Veterinarian

Veterinarian

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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Last Answer on January 14, 2019

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I'd love your thoughts on eastern medicine treatments and the amount of corn in most dog food. Our dog had terrible troubles in her last years, domino effect caused by repeated drug treatments. Are you aware of the MDR1 mutation in herding breeds?

Asked by kevinselle almost 6 years ago

Honestly, I know little about Eastern and holistic/homeopathic medicine. I was trained in traditional Western medicine and believe that there is much more empirical evidence for this than other methods. Corn in pet foods is much maligned, and that's unfortunate. Corn is not a "filler" as is often claimed and actually has many nutrient benefits. Processed, cooked corn is quite digestible, and contains good levels of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and linoleic acid. Personally I don't like it as the first ingredient, but there is nothing "bad" about corn in a diet. The MDR1 mutation occurs in some individuals among herding breeds. There is a test available for it, so people worried about it can have their dogs screened. The biggest historical concern is a sensitivity to ivermectin, though only in comparison to other dogs. Doses of ivermectin found in heartworm prevention are far too low to cause a problem even in dogs positive for MDR1. There are other drugs that these dogs can also be sensitive to, including antiparasitics, antibiotics, analgesics, sedatives, and chemotherapeutic agents. There's a relatively small list of the concerning drugs, so most in these categories are perfectly safe, and even the potentially dangerous ones may be safe at lower doses (such as any used in heartworm prevention).

I originally planned on becoming a paediatrician, but have recently felt that I would get more pleasure out of dealing with animals. I live in Quebec, Canada and I'm still undecided. Is the salary enough for a comfortable living? and do you enjoy it?

Asked by Claauuv almost 6 years ago

I can't speak entirely for Canada, as I'm in the US, but I think North America is pretty similar in the outlooks. Veterinary medicine is actually in a tough situation right now. Student debt load continues to rise while starting salaries are decreasing. A newly graduated vet has on average over $150,000 in debt and can expect to make around $60,000 per year. New vets are actually finding it difficult to survive and pay back their loans. While the situation may change in the future, it's not a great time to enter the field, at least financially. Now, if you have a substantial fortune or can get incredible scholarships so that you can graduate without any debt, you can make a good living. Most new vets I know are not at this point and are happy to simply be able to pay their bills and afford a fast-food meal. Do I enjoy it? It depends on the day you ask me. It's a hard job and not as rewarding or glamorous as most people think. I've gone back and forth over the years and am at the point where I do enjoy it most days.

Do you think "...because I love animals" is enough of a rationale to consider becoming a vet? Why did you get into it?

Asked by georgia_navarro over 6 years ago

"I want to become a vet because I LOVE ANIMALS." Yep, I've heard this plenty of times. And if this is the only reason for going into the field, it is the wrong one. When you're a vet you have to see many hardships. You see pets that are injured, sick, or dying. You will have pets die despite your best care. You will see pets suffer because the owner can't afford treatment. There are many heartbreaking situations that we see every week, and if you are too soft-hearted you will go crazy. There is a delicate balance, because you certainly have to care enough to do your best and be truly compassionate, yet you can't give away your services or take in every stray or hard-luck case. You also have to handle seeing blood, pus, feces, and numerous other gross things. Just yesterday I had an angry cat urinate and then spin around, flinging urine in my eye! "Love" is not enough to handle these kinds of things. Plenty of people who love animals couldn't handle the day-to-day events in a veterinary practice. So why did I get into it? I love animals! Or at least, that's part of it. I do want to ease suffering, heal pets, and help owners. A vet can't be successful and happy if they don't love animals. But I also found anatomy, physiology, and medicine fascinating. I enjoy the intellectual challenges that I face, especially if I can make a pet better. I also love to teach, and being a small-animal vet gives me the opportunity to do it with every client.

I love animals and enjoy biology. I also like trying to solve a problem. I've seen all the pictures on your blog and do not think they are gross, but interesting. Would I make it as a vet? And what kind of math do you do in your career and how often?

Asked by someone almost 6 years ago

Being a vet is much more than being able to handle "gross" or graphic sights. While it certainly helps, that doesn't say anything about your ability to remember details of diagnostics, drugs, and disease. It also doesn't indicate if you can handle the daily stress of the job, make proper decisions, and so on. So it's impossible for me to be able to tell if you would make it as a vet based on that alone. As far as math, most schools require you to take calculus, though I have no idea why. I use basic algebra on a daily basis, so that's essential. Understanding how statistics are calculated and reported also allows you to interpret studies properly. Math is important, but you don't need highly advanced knowledge.

Do you have any desire to retire, or do you love what you do so much that it's not something you often think about?

Asked by Kal about 6 years ago

Great question! To many vets, myself included, it ends up being a job rather than a "calling". We may enjoy our work, but it's still work and it does wear us down. Burn-out is actually a serious concern among medical professionals because of the emotional roller-coasters we have (even in veterinary medicine) and the often extreme mental work-out we have when diagnosing cases. To me being a veterinarian is what I do, not who I am. I have much more passion in my non-veterinary activities (theater, ministry, being with my family, playing on my computer...) and would like to be able to have more time for those things. So yes, I hope to one day retire and am looking forward to not having to be in a clinic daily. However, I'm still young enough that retirement will be 25-30 years away unless my personal finances improve greatly before then.

My dog has been diagnosed with megaesophogus the vet told my husband that it could be fixed with surgery but it was very expensive what does something of that nature usually cost?

Asked by shana 1971 about 6 years ago

This is a very tough one to answer. Whether or not it can be fixed depends on what caused it. Some cases of megaesophagus cannot be cured. A surgery like this should normally be done only by a board-certified specialist surgeon. The cost can be highly variable depending on which kind of surgery is needed and who is performing it, but you're probably looking at a few thousand dollars. My best recommendation is to ask more questions of your veterinarian.

We adopted a 5-month old kitten whose whiskers seemed to have been chewed short by siblings the night before we finalized adoption. I figured they would grow back. Well it has been 2 weeks and all the whiskers on 1 side just disappeared altogether, why?

Asked by drekom about 6 years ago

It would be hard to say for certain without examining your kitten myself. But I can make an educated guess. Whiskers are modified hairs, but their structure and growth is very similar to other hairs. When a hair is old or damaged, it will fall out. In fact, the old hair needs to fall out and the follicle goes through a brief dormant period before a new hair can regrow. Whiskers will follow a similar pattern. Give it another month or so and I'll be they'll be regrowing.