How good are veterinarians at treating humans?

Let’s say there is a massive shortage of medical doctors (i. e. those who practise human medicine). How well would veterinarians be prepared/qualified to fill the gap? For instance, would a seasoned veterinary be able to remove an appendix, treat an acute heart attack, fix a dislocated shoulder or diagnose a throat infection and prescribe antibiotics?

We’ve had this question before, and I think the answer was “it depends”. For something like setting a broken bone the procedure is similar enough between a large dog and human that a vet could probably muddle through, but if someone needed a triple bypass the vet wouldn’t be able to do much for them.

Don’t forget humans are mammals, and a vet experienced with treating a variety of large mammals could likely perform basic medical procedures on a human… but for a complicated disease, or a disease that is unique to humans, they probably wouldn’t be of much help. For example, some of the same drugs are used for both humans and dogs, but I’m guessing that most aren’t, and even if they were, the dosing would probably be very different.

I know the same drugs are used for humans and cats, because I’ve bought several medications for cats at the regular pharmacy, and cut them up with a pill cutter to give an appropriate dose to the cat.

Vets aren’t legally allowed to practice on people, so unless there was some sort of dire emergency, you’d have to question the ethics of a vet who agreed to do it. And it’s true that there’s a lot more “high end” medicine practiced in humans. People get triple bypasses and carefully tailored chemotherapy where a dog would likely just be put down.

That being said, for basic medicine, most vets are well trained in “treating mammals”, and I’d trust one with most basic to medium-end medical stuff.

Let’s take for instance the veterinarian who is looking after the orangutans and the chimpanzees at a large zoo: Wouldn’t it be fair to assume that he should encounter few problems when charged with providing care for a homo sapiens sapiens?

Hypertension? Diabetes? Asthma? Epilepsy? Hepatitis? Those are basic to medium end medical diagnoses. Would you trust a vet to take care of those conditions in a human?

I wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t presume to treat them in a non-human mammal, as an MD. I respect the veterinarian’s mastery of their profession. Too much I don’t know about the nuances of it to generalize my own practices to their area, unless it’s an actual emergency.

How did cutting up medicines lead you to the conclusion the medications for humand and cats is the same. Was it colour texture smell taste etc.

Chimps aren’t little hairy people, they are a completely different species. And while all apes have similar internal structures, I wouldn’t trust a vet who treats chimps to put their hands on me… unless it was a life or death situation.

Neither would most medical doctors.

Those are things that require experience to diagnose properly, but once diagnosed wouldn’t a vet with internet access do as well as the typical GP for treatment up to the point a specialist was needed?

But veterinarians are, by definition, extremely versatile: They treat pigs, camels, hamsters, buffaloes and turtles. What is so unusual about humans?

(Note: I’m obviously playing advocatus diaboli here)

What makes you think that someone who is trained to treat pigs, camels, hamsters, bison and turtles can also treat a humans? On a very basic level humans are mammals, but in reality they are far more complex than any hamster you can come up with. To put it simply, medical doctors are experts in treating human diseases, vets aren’t.

Would I rather be treated by a vet than a random person off the street? Sure, but that doesn’t really mean anything since a vet would be uneducated on dealing with most medical issues…

Humans are not “more complex” than hamsters. We value human life more than hamster life and, thus, have devoted greater time and energy to identifying the diseases of humans and appropriate treatments for those diseases than we have with hamsters.

Sure I would. I’d ensure he’s adequately beta-blocked, on a platelet inhibitor and a statin, along with anti-angina meds and decide if he needs nuclear stress imaging or not before lining him up for a cardiac cath with the possibility of angioplasty/stenting or referring for bypass. In other words, I’m making him as stable as possible ahead of potential invasive procedures.

Sure, if the internet access also provides the requisite background in human physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and clinical evaluation. I. e. online med school/residency training. Vets bring some familiarity with similar subsets in different animals, but there are still wide variances that they won’t know about without the training and practice experience.

Remember too that our average small animal vet (suburban pets like dogs, cats, etc) is NOT going to go out and take care of horses, cattle, other livestock. Nor will they venture out to the zoo to deal with lions, elephants, and ostriches. Without training in those animals, they’d no sooner work with them than with humans (or so have said many vets I have known).

She probably read the labels on the bottles.

Except that most really don’t - lots of vets treat only dogs and cats, not other pets like rabbits, lizards, hamsters or birds. Not to mention that some treat only horses and some only livestock or wildlife/zoo animals.

Good point, there would be plenty to do prior to surgery, which is probably what dolphinboy meant.

I asked a vet if he did fish, and he replied, “Only with lemon butter.”

How about vets and gunshot wounds?

Are the scientific/medical qualifications of a doctor of human medicine inherently superior to those of a veterinarian or are they merely different (but, from a strictly anthropocentric standpoint, more relevant)?

I’d say different.

I’d also note that it’s more competitive to get into vet school than med school. Some folks who couldn’t become vets went on to become MDs. :slight_smile:

Vets specialize.

I take my birds to a vet specializing in birds because a vet only familiar with cats and dogs isn’t qualified to treat a bird beyond, perhaps, first aid. Likewise, a bird vet may not want to treat any dogs. There’s considerable difference between a vet that treats horses and one that specializes in reptiles. Those differences range from normal vital signs (A bird has a body temp of 102 degrees F - quick, is that a fever, normal, or sub-normal and a sign of hypothermia?*) to calculating drug dosages based on body weight, to which drugs are safe for which species, to probably a half dozen other things I can’t recall off the top of my head.

Now, there are some exceptions to some of these things. For example, I once read an autobiography of a large animal vet that worked mostly in zoos. He admitted that there had been a very few occasions where he administered treatment to humans, but it was invariably along the lines of someone being bitten by a venomous snake with a very fast-acting venom and giving the victim anti-venom, a clear life-or-death situation where seconds counted and, let’s be honest, that’s more like acting as an EMT/paramedic in some ways than an MD. He had also administered an injection for anaphylactic shock, but, again, that’s not limited to MD’s, in fact, they allow civilians to use epi-pens.

I have heard that, on rare occassion, human doctors have been called in to treat chimps or gorillas, or consult with medical management, usually for things like gynecological/reproductive issues or specialist heart surgery but it’s not an MD calling the shots, it’s an MD working with vets on the species most closely related to what the MD works on. I’ve also heard of human dentists working on zoo animals but, again, it’s making use of expertise on humans to assist vets who have expertise in working on animals.

Among other pitfalls - drugs that work just fine in some species are terrible for others. There’s a type of anesthetic that is often used on mammals, including the great apes, which is apparently really awful for people with a lot of side effects, and when used in equines they have a tendency to come out of the anesthesia in a blind panic that can result in injury or heart attack - so, that one is fine for everyone BUT humans and horses. Gee, might be good to know that, right? Aspirin is fine for people, terrible for cats, there’s another one to watch out for. And so on.

It’s probably best we keep the practice of veterinary and human medicine separate.

All that aside - there are some things vets can probably do a competent job with in regards to humans. Diagnosing an infected cut, for example - blood and pus are pretty obvious. They could probably do minor things like removing a fish hook or deep splinter or other foreign object that’s in muscle tissue. They can probably stitch up wounds just fine (maybe even better if they get more practice at it than a typical MD). But really, unless you’re in some whacky wilderness survival situation why wouldn’t you go to a people doctor?

If I was stuck out in the wilderness, or it’s TEOTWAWKI/post-apocalypse, and there was no MD around sure, I’d ask the local vet to remove that annoying bullet or stitch up the knife wound or drain an abscess or set a broken bone or recommend what to do for an illness, but outside of that, no. And if it was that sort of situation and we didn’t have a vet but were depending on animals to survive (maybe we’re riding on horses to some remnant of civilization or fleeing cannibal bad guys or whatever) and an animal was injured I’d ask an MD to help if he possibly could, but otherwise, no, I wouldn’t ask an MD to treat animals.

Asking those two medical guys to switch to the other team is a bit like asking a car mechanic to fix an airplane - well, sure, there’s some similarity under the hood but a LOT of differences, enough to make the odds of bad outcome much more likely than a good outcome for many things.

  • Hypothermia - bird body temperature is normally about 105 degrees F.

Indeed, specialization seems to be the issue here. I once read that there are now even veterinarians who specialize in animal dentistry. Why shouldn’t a medical professional enter this field who was trained as a (human) dentist?