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

Assuming my pet is of good/normal health, would you recommend I purchase an animal healthcare insurance plan or just stick with pay-as-you go services?

Asked by Mellie almost 12 years ago

It really depends on the insurance plan, and I'm not familiar with all of the ones out there. Currently pet insurance requires you to pay for the services yourself and then you get reimbursed for a percentage of qualified services, so you still have to have the money. It's a good idea to consider it and look over the details of the various plans. If you're just worried about catastrophic care (sudden illness or injury) you can self-insure by setting money aside in a separate savings account. I would recommend at least $500, but honestly $1000 would be best. Complicated surgeries can easily run $2000-3000. If you're very disciplined just set up a "pet fund" yourself and use it only for unexpected care. Regardless of which direction you go, please be prepared for emergencies. It's very common for pet owners to have do decline care because they can't pay for it, and the pet ends up suffering, taking longer to recover, or being euthanized.

Do you ever recommend outright that a client have his/her pet put down, or do you allow them to come to that conclusion themselves?

Asked by Dan79 almost 12 years ago

I actually get this question frequently. Many people don't want to make that kind of decision themselves and ask if I think that they should euthanize. If the pet is very sick or injured to the point that quality of life will be poor without treatment, or there really isn't any possibility of treatment, I will bring it up as an option. Rarely will I come right out and say "you should euthanize" because this is a very personal decision and sometimes the client isn't ready to decide at that moment, but there have been times when I've been this direct because I feel the pet is really suffering. I believe that my job is to provide information and options and help the client come to the best decision for themselves and their pet. It's not my pet so I can't make the decision for them, but I can certainly guide them.

Do you think keeping monkeys as pets is a bad idea?

Asked by Tr3 almost 12 years ago

Primates as pets are a VERY bad idea. They look cute but they are not pets. They can be very temperamental and aggressive and are far stronger than most people realize. Primates can also be destructive and are not domesticated to be comfortable with human environments. Additionally there are numerous diseases that humans can catch from primates, making them a significant health risk. You also won't find many vets who will work with them because of the need for specialized equipment and a lack of training that we get. Unless you have a licensed zoo or need a small monkey as a service animal, I don't think people should have them as pets.

What's the oddest pet you've ever seen someone walk in with?

Asked by Tr3 almost 12 years ago

Considering that I work with a lot of exotic pets that's a bit tough. In my first job we had a client with a private zoo, so I saw some primates as well as smaller cats like caracals and servals. In general practice the oddest one was an oscar (fish). The client brought him in a wheeled drink cooler filled with his water to have me look at a tumor growing from him. I've seen snakes, pet lizards, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, and just about anything you can buy in a pet store.

I've never understood how vets diagnose pets without being able to ask things like 'where it hurts' or 'what the symptoms are'. How do you go about figuring out what's wrong if someone brings in a dog who "just doesn't seem like himself"?

Asked by Justina almost 12 years ago

It's actually not that different than when pediatricians work on infants or very young toddlers. We are trained to take detailed histories, piecing together a probable cause based on what has happened at home. For a trained doctor a thorough physical exam can give many clues as to what is going on. Sometimes what you don't find can be as important as what you do find and helps us narrow down the possibilities. If we can't figure out the problem based on the exam we have to start running diagnostic tests before coming to a conclusion. Yes, it would be easier if our patients could speak, but we spend much of our education learning to overcome such limitations.

Who are the bigger hypochondriacs - dog owners or cat owners?

Asked by Gracie Jane almost 12 years ago

Okay, I'm probably going to get in a little trouble here. Cat owners do tend to be a bit more "out there" than your average dog owner. That being said, statistically cat owners are less likely to bring their pets in than dog owners. It seems to me that more dog owners see their pets as family members than do cat owners. Taking all of that together I might give the slight edge to dog owners but it really comes down to the individual person.

Have clients ever brought in a type of animal you've never treated before? Are some SO exotic that they NEED to be seen by a vet who specializes in them?

Asked by 7y7kan almost 12 years ago

There definitely are pets that a truly specialized vet needs to work on, though most of these are going to be zoo animals such as primates, camels, and so on. The truly uncommon exotic pets are the ones you can't find in typical pet stores, and therefore there isn't much opportunity for learning their behaviors, diseases, and physiology. But a lot of it comes down to personal training. I have a vet friend who has never become board-certified in exotics but had worked on venomous snakes, Galapagos tortoises, and alligators. He has done a lot of personal research and learning to become skilled with these species, all of which I wouldn't feel at all comfortable working with. Personally I also draw the line at invertebrates, which I don't like and don't have the skills for. Thankfully most clients with exotic pets call first to find out if we'll treat, so I haven't had any big surprises.