Dr. Chris Bern

Cartersville, GA

Male, 42

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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110 Questions


Last Answer on July 05, 2017

Best Rated

Do people ever come in and ask you to prescribe ADD or anti-depressant meds for pets?

Asked by anna_b over 5 years ago

I really don't have clients ask for these, but I do prescribe them. Animal behavior is a very strong interest of mine and I've done additional self-education in this area. I think that behavioral medications certainly have their place in treating certain disorders and am familiar with their use. Just yesterday I refilled a prescription for Prozac for a dog.

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 about 5 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.

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 about 5 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 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 over 5 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 over 5 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 over 5 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.

Do vets have to carry malpractice insurance just like doctors, and how often do they get sued? What's the biggest settlement or award you ever heard a vet being hit with?

Asked by hijinx almost 5 years ago

We can get sued for malpractice and do carry insurance for it.  However, the laws and expenses are different than in human medicine.  Animals are considered a special form of property and therefore a person can only sue for financial loss, not for pain and suffering.  Someone can sue for the financial value of the pet, which is usually minimal, and is only higher for an expensive breed or a quality breeding stock.  They can also sue for any expenses incurred, such as medical costs.  In most lawsuits you will have maybe $100-500 for the pet itself and a couple thousand for medical expenses the client paid.  So a basic lawsuit might be for less than $5000, which in most states is enough to qualify for small claims court.  Malpractice on an expensive breeding horse may get into the tens of thousands of dollars due to loss of future income.  But the million dollar lawsuits common in human medicine really don't happen in veterinary medicine.  Because of this my annual malpractice insurance cost is less than what most human doctors pay per month.

There is a movement in many states for people to be able to sue for their own mental anguish at the loss of their beloved pet, and there have been a few lawsuits where this has happened.  Even in those cases it ends up being minimal total cost, around $10-20,000.  If more expensive lawsuits happen our malpractice insurance costs will go up and that increased cost will get passed on to clients.