We are always 💯% committed to helping you and your horse.
Following is some important food for thought courtesy of AAEP member Dr. Matt Witzel:
"I’m writing this because it needs to be said for the betterment of the profession that I love, AND the well-being and health of your horses. I apologize for the length of this and feel free to skip to the last 3 paragraphs if you’re in a time crunch.
As horse owners, how hard has it been for you to find a vet that is available all the time for your animals? Did you know right now there is a huge demand for more equine vets? In my graduating class from vet school there’s only about 5 of us (out of close to 100) that are still working on horses. That number is down significantly compared to how many of us were dedicated equine oriented vet students.
The fact is, there is a general exodus of younger veterinarians from equine practice that switch to small animal medicine because it pays better and lacks after hours emergencies. Equine practices as a general population, however, provide emergency services 24/7 for their clients because large animal emergency-specific hospitals are extremely rare. I shouldn’t have to say this but emergencies are never fun. We don’t wake up in the morning hoping for a horse to colic, or some kid’s first horse to break a leg. We don’t enjoy leaving our kids right before tucking them into bed to go see a bad laceration. It’s not fun to rearrange our 8 hour day into a 12 hour day so that we can fit in a choke that’s an hour and a half drive out of our way. It’s all awful. But we do it because it needs to be done.
The difference between the pay in the vet industry is based on the fact that you bring your dog or cat to their vet who will work on them while working on 2 or more others at the same time. Small animal vets are therefore able to see many more patients in a day. Equine vets on the other hand will most of the time be working on a single patient at a time, focusing 90% of their attention (phone calls happen during exams, it’s a thing…) on YOUR HORSE. Sometimes there’s significant travel time between appointments. It’s possible to spend 6 hours of a 12 hour work day in the truck and only see 4-5 cases in that time. Why???? Because we’re dedicated to your horses’ wellbeing and some people don’t have a trailer. Or some people don’t feel comfortable hauling a trailer on icy winter roads in MT. I get that and I don’t blame those people. It’s just something that needs to be accepted so we can move on.
With the growth in horse ownership that we’ve seen recently and the increasing demand for vet work with a simultaneous lack of available young equine vets that are willing to put up with the conditions listed above, I’ve come to the obvious conclusion that something needs to change.
Here’s my request to you:
Please appreciate your local vet. Please be loyal to him or her. Please don’t think of your vet as someone to call only when your horse is about to die because you didn’t want to pay for an emergency fee last night when treatment would have mattered. Please ask to discuss costs up front if that’s an issue for you rather than stating you’d do anything and everything necessary for your horse then turn around and complain about the bill. On that note, please compare medical costs of your animals to medical costs for yourself BEFORE insurance kindly tells you what your copay is. Please let your vet be involved with your horses’ wellness before it becomes a problem. Please consult your vet with horse health questions instead of an internet based forum.
And last but not least… please consider using your local vet for things like dentals, vaccines, and lamenesses rather than someone traveling from out of town. Income from these routine services enable service expansion and improved care. That includes things like mobile digital X-ray, endoscopy, or ultrasound equipment so that we can accurately diagnose and successfully treat your sick animal.
I want you to think long and hard about taking away the enjoyable work and needed income from us and giving that to someone who you don’t have a relationship with, who might be practicing those procedures ILLEGALLY (dentistry for instance can only legally be performed in Montana by a veterinarian or under the direct visual supervision of a licensed veterinarian; “equine dentists” who do not fall under these categories are not properly trained to handle dental diseases and have been known to cause more harm than good), who won’t be available when your horse has a joint injection reaction, who won’t get out of bed to come to your place and help get your hypothermic geriatric horse off the ground before it freezes to death.
All of us as veterinarians put a lot into the relationships that we build with our clients and it’s because of those relationships that we dedicate ourselves to becoming better at what we do and trying harder to keep your horses healthy. So when we find out that you use a traveling vet or a non-veterinarian dentist for your horses dental work because it’s $20 or $30 dollars cheaper, you’ve just put a price on what our commitment is worth to you."