why are not doctors and vets interchangable?

I see that humans and animals are different in many aspects. Seperating doctors from veterinarians is a must. However, both humans and most pet animals are mammals. So, wouldn’t doctors and vets be interchangable to at least some form of degree? Could a veterinarian be assigned for ‘basic’ human check-ups and the other way around?

Next time you come down sick try a vet? If your horse is sick take it the the hospital ER? :rolleyes:

The physiology as well as the maladies affecting animals and humans differs considerably.
I want the best available services available for my self and my dog. Therefor I go to an MD and take my dog to a vet. :smiley:

Heck, even Vets specalize in particular types of animals. There are small animal vets that work with cats, dogs, birds, & similar pets; and large animal (farm) vets who deal mainly with horses & cows. In my home town (a major turkey-production center), there were several vets who practice was exclusively with turkeys.

Besides, why would you want to assign a vet to do basic check-ups of humans?

I can’t see where it would be cheaper – Vet’s education is as long as Doctors, and usually more expensive (less scholarships for vets).

I mean, if there was a natural disaster in the area or something where the hospitals were jammed and I needed medical attention (nothing super serious), heck, I’d have a vet set my broken arm or whatever if I could. I wouldn’t have them do surgery, mostly just because I also wouldn’t let a dermatologist perform surgery on me either; its not their specialty.

Yes. I mean, that much is very obvious. I’m just wondering to what extent, theoretically, it would be possible for either to replace the other. Are the different organic structures so vastly different that it’s basically pointless or would there be chances for accurate diagnoses based on comparisons?

It’s not that simple. The OP brings up a very good point. Vets typically know how to treat a wide range of animals from fish to reptiles to mammals. MDs only specialize in humans. I would think that a system where a generic “physician” (like the first step of diagnosis/treatment) was species-neutral and then would refer the patient to specialists that are not only distinguished by their medical specialization but also by their species specialization would make about as much sense as what we have now.

The problem with this is that most people would be uncomfortable being treated by a species-neutral doctor. You know, somewhat like when people used to go to white-patients-only doctors in the past. I don’t know, I’d personally have no qualms about being treated or diagnosed for something minor by a vet (of course, a vet will have qualms about treating or diagnosing me because of liability problems, but that’s secondary).

When my dog got hit by a car there was a surgeon (human) walking his dog nearby. He helped us with the first aid and proper transportation (we didn’t know if her back was broken, she was in a coma and bleeding profusely) until we got her to a vet. Basic medical knowledge has a very large common base for all mammals. We’re mammals, we all bleed roughly the same way, break bones, get sprains, tear ligaments and have a lot of similar infectious diseases and medications. If I had to make an unqualified guess I’d say there’s about as much specific knowledge difference between a family practice physician and a general practice veterinarian as there is between a family practice physician and say a pediatric oncologist.

Vets, MDs, RNs, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Feel free todisagree, but I do believe that where the difference comes in is the specific anatomy of the two different types of patients.

Vets know chemicals that work for certain animals, and not necessarily so much as to what works on humans. Physicians like surgeons are very familiar with our human anatomy, but may not be so up on the way, say cat’s legs are articulated, or certain things to look for in dog’s hips.

I’d have to say at the final training level, it is more about the focus than the basic skills.

Hijack: I’ve hear, but have no proof or even cites, that it’s harder to get into veterinarian school than med school, but that may just be wrong.

Further caveat: I am not a professional in either field, so I do realize I am traipsing on the thin edge here in GQ. I do think my thoughts are valid, but I will accept a smackdown from the mods without protest if I am indeed out of line.

This makes me wonder, medical professionals can you evaluate the following choice I would make and tell me if I’m wrong or right.

Say I’m injured, and I can choose one of three people to assist me: a dentist, a psychiatrist and a veterinarian.

I’d pick the vet to set bones, control minor bleeding, administer antibiotics and painkillers, and for just general diagnosis when I’m not sure what’s going on.

I’d pick the dentist to do sutures and deal with mouth-related emergencies.

I’d pick the psychiatrist if I needed surgery (such as an emergency appendectomy), CPR, or things of that nature.

Am I way off and is my decision going to kill me?


for the record, LiveOnAPlane, vet schools are VERY competitive, as there are far fewer and far-between than med schools. I was pre-vet, and my pre-med roomie always whines about how she has to work so hard to be eligible to get into med school. I finally showed her how few vet options are and the average GPA’s and test scores, etc. That shut her up… for a while anyway.

When I was for a vet, I had a box of dog biscuits fall off an upper shelf and hit me in the eye. Since I couldn’t see to drive (it hit me in the left eye and I’m already mostly blind in the right eye) we were faced with having someone else take off work to take me to the doctor, leaving the office short-staffed. I asked one of the vets if she couldn’t stain my eye, since the stuff they use is the same stuff used for humans. She really didn’t want to, but I assured her I would go on and go to a human doctor if it was really bad, so she did it. I had to lie down on one of the treatment tables, and she applied the stain and the florescent light. Yep! Nice scratch on the cornea, but not really bad enough to warrant going on to the doctor. She patched my eye and had someone drive me home.

A broken bone is a broken bone, and I imagine there might be a lot of interchangable medical knowledge. But there are significant differences: The vet who took care of the Kentucky Derby winner’s broken leg had to keep in mind a whole boatload of stuff that I bet even your most expert MD would not have known. Similarly, while there are IIRC a few interchangeable medicines, the dosages are entirely different. There are some human pain relievers, for example, that are toxic for dogs and/or cats. And, I’m sure, vice versa.

The meds we got for treating an infection our cat had was amoxicylin, the exact same stuff our kids got for ear infections. But I am absolutely sure the dose was different, and I would also bet their pediatrician would have had no clue as to the right dose for a cat.

You would think Vets are even more knowledgable due to there being so many species as opposed to a regular human MD, there is only one type of human. lol

There is another thing to keep in mind, assuming for the sake of argument that the difference between treating a human and a cat is approximately the same as the dfference between treating a cat and a dog. People assign different emotional values to persons and cats or dogs. This means that, in general, it is much more acceptable to allow financial considerations to color choices about treatment.

A human with a badly broken leg will most likely be treated in a manner which will enable the leg to be saved–if at all possible. If the leg can’t be saved, the leg will be amputated, and the human can be given a prothesis–and return to living a more or less normal life, assuming the human has the will to do so.

A cat or dog with a badly broken leg will probably have that limb amputated. Lower cost, less stress for pet and owner, shorter recovery time. The cat or dog will live happily on three legs.

A horse with a badly broken leg will probably be put down (killed). Recovery for a horse with a broken leg is difficult, surgery exceedingly expensive–and far from guarenteed of success. Amputation is not a possibility.

Also, ethics are different when dealing with animals and humans. Humans can have choices explained to them(except for the very young, very old, the retarded, etc.). They can have consequences explained to them, they can make trade offs. Animals can’t. It is considered normal and appropriate for pet owners in America to spay or neuter their cats and dogs at or before sexual maturity. Forced sterilization of humans has occurred–especially in carefully defined groups of undesirable humans-- but is not the norm and is generally decried as inhumane/inappropriate behavior. Sterilization of other animals depends on the advantages/disadvantages of breeding the animal or having the potential to do so. And that’s not even discussing such cosmetic surgery as cropping ears or docking tails in dogs, or declawing cats, which is done purely for the convenience of the owner.

These are issues, completely separate from being able to perform surgery, diagnose an ailment, or prescribe a medication, which contribute to the ethical treatment of animals and humans, which one hopes that their respective schools teach them, and that the individual doctor or vet develops more strong principles around through interactions with patients, parents, owners, friends, family, or whomever else is affected by the practice of medicine.

There’s not really any lol about it, once you factor in that they also have to do the diagnosis cold. A human can tell you that he’s had a headache for the last few days, and that there’s a sour taste in his mouth; a dog is going to look up at you like an idiot.

My wife works for an animal hospital: they do surgery, chemotherapy, dentistry, everything. They just also use frickin’ laser beams for the occasional declaw, is all. They advise their vegetarian clients that, yes, a dog can survive without eating meat, but a cat can’t; they know which drugs will kill one but save the other; they handle all sorts of crazy variations from species to species, and they do it all without the patient ever being able to mention that he has an upset stomach.

I think I would go to the vet for surgery, they get more practice at it than the psychiatrist.
The only problem is that damn lamp shade thing around my neck afterwards.

Another thing to remember is that veterinarians must also be familiar with certain aspects of human pathology. One of the vet’s responsibilities is ensuring the safety and quality of the food supply for–you guessed it–humans.

The psychiatrist is going to be scared stiff to do your appendectomy. More scared than I would be if someone asked me to deliver a baby. I could figure out delivering a baby based on old memories and current hand-eye skills.

The psychiatrist will not have the hand-eye coordination and hand skills to open you up, find your appendix, tie off its blood vessels, ligate it without tearing open your cecum and spilling fecal matter across your peritoneal cavity, remove it, and close you back up.

The vet might well.

You mentioned trauma. You seem to be envisioning minor trauma - stuff that can be treated from the outside. I spent about 600 hours as the first receiving resident for the major trauma unit a big city emergency room. Let me tell you, lots is going on inside you that isn’t reflected on the surface. You are going to need internal surgery for the vast majority of trauma. Internal orthopedic surgery for many of your busted bones. Here is where your vet is going to have problems. Although the vet can ligate arteries, etc., you won’t have the same anatomy as the animals to which the vet is used. You won’t be as easy to fix. You will probably die.

Your vet will also have a much harder time applying anesthesia, because of the drug dosage differences mentioned. And definitely won’t have crossmatched blood to transfuse you with. I think you will die.

You will also probably die of infection three days after the shrink does your appendectomy.

It happens occasionally in our morgue that we have to autopsy a dog. Three times in ten years. Each time it has been a police dog killed in the line of duty. The autopsy was required to find the bullets and determine the direction of fire.

I am fairly expert with autopsies and I am totally lost when confronted with the innards of a dog. It takes a ridiculously long time to figure out what is what and what is where. If I were doing surgery on such a dog, there would be a strong chance the dog would die, from blood loss and time under anesthesia.

So switching it around from vet to human might have the same result.

Now, if you want to suggest that we interchange people surgeons and vet surgeons on a regular basis… they’ll get good at eachother’s jobs.

Still a ways until we hold opening ceremonies for that vet-and-human blood bank, though.

I’d submit the that large gap between the veterinary and medical professions has more to do with most people’s idea of their place in the universe than any fundamental difference in the physiology and pathology between one specific primate and other mammals.

Many of the basic science courses I took in vet school were taught by either PhD’s or MD’s. (And DVM’s often teach medical students basic science courses such as pathology). In a true emergency situation I have no doubt that a veterinarian would do as well or better than any other medically trained person at setting bones, stopping bleeding, intubating an airway, etc.

For non-emergency situations, seeing the person most expert in whatever body system is the source of the problem would seem like the best course.

Having said that, I’d much rather have Dr. Dean Richardson (Barbaro’s orthopedic surgeon) plate my fractured femur than a pediatric psychiatrist who happens to have an MD but has never touched a scalpel in his/her life.
Several years ago I read a scientific article about injury and self-treatment in veterinarians (the study took place in Wisconsin). The Veterinarians in the study did just about medical thing to themselves without MD input. They placed themselves on antibiotics for infections, set their own broken bones, and sutured their lacerations. One person even performed his own vasectomy (with mirrors).

With the exeption of the vasectomy, I’d say that’s very typical. Most veterinarians self-diagnose and medicate. If I get a bladder infection I don’t wait around in discomfort until I can get hold of a MD, get a script and go fill it. I slap myself on some sulfa and go on my way.