Do Some Vets Accept Human Patients?

img_5584One of my favorite Seinfeld subplots is when Kramer takes a dog to the vet to diagnose and treat his own cough. If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself to these 2 and a half minutes.

Today was Walter’s annual checkup. He’s fine–much healthier than Biddy–though he was pretty stressed to be at the vet.

While I was there, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why can’t I get a checkup now too? I’m already here. There’s a doctor right in front of me. Can’t we just take care of everything all in one trip?

Then this evening I happened to stumble upon an article indicating that a startling number of Americans are taking their vet’s medicine for themselves. Now, I wouldn’t go that far, especially if the medicine isn’t prescribed to me.

Does anyone know how big of a gap in understanding there is between a veterinarian and a human doctor? I figure there can’t be too big of a difference, but both vets and doctors spend a lot of time in school, so I don’t want to underestimate the additional time required to cross over.

4 thoughts on “Do Some Vets Accept Human Patients?”

  1. When I was a kid – prior to starting school, I think – I had a condition that caused my tongue to be fuzzy. My mother took me to the family GP on a Friday, and he gave a prescription with “You’ll probably not be able to get to a pharmacist today due to how late this appointment was, but you should try to find one still open if at all possible.”

    My mother looks at the perscription, and responded with. “…We were prescribed this by the vet for the birds, and needed to pick it up from a pharmasist because it’s also human medication. We still have some left that’s in date, will that do for tonight?”

    “…I don’t think it really is the same medication…”

    So she showed him the prescription, and it was. “…Well… Yes, I suppose that will be fine for tonight but do go to the pharmacist tomorrow to pick up his prescription first thing.”

    In general, though – there’s a huge difference between human and animal medicine, even medicine from one species to another (Seriously – Most vets specialize in the standard pets (dogs, cats, etc) or farmyard animals (cows, sheep, etc). Vets specializing in ‘exotic’ pets exist, but are rarer, and typically won’t specialize in every animal that comes before them. To the point that it’s not uncommon for vets dealing with exotics from enthusiastic caretakers and/or breeders that the vet acts as a second opinion, and prescribes the medication, because if they’ve trained on beginner level lizards since they’re becoming more common – bearded dragons, etc – they’re not necessarily going to be entirely up on their striped scorpions, and if you raise scorpions as a hobby, you may know more than the vet about scorpion physiology.

    And while some drugs do work on both animals and humans (for, presumably, different conditions), generally they don’t and if they do a vet can’t actually provide the drug (at least in the UK) but instead makes out a prescription for the chemist to fulfill, like a doctor would.

    • That’s an amazing story, Stephen! That’s quite a coincidence. 🙂

      And that’s a really good point about how vets don’t actually know how to treat every animal, and thus they wouldn’t know how to treat humans either.

  2. Awww… What a cute picture of Walter!

    Are you sure you want a vet to look at you too? I can see it now.

    Jamey: “My turn.”

    Vet: “Okay. Bend over.”

    Jamey: “Why!?”

    Vet: “To take your temperature.”


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