It seems hard to believe, but it is over thirty years now since I headed down to Palmerston North to start my veterinary degree. At the time, it seemed very high tech and I was amazed at what the clever surgeons could do at the University.
With the passage of time, what seemed high tech, is today old fashioned and out of date.
When I started, vets didn't have computers, the first mobile phones had just come out (and they were huge), digital radiology hadn't been invented, and the idea of getting an MRI for your pet seemed like science fiction.
The development of technology has revolutionised veterinary medicine. In clinic blood analysers enable us to get results in a matter of minutes. High quality digital x-rays, ultrasound, CT scans and MRIs are now routinely used in the diagnosis of our pets’ medical problems.
The other big change is the development of specialists who have done additional training in specific areas of veterinary medicine. In Auckland alone we have specialists in veterinary ophthalmology, dermatology, surgery, medicine, diagnostic imaging, dentistry and animal behaviour.
Back when I started my first job we didn't have access to all these specialists. This meant if you were faced with a complex surgery such as a broken leg, often your only option was to "have a go". I have done many surgeries over the years with the text book next to me following the instructions on how to do a surgery. I must say when you look at the patient in front of you and compare it to the diagram in the book they often don't look at all similar.
This was how vets got good at surgery - by practice. The down side is there is no substitute for experience. Which would you rather have operating on your pet - or for that matter, you? A surgeon who is having a go for the first time, or one who has done the procedure many times before?
I must admit I see cases through the clinic now that I refer to specialists for surgery. I know I have done that procedure a few times in the past but the best outcome is clearly going to occur using an expert surgeon. My main consideration is always going to be what is best for my patient, not what makes me the most money.
The down side to all this technology and specialisation is the dramatically increased cost of veterinary care over the years. I believe a lot of this is client driven. People's expectations are always increasing. Despite how clever we may feel with our fancy diagnostics and new medicines, people always want more. If it can be done to a person, why can it not be done for their treasured pet?
No doubt when we look back in another thirty years we will be amazed at how primitive it seems today. Who knows what we will be doing for our sick pets in 2047?
One thing I can guarantee, you it won't be seeing me in 2047 at Blockhouse Bay Vets.
My name is Lance Eastman and I am the local vet here in Blockhouse Bay.
I first started working in the Bay in 1997 and tried to escape overseas for awhile but eventually ended up back where I started.
I did return with a Scottish wife, Jacqueline who is also a vet and my business partner at the clinic.
I have been writing articles on matters related to pets for over ten years now. Sometimes I run out of ideas and get my dog "Breeze" or my cat "Radish" to write something for me. Most people prefer to read these articles over what I write but it can be hard to motivate your pets to write sometimes.