MISSISSIPPI STATE -- With four specialty areas under its umbrella, the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine's primary care group offers learning experiences and veterinary services not available elsewhere.
Dr. Ron McLaughlin, head of CVM's Department of Clinical Sciences, said the primary care group includes a shelter medicine program, routine health care maintenance, dental care, and a behavior program.
“These services enhance our students' education and teach them how to be good practitioners,” McLaughlin said. “It also provides better service to our clients.”
The department has made major advances in recent years, with the behavior program added last year and the shelter animal welfare program expanded this year.
Dr. Phil Bushby, service chief of the primary care group, said some veterinary schools do not offer students the primary care rotation where they learn health maintenance and routine health care.
“The purpose of primary care is to give students experiences very similar to what they'll have when they graduate,” Bushby said. “Veterinary schools have large referral teaching hospitals, but much of the case load is the more difficult cases referred because of the specialized expertise of the staff. This skews the education so students get more experience with the complex than they do with the routine. The whole concept of a primary care rotation is to maximize the exposure to the routine, as well.”
Bushby said behavior problems are a leading reason that pet owners turn animals over to shelters. CVM's behavior program teaches veterinary students ways to prevent and/or reverse a pet's bad behavior. Dr. Jennifer Burgess is the specialist dealing with animal behavior.
“We want our students exposed to and comfortable with dealing with routine behavior issues that can be changed with proper intervention,” Bushby said.
Dr. Diana Eubanks provides the veterinary emphasis on dental care. Bushby said dogs and cats on commercial diets have many dental problems. Students learn how to prevent problems and treat them when they do occur.
“Dogs and cats need the same dental cleaning services people do,” Bushby said. “Pet dental care has been overlooked for a long time, and now it is getting much more attention.”
The final aspect of CVM's primary care group is also the newest. CVM has a mobile veterinary clinic that it can take to animal shelters across the state to spay and neuter resident animals. MSU students already serve the humane society shelters in Starkville and Columbus with early-age spays and neuters, and this portable unit expands their potential service area.
“The animals that are most frequently adopted out of shelters are puppies and kittens. If these are reproductively intact, they will have more puppies and kittens,” Bushby said. “If we can spay or neuter them before they leave the shelter, we can have an impact on the horrendous problem of pet overpopulation.”
Students get valuable surgical experience and see firsthand how veterinarians can participate in reducing the number of unwanted animals.
McLaughlin said the addition of the behavior program and the animal shelter welfare program has improved the entire primary care experience.
“We're very excited about the growth and the hard work and dedication that has gone into getting them off the ground,” McLaughlin said.