Join 3,521 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Is it possible to be certified in the United States of America as a veterinarian without ever performing a desexing?
May 2, 2012 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to be certified in the United States of America as a veterinarian without ever performing a desexing?

I personally think it's unethical, and I'm wondering if all veterinarians have done it.
posted by vash to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Most likely, yes, because even if you oppose spaying and neutering animals on "philosophical" grounds, there are occasional medical necessary reasons to do so (i.e. malignancy).
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:09 PM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I can't imagine anyone would get very far in a US veterinary school with the attitude that spaying and neutering animals is "unethical".
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:18 PM on May 2, 2012 [43 favorites]


Much like showing up to work in a pharmacy saying "here are some prescriptions I'm not willing to fill because shame on you," I imagine showing up in veterinary med school saying "here are some surgical procedures I'm not willing to perform" would not be a good career move.
posted by emelenjr at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


I imagine showing up in veterinary med school saying "here are some surgical procedures I'm not willing to perform" would not be a good career move.

Maybe if that operation is an unusual one, or one that is contentious in veterinary circles (I don't know if there are such things) but this is the most common surgical procedure carried out on both small and large animals. So probably not possible.
posted by atrazine at 1:30 PM on May 2, 2012


Hopefully in vet school they teach the math of not spaying and neutering. I think my college ethics professor would agree that, given the limited number of homes, limited amount of space in shelters, and profound ability of cats to reproduce, spaying/neutering would probably be the more ethical choice. Moreover, as infinitywaltz points out, there are times when it's medically necessary, or where the odds of extending a pet's life are so great that it's almost a no-brainer if you care about your pet (female rabbits are a good example, over 50% of them would have uterine cancer by the age of 3 without an ovariohysterectomy), not to mention that pets who have less hormonal behaviors make better pets, and therefore are more likely to have stable home lives and veterinary care after their spay/neuter.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:31 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cryptorchidism is believed to occur in ~10% of male dogs, left untreated by castration the dog faces greatly increased rates of testicular torsion and testicular cancer. It's also quite common in horses, in case you figure on going into large animal practice in order to retain your personal ethic. It's highly unlikely that you will encounter a vet who hasn't had sound medical reason (aside from the, you know, rampant overpopulation of unwanted kittens and puppies) to perform this procedure.
posted by jamaro at 1:31 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Folks, this needs not to turn into an argument about the ethics of spaying/neutering or not. Please either answer the answerable part of the question or leave it alone.]
posted by cortex at 1:34 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was not talking about when it's necessary to save the animal. If a veterinarian had to practice for such a case by performing the surgery on an animal that didn't need it, I would still have a problem with that.
posted by vash at 1:41 PM on May 2, 2012


Here are several course descriptions/curriculum lists for vetmed programs. All of them list some sort of applied component for reproductive medicine; several explicitly list desexing procedures as part of the class. Even if a person were able to opt-out of that specific requirement for the class, chances are that they would be required to perform other procedures that you may consider unethical, if you think that desexing is unethical.
posted by kagredon at 1:46 PM on May 2, 2012


I was hoping to get some answers from people who have been in veterinary programs, but maybe my position has or will put them off.
posted by vash at 1:53 PM on May 2, 2012


You can also contact the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and/or the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) to see if they can tell you anything useful.

I have taken very sick cats to a specialty veterinary service, and I think it's unlikely that any of the vets there spay/neuter unless it's medically required, because all of their patients are there for very specialized treatment for various conditions (cancer, etc.), so if you chose a specialty like oncology, it's not something you'd be doing as a matter of course. But I imagine that they all had to learn how to spay/neuter when they were in school.
posted by rtha at 1:54 PM on May 2, 2012


I know that vets can opt out of performing some procedures, because I talked to my vet about declawing and his partner (and apparently numerous other vets) will not do that procedure, which is much more controversial than I had realized at the time.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2012


If a veterinarian had to practice for such a case by performing the surgery on an animal that didn't need it, I would still have a problem with that.

Many surgeries are practiced on healthy animals, from what I've understood from researching vet school.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:28 PM on May 2, 2012


I think that it's probably possible if you have already earned your veterinary degree outside of the US and are just getting the reciprocity to practice here. Once practicing, as others have noted above, you can limit your practice to a specialty where spay/neutering are outside of the practice.

If, in contrast, you're asking about whether you can complete veterinary school within the US without the practice, I think it's unlikely. From a friend who has recently completed vet school, I think that spay/neuters were treated as a basic pedagogical tool, because there is such a large population of animals to be treated and because it is seen as a beneficial procedure both for the animal in question and the population at large.
posted by mercredi at 2:40 PM on May 2, 2012


My wife is a vet. Through school she performed numerous spays and neuters on the cats and dogs from the local pet shelters. This was required as part of their clinical skills curriculum.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 2:42 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


(FWIW, getting into vet school generally harder than getting into medical school, so there's not a lot of incentive for them to negotiate with candidates who disagree with their ethics.)
posted by mercredi at 2:43 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's required at the two vet schools I'm familiar with, even for large animal vets. In private practice you could probably avoid it but if you want to be a small animal vet you will not get hired by a clinic, so that might be a concern.

Most importantly you very likely would be eliminated by the admissions committee at the interview stage for holding this view, were they to become aware of it.
posted by fshgrl at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Regardless of whether or not I agree with your position, I don't see how one could maintain a practice as a veterinarian in the US without doing spaying or neutering.

That's a huge percentage of small-animal veterinary practice, so it would be unlikely that a clinic would want to take on a vet who chose not to perform those operations. It is also a big percentage of large-animal veterinary practice, so it's unlikely that either a group practice or indeed any reasonably large client (farm, ranch, etc.) would be likely to want to work with a vet who chose not to perform those operations.

So it seems like one's employment options would be likely to be limited to wildlife rescue work, and the perception I have from people in the field is that there aren't a lot of jobs going in that sector right now because of slashed funding from government and private funders. Considering the cost of veterinary school, it seems like it would be a risky bet even if you could find a school that accommodated your concerns.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:58 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, you cannot earn the degree Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) in the United States. I sent my academic advisor, who is a DVM, an e-mail asking this, and she said it would be extremely unlikely to impossible to complete any veterinary medicine program without being able to perform this on a live animal.

Also, I don't think you would get passed the admission interview. That's just not the culture of veterinary medicine in America and your opinion would send up a HUGE red flag.

Your terminology is off here. The vocabulary we use here is not “desexing”. The medical procedures you are referring to are an ovariohysterectomy/spay for the female and Orchiectomy/neuter/castration for the male. We refer to animals that have not been spayed/neutered as intact or unaltered. If your plan is and studying and work in the US you should get used to using that vocabulary.
posted by OsoMeaty at 2:58 PM on May 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


Regardless of whether or not I agree with your position, I don't see how one could maintain a practice as a veterinarian in the US without doing spaying or neutering.

Not all vets are GPs. My vet is closing her practice to become a radiology specialist. Large animals hospitals have specialists in things like dermatology, oncology, and dental issues.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:17 PM on May 2, 2012


I think that it's probably possible if you have already earned your veterinary degree outside of the US and are just getting the reciprocity to practice here.

As a foreign veterinarian your degree does't automatically transfer over. You have to prove that you meet AVMA standards and pass the Clinical Proficiency Examination. I could be wrong, but I would imagine that spay/neuters are covered during the practical. OP, your best bet in that regard would be to get in contact with the AVMA.
posted by OsoMeaty at 3:25 PM on May 2, 2012


If a veterinarian had to practice for such a case by performing the surgery on an animal that didn't need it, I would still have a problem with that.

I'm not going to try to change your mind about spaying/neutering, because I don't know enough about you or why you hold this belief, but I urge you to think about your statement here. Even if, hypothetically, a veterinary student were to avoid ever performing such an operation in school, they'd be learning about the procedure from teachers who had most likely performed elective neutering operations; the clinics in which they'd do rotations (and generally, you're required to do at least a few weeks of general practice, small animal, and surgical rotations, even if you're going into something else) would offer such operations, even if they personally opted out, most potential employers (even large hospitals) would do the same.

Here's the question: what's important to you? Is it most important to (1) avoid ever being involved, for any reason, in spaying/neutering pets, (2) be able to discuss your position with other people, in hopes of persuading or educating them, (3) serve some personal principle of helping animals? If (1) were to come into conflict with (2) or (3), as I think is the case here, is it more important to stick to (1)?

These comments are relevant
posted by kagredon at 3:30 PM on May 2, 2012


Veterinary students definitely practice surgeries on animals that do no need them. A friend of mine bought a pony that had been used as a practice pony at a vet school, and through that had had the nerves to a front hoof cut despite being perfectly healthy. I've heard they get the ponies from a auction known to send horses to slaughter, so being a practice case probably saved her life in a roud-about way.
posted by sepviva at 3:41 PM on May 2, 2012


For the record, I am not interested in becoming a veterinarian. I just wanted to know how accurate it would be to base my opinion of someone on their being one. To kagredon: I would probably not participate in programs with those people, as it would be monetarily supporting their actions.
posted by vash at 4:38 PM on May 2, 2012


« Older Looking for creative ways to f...   |  What strategy should I employ ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.