The jobs of rural and urban veterinarians differ in many ways. Rural vets do most of their work on the farm or at the owner’s residence, and may make just a few visits per day because of the long travel distances. They deal with large, commercially valuable animals such as sheep, cows or horses, and may be called out at any hour of the day or night.
The term ‘pocket pets’ was used initially to describe mice and rats, but has expanded to cover the range of smaller animals kept as pets – some of which are too large to fit in a pocket. It includes guinea pigs, ferrets and rabbits.
An urban vet may have 20 clients per day and contact with another 10 or more to report lab tests or discuss problems. Fifty years ago, when fewer people had cars, urban vets made house calls to see sick animals. In the 2000s, sick animals were usually brought in to a clinic, which was likely to have more than one vet. The animals, which were mainly pets, included cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, caged birds, fish, reptiles, ferrets, rats and mice – but about 95% were cats and dogs (in around equal numbers). Most zoos had their own vets.
By law, veterinarians were required to be available every day, 24 hours a day, to attend to animals. In the larger centres vets set up after-hours clinics that they took turns in attending – a practice adopted by some rural vet practices.
Felix and Fido rule OK?
Cats and dogs made up 27% of veterinarians’ work in 2008. Dairy cattle were 13% of their work, sheep and beef 12%, horses 9% and deer 3%. Pocket pets and birds were 11%. Compliance activities, meat inspection, biosecurity and export certification totalled about 9%.
Urban vets generally provide a wider range of services than rural vets. Clinics have been set up that specialise in such things as eye problems, brain tumours, or skin problems, and may have facilities for X-rays, MRIs, dentistry, re-creation of joints and heart valve transplants. Some people are prepared to spend large sums to treat favourite pets.
In addition, urban vets may offer services such as pet grooming, boarding, and breeding advice. They may sell a wide range of pet foods, flea treatments, other medicines and pet accessories, which can make up a significant part of their income.
Acknowledgments to Bernie Mavor for typing the notes prepared by Hamish Mavor prior to his untimely death.