Thursday, May 22, 2008

High Suicide Rate Among Veterinarians

Krista Schultz highlighted a little known and surprising fact in her article in the May 2008 issue of DVM News Magazine, that veterinarians have a four times greater suicide rate proportionally than the general population, and two times greater than that of any other health profession. According to the article, the basis for this information came from studies conducted in the UK.

The reasons for this disproportionally higher rate of suicide among veterinarians is not clear, but the article hints at certain factors that may contribute, such as job stress, euthanasia acceptance, and lethal drug access. Regarding job stress or job dissatisfaction, Kristin Schultz's article indicates that depression is a factor predisposing to suicide because "those choosing to join the veterinary profession may have predisposed personalities that ultimately lead to depression...." Regret may also be a factor, according to the article, in that only 53% of practicing veterinarians would become a veterinarian all over again now knowing the reality of the profession - that is almost half that do not feel that the profession has lived up to their expectations.

With regard to euthanasia acceptance, veterinarians "may experience uncomfortable tension between their desire to preserve life, and their inability to treat a case effectively, which may be ameliorated by adapting their attitudes to preserving life to perceive euthanasia as a positive outcome." The article insinuates that this adjusted attitude toward death may subsequently facilitate self justification and lower inhibition toward suicide as a rational solution to their own problems.

While Ms. Schultz's article does not arrive at any concrete conclusions, I will conclude this post by offering my own take as a veterinarian why suicide rate may be disproportionally high in veterinary medicine. In my case, prior to joining my first private practice as a newly graduated vet, I had idealized the profession, not only as a noble pursuit of the highest order (which I still feel is the case), but also that the public perception of the veterinarian would reflect that. On my very first case, I found out how mistaken I was, when I was accused of price gouging by a client furious that I had ordered urinalysis and urine cultures for a patient exhibiting signs of lower urinary tract disease. What's more, rather than decline the tests which she was well within their right to do while still at the office, she accepted, got her medication, then later called to yell at me over the telephone.

My first case was but one of many times that people have accused me price gouging and much worse since then, all the while myself practicing with utmost integrity and honesty, only trying to do my very best for my patients. That has and will continue to be my biggest frustration with veterinary medicine.

While this will not lead me to suicide, I can clearly see why a person prone to depression could be led down that dark path over time. No matter how much one tries to realize that the real problem lies with the people that use vets as scape goats for their own financial troubles, consequently hurling unwarranted, hurtful accusations and judgements, it never ceases to hurt when one pours one's heart and soul into helping an animal, yet is considered by an owner to be nothing more than a scamming used car salesman.

But, I have enough wonderful clients that truly appreciate the dedication we put into helping their animals and gain more every day, that make what we do worth the effort. For that reason and the fact the its about helping the furry ones with no voice after all, after seven years of practice, I remain one of the 53% that would be a vet all over again, as, aside from pitching for the NY Yankees, there is nothing else I can see myself ever wanting to do. For the 47% that do not agree with me, however, I truly understand.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Amazon, You Have Some Explaining To Do

When it was first brought to my attention by a colleague that Amazon was selling how-to dog fighting books, I thought there was no way that it could be true. However, after checking for myself that Amazon was indeed selling how-to dog fighting books, I was both shocked and appalled to learn the truth. Yes, it is true that for those interested in engaging in the despicable and illegal pass time of fighting dogs for sport, the following titles are available for purchase at Amazon:

THE DOG PIT - How to Select, Breed , Train and Manage Fighting Dogs



THE WORLD OF FIGHTING DOGS (with "school binding" no less)

It is amazing to me that in the wake of Michael Vick's dog fighting ring bringing the cruel and illegal sport of dog fighting to the media forefront, that a so called ethical vendor can promote the sale of instructional books on the subject. One may acknowledge that an occasional bad book or video slips under the radar and winds up on an otherwise fine website, after all they do offer literally millions of books for sale. However, I find it curious that these same types of books did not slip under the radar of

My message to Amazon is the following:

Just as it is completely unethical for a respected online bookseller to promote the sale of books that teach our citizens the art of operating meth labs, running prostitution rings, or organizing a terrorist cell, it is equally as immoral to promote the sale of instructional books on the vicious, inhumane, illegal sport of dog fighting. For the moment, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that this may have been an unintentional oversight, and give you the opportunity remove these titles from your selection. While my humble little blog may not reach your top brass, I, as well as countless others, have filed the online petition to request that all dogfighting titles be removed from your selection. With ample and numerous notifications, you have no excuse to do the right thing in a timely fashion.

For those who would like to participate in this petition to place as much pressure on Amazon as possible to stop promoting dog fighting how-to literature, you may access the petition at the webpage below:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thoughts On PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

Naturally, working in the industry that I do, I am often confronted by people wondering how I feel about PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) , a national animal rights organization. This question comes up increasingly more frequently as the organization draws more people to its cause, gains media attention, and attracts many celebrity members that increase its profile. Realistically, my overall outlook on PETA is positive, but I do take exception to some of their tenants, and/or extremism of the some of their members. Therefore, my answer to this question is not straight forward, which is why I am compelled to blog about it.

On the positive side, PETA has been pivotal in the exposure of inexcusable cruelty in Kentucky Fried Chicken's treatment of their chickens, providing indisputable video evidence of specific acts of cruelty. PETA has been an important source of awareness of battery raised chickens that are raised isolated and severely confined, while being fattened so quickly that skeletal supporting structures are often useless for weight bearing due to deformation or even fracture (not having the ability to move around also weakens bones and skeletal supporting structures). They have also created awareness about egg layers also being isolated and confined as they produce countless eggs for collection and sale. While they promote vegetarianism, they have promoted the alternative of those not prepared to take that leap, of choosing to buy only free roaming chickens and eggs layed only by free roaming chickens. Why still food animals, these chickens at least get to spend their lives socializing with other birds and having the ability to move around. Many would not know these things if not for PETA.

PETA is one of the greatest forces in the fight against puppy mills, a situation in our country that I am personally, passionately appalled by. On this front, PETA is instrumental about spreading awareness by photographing and filming these prisons of greed and exposing pet stores that patronize these facilities. They expose and fight against companies that test on animals in unnecessarily cruel manners.

Finally, I applaud PETA's campaign against the annual Canadian seal hunt, where thousands of baby seals are brutally clubbed to death, sometimes just for the sport of it, other times to collect and sell their skins. Most recently in New York, they strongly campaigned and successfully lobbied for the banning of genital or anal electrocution of animals harvested for fur (minks, foxes, musk rats, etc.). This inhumane method of killing is an inexpensive way to kill these animals while not damaging their valuable hair coats. Under New York and PETA's lead, many states are expected to follow, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune, a reputable online animal news source.

Where I fault PETA at times is the extreme views of some of their members. Some call for the complete and total liberation of animals, meaning zero animal research, no circuses, no zoos, not even seeing eye or assistance dogs. They create campaigns against medical charities that fund medical research that implement animal research through outlets such as Among the groups PETA opposes are the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Finally, many demonize people that consume animal products, whether it be meat, eggs, milk, or cheese.

I do not support this type of extremism, and really feel that their more radical members are counterproductive to their cause. I believe that animal testing should be done in an optimally humane manner and closely monitored, but is an essential component of medical advancement in both human and veterinary medicine. I love zoos and animal exhibits that provide a hospitable habitat for well fed and medically cared for animals, while offering our youth to view them and gain an appreciation and respect for the majesty of animals in nature. Finally, while I generally do not eat red meat, I enjoy [free roaming] poultry and eggs, dairy products, and seafood. We are omnivores that thrive on animal food sources to sustain life just like dogs, cats, and other animals. We should not be demonized for doing what nature intended for us to do, provided we make every effort to ensure that treatment of the animals is humane, and slaughter is performed with the least possible pain.

As one can plainly see, I have mixed feelings about the organization PETA. However, the good that they do for the animals of our nation exceeds my problems with the extreme views some of their more radical members have. Most of the PETA members I know are rationally thinking, realistic, compassionate people, leading me to be of the opinion that the radicals are the minority of this organization. On the whole, while I am not member, I am grateful for PETA's existence and the good work that they do.