Primary care. Those are the words used to describe the front lines of veterinary medicine. Vaccines, spaying & neutering, parasite screening, dental cleanings, managing diseases, preventative health care, and much, much more fall under this umbrella.
As a final year veterinary student at the Ontario Veterinary College I’ve been spending the year participating in various rotations, both at the school and at outside clinics. This week, I came to Baxter Animal Hospital to spend some valuable time gaining experience in primary health care. While OVC is a great place to learn about advanced and complex treatments and surgeries, and the theoretical side of medicine, gaining experience in primary health care is essential to becoming a good veterinarian, especially if like me, that’s where you intend to work when you graduate.
This week I’ve helped with everything from initial puppy appointments to managing chronic disease in more elderly patients. I’ve seen surgeries both routine and unusual and learned an incredible amount from working hands-on with patients and their families. One of the things that has made the biggest impact on me this week is the importance of preventative medicine. In other words, being proactive and on top of your pet’s health to ensure that any problems are caught early and addressed quickly. More than that, it means promoting good health, not just avoiding the bad. That means regular check-ups and addressing a variety of areas of a dog or cat’s health.
Behaviour is an extremely important part of your pet’s quality of life – and this week I’ve learned that there are so many different options to address problems like anxiety, which can be tailored to fit precisely with each pet’s needs. Dental care is something which everyone (including vet students…) has a tendency to forget about—which is not a good thing! A pet’s teeth are a very important part of its well being, and can cause considerable pain and discomfort. Appropriate at-home dental care and, when necessary, a full dental procedure by a veterinary technician and veterinarian, are essential.
Nutrition, exercise, skin & coat care …the facets of a pet’s health are many and varied, as well as inter-connected. This makes any pet’s health a collaborative effort. All of the members of the veterinary health care team, and the pet’s family, have an important role to play in making a dog or cat’s health the best it can be. I’ve seen how owners can catch changes in their pet very early thanks to their thorough knowledge of what is normal for their pet. I’ve also seen how good veterinarians stay on top of research and new developments in the profession, making sure to provide the best possible care to their patients.
Overall, my week at Baxter was an amazing experience that drove home just how interesting, fascinating and important primary health care is and gave me some incredibly valuable hands on experience— and I hope to come back soon!