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 10 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).

Do you agree that pet cats should always be kept indoors?

Asked by cracked09 over 10 years ago

For the most part, yest I do. All of my cats are strictly indoors. Other than cancer and organ failure, the majority of the illnesses and injuries I see in cats are related to being outside, including bite wounds, fractures, communicable diseases, and so on. Statistically the average life span for an outside cat is around 12 years old and for an indoor cat is around 16. I realize that some cats can't make the transition to being inside or the owners can't keep them inside (allergies or other problems) so I don't get upset if someone has an outside cat. But I do believe that they are healthier and live longer on average.

Do animals feel pain as severely as people? Last year my parents made us get our cat declawed even though I told them it would hurt her. Even if she didn't feel it, I don't think she's been as playful since.

Asked by caroline over 10 years ago

There are really two things to address here. First of all, yes, animals do feel pain in the same way that we do. And perhaps I should qualify that to say "higher" animals like the ones we keep as pets. Their nervous system is structured like ours, and pain can not only be debilitating but it can also cause physiological stress. Beginning about 15-20 years ago there has been a concerted effort in the veterinary field to recognize the harmful effects of pain on the body, and find ways to control it. Animals may not always show pain in the same way that we do, but they certainly feel it. Pain control should be an essential part of any surgery and post-operative period (NOT optional), and should be considered in any illness or injury. In any given situation, surgery, illness, or trauma, think about whether or not YOU would be hurting and if YOU would want something for the pain. If the answer is yes, then that animal needs pain medication also. The second issue here is that of declawing. Let me be honest in saying that I used to do this procedure, but about 2 years ago decided to no longer perform the surgery. It is an extremely painful surgery and has the potential for chronic problems (though most don't have these issues). I also personally feel that it is an unnecessary surgery where we as a profession have deluded ourselves into thinking it's acceptable. We are using surgery to try and correct what is a behavioral issue. A good analogy would be de-barking a puppy who is constantly yapping. I don't know any vets who would agree with removing a dog's vocal cords, and it's generally considered by most to be inhumane. I don't see declawing as any different. This is my own opinion, but it is shared by many.

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 10 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.

can dog and cat fleas survive and reproduce on human blood and is it possible for humans to cary fleas from home to there work place?

Asked by charlotte about 9 years ago

Fleas are nasty little creatures and are adept survivors.  There are actually many different species of fleas, but what most people come into contact with are "cat" fleas.  Despite the name they can live off of most warm blooded animals, including dogs, cats, raccoons, squirrles, and yes, humans.  We aren't their preferred host and they will typically chose animals over people, but they do just fine on human blood and will certainly reproduce after feeding on people.  A flea typically stays on its host during the adult part of its life cycle unless somehow removed.  While fleas have been known to come in from a yard into a home, hitching a ride on shoes and socks, a longer journey would be less likely but not impossible.

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 almost 10 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 10 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.