Ask The (student) Vet

Yet another addition to the “ask the…” threads.

Lots of people seem to ask pet questions on here, so I thought people might be interested in an Ask The Vet thread.

So’s you all know: I’m a final year student, graduating shortly, so there isn’t a lot I haven’t covered yet. That said, I am still a student. However, I’ve got a load of lecturers and textbooks, so I hope I’ll be able to answer most questions.

I’m in Australia, so if you have questions about parasites or toxic plants in your area and it’s not Australia I may not be able to help you (I will try to point you to resources that could help, though).

I do not do diagnosis over the net. If your pet is sick, I recommend you take it to your vet straight away.

However, stuff about prevention, treatment, animal behaviour, diet, etc… That’s all good.

I know most about dogs, cats and cattle, but I’m up there on sheep, horses, pigs and goats. Small furry things, birds and reptiles are not particularly my area, but I’ll let you know what I know.

So, animal lovers of the planet, what would you like to know about vets, pets, animals in general?

Phraser, after five years in the vet schooling system, how confident do you feel about treating an injured/sick animal?

Do you think you’ll continue learning for a long time, or that after you get into practice and have spent a couple years on the job, it will be same old, same old?

Do vets specialise in the way some human doctors do? If so, do they specialise by type of body part (eg orthopaedics, opthalmology etc), by animal (herpetology, large animals) or by type of treatment (radiology, chemotherapy etc)?


I feel reasonably confident that I’ll be able to give enough emergency treatment for me to work out what’s wrong with the animal, and then treat it appropriately 98% of the time (no-one’s perfect). I don’t think I’ll be a brilliant surgeon, but that’s because it’s all about practice, just like any form of carpentry and needlework.

Not only do we continue learning from what we do for the first several years, we are actually required to do continuing education so we’re constantly keeping up-to-date with the latest and greatest. That said, the first year or so you are required to be quite heavily supervised in Australia. After that, you have access to professional guidance when you need it.
If you stick to the same kind of practice, after a while it will become fairly routine, but there are always surprises in store.

Yes, vets specialise: and they can specialise by species, by type of medicine/surgery, or by treatment (eg radiology). Sometimes as a combination. For example, I have a lecturer who is a feline endocrinologist (she works in the area of hormonal diseases of cats).

Can I ask some more general questions?

If you don’t mind revealing your location, where do you study? Did you choose your uni for a particular reason? Is there a degree of specialisation between vet schools? For example, do regional universities cater towards caring for farm animals?

How long is your course? Maxxxie seems to indicate five years. Is that typical? Does your final year of study incorporate a thesis-writing component?

Will you feel comfortable using the title “Doctor” without a PhD?

How did you cope with the cost of living while completing a lengthy uni degree? Do many vet students work part-time for vets for cash and work experience? How do you feel about your HECS debt, if you deferred the cost of your degree? What HECS Band (I, II or III) do vet courses fit into?

What is the worst abscess you’ve seen?

I have a question about cats.

Red or white?

[font size=-1]Now, don’t get all up in arms. I own two wonderful, adorable cats who I love very much. With or without the dipping sauce.[/font]

I study at the University of Queensland in Brisbane (although not all of our course takes place in Brisbane). I chose to go there because it offered direct entry from high school (not all vet courses do- some require you to take a year of the BSc first then apply for entry) and because I already lived in Brisbane, so it was convenient.
There are only four vet schools in the country - Uni of QLD, Uni of Melbourne, Uni of Sydney and Murdoch Uni in Perth. There are no rural vet schools (although many rural universities offer agricultural science/applied science in animal care) The vet schools don’t specialise per se (the curriculum to register as a vet is set). There is also a substantial amount of vacation work you are required to do to complete the course, and if you have an interest in a particular species, it’s often allowed for you to take more prac work in that species/industry.
At universities that allow direct entry (eg mine) the course is five years. At others (eg Uni of Melbourne) where you apply after a year of the BSc, it’s four years. In fifth year we write a substantial essay, which can be a critical review or a case report, but there is no requirement at this time to do a thesis per se. You can elect to take a year out between third year and fourth year to do a reseach thesis if you’d like.

I’m reasonably comfortable being called doctor without a PhD, as human medicos are called doctor with only a bachelor’s degree (they have MB, BS) and dentists are too. It is just a courtesy title, and there are restrictions on how you can use it.

Vet is an expensive degree to complete. The textbooks and equipment are a substantial cost, and the hours that we spend in lectures and prac are long (pretty much 8-5, Monday to Friday). We also are required to undertake (unpaid) work experience/prac in most of the holidays, which can make holding down work difficult. Many students (myself included) undertake part-time/casual work while they study, some with vets, some not (most of mine was in fast food, tutoring, driving prostitutes, whatever i could get really). It’s often hard to get a job with a vet, and the experience you get often isn’t particularly relevant to being a vet because often all you get to do is clean kennels.

My HECS debt will be about $30,000, because HECS is charged at the most expensive band (which is, I think, III) for 5 years. I deferred all of mine, because I’m not rich, so it will be a substantial impost. I think the exact figure is something like $32,437, which is more than my first year’s pre-tax salary will be once I graduate. However, I’d rather pay off HECS than pay up-front fees at the upfront rates. Contrary to popular opinion, vets (in this country at least) don’t earn a lot of money.

It was in January this year, on a dairy farm while I was seeing practice. It was in a Freisian bull. The location was on the left flank, at about the position of the 9th rib, but more towards the ventral size of the animal. It was about the size of my fist x3, and jutted out of the body contour by at least 10 cm. It had probably been there for a while, because it had quite thick walls. We drained it by sticking a scalpel blade in and making a hole, and a torrent of bright green, foul smelling, chunky, caseous purulent material poured out. We hosed it out (this thing was the size of a grapefruit) and the inside was corrugated and raw. From the smell, the bacterium might have been Pasteurella multocida We gave the bull a shot of antibiotic, and that was that.

I think both are beautiful :slight_smile:

Way cool abscess. I’ve heard that feline diabetes seems to remit for a while with no warning, what causes that? How is feline diabetes different from human diabetes?

Just bumping this post. Phraser’s away on a well-earned vacation and will be back soon. Keep those questions coming!


My MinPin has a sore or a lesion on her skin. It is a lump, something like a zit but bigger. The skin around this area is flaky and it seems to be getting larger. Or other patches are coming out. The central area there is no fur growth and the skin is very coarse and calloused.

I cut the fur around this area and applied iodine on it.

I think i read somewhere that it is ringworm or could be a fungus of some sort. Or she can be infested with mites, she had that sort of problem earlier in her life but was cured of it.

She again is a short-haired breed Miniature Pinscher. age 5. Spayed, but had a litter of 6 pups at age 2. about 18.5 pounds. overweight by 5 pounds from breed standard. Black and Tan in color. and about a half inch too tall for the breed standard.

She doesn’t scratch the area in question to my knowledge. She is quite active and not really suffering from much. Bowel movements are good, eats too much in my opinion. Hates raccoons, skunks, squirrels and other vermin with a passion. Cats can irk her too.

hehe, what else do i need to tell you…

I’ve got a Carolina Dog (very similar to dingoes), nine years old, about 70 pounds (~32 kg), and for a few weeks, when she eats, she’s been pushing the bowl around the floor with her nose and not eating much. Today though, she seems to have figured out a solution to whatever is bugging her, and now she’s lying down on the floor with one foreleg sort of wrapped around her food bowl and eating that way. It’s pretty strange (and comical), but I’m wondering if it’s a problem with her age or something. She used to push the bowl around a bit maybe six months ago, but she stopped during the winter.

Also tonight she made some weird yelping noises while eating a rawhide treat, but that’s never happened before so I’m watching her for a while to see what comes of it.

(Why do I feel like one of the fictional writers to the James Thurber animal advice column? “Dear Mrs. Smith: What you have is a bear…”)

Background: I have a smallish dog. He’s nine months old and about 22 pounds. I was told when I got him that he was Jack Russell Terrier/Poodle, but he looks much more like JRT/Beagle.

He was easy to houstrain, is well behaved in the house (but VERY playful-stealing socks, etc. :slight_smile: ), very loving, and I think I did pretty good at researching how to raise a puppy and following through on most things. We also took a puppy kindergarten class when he was 4 months old. He has been exposed to many diferent kinds of people since he was a baby.

Problem: Over the last two or three months, my dog has developed a barking problem. It started shortly before he was neutered (two months ago). He’ll ocassionally bark repeatedly when he meets someone new, and lots of time when he meets kids. :frowning: This barking is accompanied by a wagging tail, cowering down, and raised hair down his back. If the person comes closer, he’ll start to growl. So I guess it’s pretty clear that he’s doing this out of fear, but what I don’t know is how to react and what to do to ease him out of this behavior, if that’s possible. I do know what NOT to do - start petting him (he’ll think he’s being praised for barking) or raise your voice (he’ll think you’re barking, too) - and I’ve tried having the other person give him treats, but it hasn’t really helped that much.

As I said, it’s mostly occassionally, sometimes he will see a person for the first time and go right up to them and start snuggling.

Do you have any advice?

Hey, I’m hoping you read this! It’s weird that I saw this thread today.

Last night my husband fed my dog (Part Australian Sheppard–she’s a pretty large dog) a can of tuna with her dog food, and also a bowl of milk. We hardly ever treat her to the tuna or milk. Anyway, she threw up everything she’d eaten last night, and continued to dry heave for a while. Even this morning she was hacking every once in a while.

Her tummy was also growling this morning. I’ve never heard a dog’s stomach growl like that. I tried to get her to eat a little dog food, or some bread and she didn’t seem to be interested in either. Anyway, I’m going home to check on her at lunch.

Do you think something is seriously wrong with her? Or should I just shrug it off and remember not to feed her tuna and milk again?

Any advice would be appreciated!

phraser- Congratulations on almost being through. I am also a vet praticing in Texas. I’ve been out a couple of years now and I guarantee you you will keep learning. Just when you start to feel comfortable something weird always pops up. It’s fun though and challenging and hopefully you will enjoy your career. You will definitely have some good stories to tell, although some days I do admire those who just punch in and punch out of their jobs M-F. Anyway good luck, I hope you enjoy yourself on your vacation and I guess all that’s left to say is the fun is really just about to begin.

In the US they say it is harder to be accepted in the Vet school than Medical school. Is it hard to get into Vet school in Australia?

Did you read “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot as a child (I think in the UK it was titled “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet”)? Was being a vet a lifelong dream or something you decided upon later in life?

I’m not sure about this, since im not a vet. I am quite well read in the dog thing tho.

Well, in short, dogs don’t like a change in the diet. Wait, they love it, but their tummies can’t take it that well. I think it’ll be a little phase where she won’t be eating much. Try to stick with what your dog normally eats. My dog usually starts to have diarrhea after a “new” brand of food comes her way. A gawd do my parents love to give her ppl food. And most of the times they do, my dog ends end puking it back out. At least she doesn’t go back to her puke and lap that mess up.

Just clean out the dog food bowl from any lingering tuna smell, and leave the normal food out for her to try again.

I hope that helps a bit, I wouldn’t worry all too much. We love our pets and puking scares us. Just don’t think your dog can handle a change in diet that is sudden. Their digestive system is different from ours and any irritation whether small or large will induce puking. That’s why they are a strong species, whatever doesn’t settle well in their tummies gets an automatic exit out the front door. hehe.

and btw kiss your dog for me :slight_smile:

jackelope, that could be a lot of things, but my best guess would be orthopedic, or maybe a soft tissue problem in her neck/throat. I’d get her looked at if it continues; it’s better to worry about nothing than to shrug off a serious problem.
endswithani, have you noticed any similarities in the behavior of people he barks and cringes at? It sounds like some folks make him feel threatened (staring, charging right up to him, something) and when they get closer, he thinks they’re upping the aggressive ante and responds in kind.

Breezy, if she continues to vomit or starts having diarrhea, take her to the vet. It’s unlikely, but entirely possible, that she could be developing pancreatitis. In any case her stomach won’t be up to par for a day or two, the same as yours after a nasty bout of vomiting, so lay off the food a bit and maybe mix some rice in with her dinner to make it blander and more digestible.

And don’t give her any more tuna or milk, especially not a boatload of both at the same time.

CrazyCatLady, hmm…it seems like they’ve all been male, but I know of at least one guy who he hit it off with right away. It may be that they’re coming up to him too fast. I have noticed that if they turn their backs he will sometimes sneak up to them and sniff.

He’s such a sweetie at home, I just wish he were more comfortable in public!

Thanks, CrazyCatLady; I’ve heard about soft tissue problems in the throat, especially on older and larger dogs (mine is both).

One person suggested putting her food on top of something so she doesn’t have to move her head down so far to eat it, but when I tried that she just knocked the bowl off and sent food everywhere. I’ll keep an eye on her and see if it continues.

Ok, back from my vacation now grins

I can’t really comment on how feline diabetes is different from human diabetes, because I haven’t done much in the way of human endocrinology. However, I can tell you that cats get both type 1 (insulin dependant- decreased production) and type 2 (normal insulin production, decreased utilisation) diabetes, and that both usually only occur in older (predominantly male) animals, unlike humans, where AFAIK type 1 is most common in children and type 2 in people over 40.

As for the question of “remission”, I’d argue that it isn’t in fact remission, just a subclinical manifestation of the disease (that is, the basic disease pathology is still there but just isn’t causing clinical effects right now). This is because treatment of diabetes (and concurrent diseases) causes improved function of the beta cells (insulin regulating/producing) of the pancreas, which may lead to normal blood glucose concentrations without treatment for a period of time.

Unfortunately, skin problems are one of the things that it is very hard to comment on without actually seeing them, doing skin scrapings and so on.
Things it sounds like it might possibly be (in no particular order): Hypoadrenocorticism, especially if she is eating/drinking more than she used to. Mange/mites (especially if she likes to chase vermin). Ringworm. A bacterial skin infection. Several less likely others.
Most of those things require veterinary advice or treatment, so if the skin condition is still there or you are at all concerned about it, I would advise you to See Your Vet.

Old dogs are prone to many conditions which may be causing this kind of behaviour. Decreased food intake, pain on eating, and playing with the food bowl may be signs of dental problems. Open the mouth and have a look… does she have red gums/tartar on her teeth(especially the back ones)/bad breath? Other possibilities are fading eyesight, decreased co-ordination due to arthritis of the neck/legs, or a soft tissue problem in the mouth/throat.
Things you could try: Weighting the bowl so it doesn’t move around. (If it’s due to vision or incoordination this could help). Putting the dish on a higher surface (eg a bench) and securing it there. This may help if it’s a neck arthritic problem.
Older dogs are probably more in need of more frequent check-ups than younger ones, so if in doubt, or she shows decreased appetite for more than a two weeks, or she stops eating altogether, See Your Vet.

Behavioural problems can be quite complex. Does he only do this at home, or in other places too? Only to certain genders? It sounds like it could either be fear or aggression due to dominance or protectiveness. If it only happens at home, it could be territorially related. If it is fear and it only happens in public places/new situations, it’s possible that the fear may not be something there is a magical solution to. Dogs have a sensitive period while they are puppies where they are open to learning about new situations, and positive or negative experiences that they have (or don’t get to have) in this time can affect their lifelong behaviour. I guess another two things to note are that behaviour problems are rarely quick fixes and that dogs have their personality likes and dislikes, like humans. If the behaviour is due to shyness, your showing confidence when introducing your dog to new people, and asking them to not come on too strong may help. Suggest they hold out a closed fist about 1-2 feet from his nose, and wait for him to be comfortable enough to sniff it.

It’s a little late for me to answer your urgent query, but it’s possible that the sudden dietary change has given your dog a gastrointestinal upset. Offering water but no food for 12 hours and then only very bland food for the next 12 (eg boiled rice with steamed chicken or similar) to ease her back on to food is what is often suggested. If symptoms persist, and the food was particularly rich or a large quantity was consumed, pancreatic disease or liver problems may have resulted. Acute Pancreatitis usually presents in pretty severe form- the dog looks noticably very sick, sits in such a way as to guard the abdomen, may have a fever, vomiting, drinking a lot or nothing, breathing fast, diarrrhoea and collapse. Another reason for sudden onset of vomiting could be eating something (eg a ball) that has caused an obstruction in the intestine. If you suspect either of these problems, See Your Vet, the sooner the better.
If you ever plan to change your dog or cat’s diet, do it over at least a week, mixing increasing proportions of the new food with the old one over the changeover period. This will give the pet time to adjust to the new food.
Just for interest’s sake, milk and fish proteins are quite likely to cause food intolerance in dogs and cats (especially fish in cats).

Thanks for your good wishes :slight_smile: I knew I couldn’t be the only veterinary type on here.

Yes, it’s quite hard to get into Vet school in Australia. I can’t comment about the comparison with medical school because the entry procedures are different. There are also many more medical school places than vet school places.
I read all 8 of James Herriot’s books as a child (All Creatures Great And Small was in fact an omnibus of his first two books), which I still own. I also read several by Hugh Lasgarn, David Taylor and almost everything by Gerald Durrell.
I can’t say that being a vet was a lifelong dream, but it was something that I first considered as a child and kept in mind (along with other career possibilities) throughout my schooling.
smiles thanks for the questions everyone, they are keeping me on my toes and making sure I revise everything. :cool: