppy. Socialization is especially important. There is a "window" during which the brain is actively developing social skills and takes to new experiences and training best. That window closes around 16 weeks old! So your puppy's experiences in the first four months of life help determine how they act for the rest of their life. That being said, it's never too late. Basic training and obedience can be taught at any age, though older dogs' brains are more set in their ways making certain skills harder to pick up.

I am a U.S. citizen but am studying to be a veterinary in Brazil, would I still have to do the ECFVG program if I want to practice in the U.S.?

Asked by Elisa almost 12 years ago

Whether or not you go through the ECFVG program is based on what veterinary school you attend, not your citizenship. Many US citizens attend non-US schools and still have to go through the requirements of a foreign graduate. Conversely, I believe that a legal non-US citizen could attend veterinary school in the US without going through the program. You should contact the AVMA to see if your school is considered accredited and what you need to do