If you’re fan of the TV show Seinfeld, you might remember the episode where Kramer somehow becomes the caretaker of a dog named Smuckers. After discovering that poor Smuckers has developed a cough, Kramer decides to take him to a veterinarian for treatment. The vet prescribes medication for the dog, which Kramer unwisely takes to treat his own cough. Kramer then begins to exhibit signs of canine behavior, including biting the ankle of Newman, his mail carrier friend.
Of course, in real life, most of us would never consider taking animal medication to cure our ailments. However, there are a surprising number of people who seek medical advice from their veterinarian when taking their pets for treatment. After all, humans and animals do suffer from many of the same illnesses and medical conditions. Examples include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, depression and anxiety.
Since the medications used to treat these afflictions in animals are often similar to those used for human ailments, some misguided individuals think their vet can prescribe them for their own conditions. The reality is that no competent vet would ever dream of giving medical advice or medications to a human. This is not only an unacceptable practice, but vets are also not licensed to treat humans.
How Can Vets Contribute to the Treatment of Humans?
Although vets cannot and should not treat humans, it doesn’t mean that veterinary science has no role in the advancement of human medicine. In fact, an increasing number of medical practitioners are seeking input from their veterinary counterparts for treating a wide range of human afflictions.
While vets, evolutionary biologists, and animal experts have traditionally been treated as second-class citizens by the medical community, medical professionals are slowly discovering that vets have a unique perspective that can be invaluable in human treatment. While medical doctors treat only one species, most vets treat a wide range of animal species. This gives them unique insight into physical and mental illness that human doctors could never experience.
Examples of Physician/Vet Collaborations
Here are a few examples of how collaborations between physicians and veterinarians could yield positive results in the treatment of certain human medical conditions:
- Self-inflicted injury — Some humans resort to pulling their hair out or cutting themselves with sharp objects as a means of coping with stress or psychological trauma. Certain animal species will also engage in self-injury. Vets have been successfully treating and even preventing self-injury in animals for many years. Their knowledge and experience could be extremely valuable in helping psychotherapists treat these conditions in humans.
- Fear-induced heart failure — It has only been in the last 10-15 years that cardiologists have been diagnosing and treating a potentially serious condition known as fear-induced heart failure. This occurs when a traumatic event disrupts normal heart function. The veterinary community has had success in treating and preventing this condition in a variety of animal species since the 1970s. It’s possible that their treatment protocols could help save human lives as well.
- Postpartum depression — Some women experience severe depression after giving birth. In some cases, this can lead to episodes of psychotic behavior where a mother will actually harm her child. In the animal kingdom, mares sometimes neglect or even reject their foals. Equine vets have learned how to effectively treat this condition with medication. It stands to reason that their knowledge could be beneficial in the treatment of postpartum depression in humans.
Bridging the Gap Between Human Medical and Veterinary Science
Efforts are underway in some parts of the United States to narrow the gap between the two professions. The biggest hurdle in strengthening the bond and facilitating collaboration between doctors and vets is finding ways to overcome physician resistance. Some headway has been made, but there is still a long way to go until vets are viewed as the equals of human doctors.
Are You Interested in a Career in the Veterinary Field?
A career as a veterinary professional can be extremely fulfilling for anyone who enjoys helping sick or injured animals. Vista College offers a Veterinary Technology Associate of Applied Science Degree program that may open the door to an exciting new career in the field of veterinary medicine. For program information, please click here.
CC Photo by NAIT