Veterinarian

Veterinarian

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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Last Answer on July 05, 2017

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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 over 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.

Is it true that people and their pets often end up looking alike, or is it just a thing the media likes to play up when they see it?

Asked by Guanita about 5 years ago

That's definitely a media thing!  The physical appearance of a dog or human doesn't start to change to duplicate anyone or anything in the surrounding area.  If it did, husbands and wives would resemble each other and children would look even more like their parents.  It's amusing to us to see owners and pets looking similar, so media sources like to highlight these situations.  I can't think of any clients I've had who closely resemble their pets.

3 yr old mini -dachs 13 lbs severly injured muscles from his neck back rear by twisting backwards falling 2wks ago. xrays done/ discs appeared fine. He is on prednisone mg 1per day,methocarbam 500. He is worse. can i inc pred by 1/2, pain is very bad

Asked by Ms. Blair Sterling about 5 years ago

Here's advice for this pet owner as well as all others out there.  When you have a situation like this one where your pet is injured or sick and needs an immediate answer, DO NOT go to the Internet with questions.  It would be immoral and unethical for me or any other vet to give dosage advice with a pet that is not a patient of ours.  Changing dosages is not something to be done lightly and has to take into account the pet's other health situations, current lab tests, and many other factors.  In fact, giving specific medical advice like this without having seen the patient is against state law.

My best advice is to contact the vet who made the diagnosis.  He/She is the one who will know whether or not to change the dosage, or if potentially more needs to be done.  Sometimes a spinal/disc injury does not show up on x-rays and additional diagnostics need to be performed.  Talk to your vet.

If a vet that specializes in a particular field, are they able to practice general medicine as well?

Asked by Lee almost 5 years ago

Technically and legally, yes, at least in the US.  Specialty licensing is given out by organizations recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association, not by state laws.  Each state's licensing governs veterinarians as a whole, not any particular specialty.  So when a state grants a license it automatically includes all aspects of veterinary medicine.

In reality, however, most specialists become very rusty with disciplines outside of their field.  I'm sure that I'm better at doing spays that most specialists other than surgeons, though they are better at their discipline than I am.  So even though a specialst might be legally able to practice general medicine, they may not be skilled outside of their field, especially if they have been a specialist for a long time.

Do vets get lobbied by animal food manufacturers to push their brands?

Asked by Garcia over 5 years ago

In a way, yes.  But that's true of all drugs and products a veterinarian carries, and from what I understand it's also true in human medicine.  I do believe that each company believes their products are the best and obviously in order to make money they want people to utilize and purchase what they have.  First they have to convince the veterinary clinic that they have the best product or offer.  This is done nationally through advertisements in veterinary journals.  Locally, representatives from a given company will come to talk to the clinic owner and staff.  Sometimes this may be through passing out informational brochures on a disease or parasite that the vet can then give to clients.  These are actually very helpful for explaining things to clients, but obviously will have the brand logo.  Sometimes they will have a "lunch and learn", where they bring food into the clinic and hold an educational seminar for the staff.  This is also done on a larger scale with local and national continuing educaiton meetings sponsored by a given company.  

The pressure is typically low, centering around "our product is the best because...."  While there may be incentives for the vet to purchase it and then sell to clients, there is not "you MUST carry our product!"  There are multiple food companies and pharmaceutical companies, so competition is certainly out there.  In the end it comes down to the individual veterinary practice to make a decision.  Some may decide to carry a food or product because they have looked at all of the options and feel that it is truly the best.  Some may promote a product because the clinic gets the best financial incentives that way. It all comes down to the practice owner and manager, and how the make their decisions.

Hello. A few hours ago I was on a bed and when I stepped off the bed I stepped on my dogs front paw. She has been limping on it, I lightly moved her paw and toes, she didnt yelp but flinched a little bit. I feel bad and I am not sure what to do.

Asked by Liz over 5 years ago

This may sound trite or callous, but it's not intended as such. When something like this happens you should call your vet, not go to the internet. It may not be anything serious, but there is no way someone online can properly diagnose a pet. You will need to have a vet examine your dog and then determine if there is a real concern. I know people want to save money and that there is a ton of information on the Web, but the health of your pet is worth at least an office visit.

Can ANY cat be an indoor OR an outdoor cat, or should some species be kept as one or the other? When my indoor cat pokes his head outside when the front door's open, he starts sneezing like crazy. Is it because he's not used to the pollen?

Asked by Smelanie over 5 years ago

Technically any cat can be either indoor or outdoor. However, I do think that some cats should remain indoors. Long-haired cats will be more likely to get twigs, leaves, and brambles in their fur, as well as have a higher tendency for matting. Hairless cats like the Sphinx have less insulation or protection due to the lack of fur, and so shouldn't go outside. Beyond that a particular breed isn't more or less likely to have problems. Your indoor cat may be sniffing heavily, bringing in more air and dust particles, therefore causing tickling of the sinuses. Pollen isn't the only cause of irritation in the nasal passages. Because he's not used to going outside he'll be sniffing and investigating more than a cat who was outside frequently.