Training for veterinarians

For vets: mending the rift between vets and breeders


It’s no secret that the levels of mutual respect and cooperation between vets and breeders – dog breeders in particular – is at an all-time low.

While there are certain breeds and areas of the country that have maintained a strong level of cooperation between vets and breeders, as well as some excellent specialist reproductive vets who have rightfully built themselves a loyal and far-reaching client base, the general feeling between vets and many segments of the dog breeding community is one of mutual distrust.

Breeders would say that decades of a lack of interest, investment and support from their local veterinarians when it comes to reproductive work has been the catalyst in them turning to fertility services offered by lay people, or even deciding to take up these practices themselves.

Veterinarians would say it’s this boom in unregulated fertility procedures which has caused them to take such a dim view of breeding in general. After all, it’s the vets who pick up the pieces when botched procedures and inaccurate diagnoses result in the wrong action being taken for an animal, and it’s the vets who have to see the heart-breaking result of breeding for colour or looks over health.

Who can change this?

Legislation is likely to take years, and probably will not go far enough. It is likely to focus on the most invasive procedures, and ignore services such as ultrasound scanning, though a misinterpreted scan that prevents an animal from being brought for veterinary care can be no less harmful. Given that there is currently nothing in place to prevent human women from paying for a pregnancy scan from somebody who is not a doctor or a sonographer, it seems unlikely that animals will be afforded superior protection.

As the most qualified people in this discussion to do something about it, I would say that it is the vets who are the only ones with the power to begin to bridge this gap. Even if fundamentally opposed to breeding, it is surely better to have contact with breeders so that you can give them advice and guidance. The most important people to get in front of are the naïve but well-meaning new breeders, who would happily see a vet for reproductive services, if only they felt confident in doing so. If you think this is a ridiculous thing to say, know that “my vet wouldn’t be supportive of my decision to breed” or “my vet wouldn’t like it” is one of the most frequently cited reasons for looking for a pregnancy scan away from one’s local vet practice. The others tend to be comments on the real or perceived willingness of the vet to perform a pregnancy scan.

Pregnancy Scanning

Pregnancy scanning is one service you can start with to connect with breeders, that is unlikely to require any additional investment in equipment in your practice. To run a popular and successful scanning service, you need to change your mentality: your clinical knowledge is a huge bonus to any client, but it’s not what they’re attending for, first and foremost. They’re coming for the experience, just as expectant parents might approach their own ultrasound scan. This means you should:

  • Allow the client to be present in the room during the scan.
  • Spend time with the client. You may be able to confirm pregnancy within 20 seconds, but it’s worth taking the time to point out what you can see to your client. This is a great way for you to use your superior knowledge – point out the foetal heart, the aorta, explain what this is and what it’s for; point out the umbilical arteries, where and how they attach.
  • Save multiple video clips of the scan.
  • Export, upload and share these videos with your client. If you need help with video editing or uploading, just ask: we are on hand to support any vet practice for free.

Many vets will read this and think “I don’t have time for this!” This is highly likely to be true. If you cannot see yourself being able to fit this in (though it is worth remembering that taking some time out to share happy news with clients can be a welcome break!), could any of your RVNs or VAs learn to scan? Of course they could.

Where to find training for veterinarians, vet nurses and vet techs

There are many opportunities for high quality training in small animal reproduction, but if you don’t have plans to become a repro specialist and are simply looking for a course that will bring you confidence in small animal pregnancy scanning, train with the Animal Ultrasound Association.

Why us?

  • Our courses are the only canine pregnancy scanning courses in the world that are taught by professional sonographers, meaning that you will be taught to a high standard and provided all of the information and support you need – and none of what you don’t.
  • We have trained over 300 veterinarians and 60 vet nurses to date, worldwide.
  • By training with us, you will have access to free, lifelong support: a second opinion, whenever you need it.
  • We work to promote safe, responsible scanning by raising awareness amongst the general public and only listing qualified veterinarians, vet nurses, or lay scanners who have undertaken extensive training. Any paraprofessional listed in our directory has undertaken at least two training courses with sonographers, including a clinical specialist obstetric sonographer, and have made a commitment to uphold the highest of standards – usually in close partnership with a veterinarian.
  • We take action on bad practices and in the UK, we are on the NatureWatch parliamentary panel for the potential regulation of canine fertility clinics and associated practices.

Key points

  1. Waiting on legislation to transform the current situation is likely to be time wasted.
  2. The best way to tackle the problem is proactively, and one low-cost way to get started quickly is by offering a high quality pregnancy scanning service that clients will enjoy and recommend to others. To bridge the gap, you need to connect with your clients on a personal level, let them know that you care and are invested in the things that matter to them, and that you are not judging them. The best way to do that is to start offering them the services that they need, even if these aren’t the services that you believe are the most vital to animal health.

Visit our dedicated veterinary professional training page for more information on training opportunities.

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