An Introduction to the History of Veterinary Medicine
The word amateur comes from the Latin root word "to love". An amateur is someone who does something out of love as opposed to a professional who does things for money.
I'm an amateur historian. And in the sense that I love veterinary medicine as well as animals, I am both an amateur and a professional veterinarian.
These pages about the history of veterinary science are mostly in the form of time lines from the notes I have taken over the years. But there are also lots of comments, articles, and a few historical surprises that I hope you will find interesting.
Toward the bottom of this page I credit and thank all the authors of books and other websites from whom I have liberally copied bits and pieces of information.
Discussion about problems related to the reproductive tract such as uterine infections, False Pregnancy, lack of milk, Infection of the mammary glands and trouble giving birth. But also fun stuff like new born care. Aso about undescended testicles.
There are many more links to our other pages below on your left May the Peace of the Lord Be With You
The mental image of a veterinarian as being a bright and earnest young woman caring for pets is a very recent phenomenon: Most veterinarians graduating from veterinary schools over the last 10 plus years have been women.
But women veterinarians were rare as recently as 30 years ago.
And veterinarians that treated pets exclusively were rare ... and considered somewhat sissy...as little as 50 years ago.
But now most veterinarians earn their living taking care of pet dogs, cats, and horses.
Dogs, cats, and horses that are so pampered and loved that they are treated like family members that sleep in our beds. Well, not the horses. And no expense is spared.
Prior to World War II, very few people would consider paying more than a token amount for the medical care of their pets any more than the average person today would consider taking an injured chipmunk to the vet.
And prior to World War I, it probably wouldn't have done much good to take your sick or injured pet to the vet: Antibiotics were yet to be developed. Dependable anesthetics weren't available. Surgical skills were minimal and crude. Most of what we take for granted today was not yet invented.
Prior to World War I, cars and trucks were relatively rare and people and goods were transported by oxen, horses and mules. Lots of mules.
More than half our population worked on farms to raise food.
When countries went to war, hundreds of thousands of horses and mules went to war as well. So did thousands of dogs.
People were in close contact with farm animals on a daily basis, and where ever there are cattle, horses, hogs, sheep, and poultry there is feed and foddor, manure, and filth.
And this means rodents, flies, ticks, lice, and fleas.
So, while people "in the old days" were much more likely to have close and intimate relationships with a variety of animals ... even in urban areas ... than people today, that relationship was usually more practical and functional than loving.
Animals, including dogs and cats were considered a source of filth, pestilence, and disease best kept out of the house.
And then came the amazing cultural shocks, revelations, and changes of the 1800's.
-Slavery, which was prevalent world wide for centuries is ended, for the most part starting in northern Europe and then in the Americas.
-The American and French Revolutions took place just before the 1800's, but the end result of the French Revolution was Napoleon.
Because of Napoleon, millions of people were slaughtered, most of Europe and much of the western world was left staggering, wounded, and often rearranged. France and especially Spain were left so weak that their extensive empires would soon brake apart as one colony after another exploded in revolution after revolution.
-Britain's empire would remain mostly intact (with the huge exception of the United States) during this century, but it too, would soon collapse as one nation after another in Asia, India, and Africa fought for independence.
Meanwhile, on the scientific front there was
-Canned food that lasted for years
-Germ theory and the confirmation that epidemics are indeed often associated with the rodents and parasites that are a part of being in close contact with animals.
-The beginnings of modern medical practice
- And invention after invention. Discovery after discovery.
-And one amazing advance after another in our understanding of disease and our ability to fight and control it.
Modern man has no inkling of how many people died before reaching 40 due to disease prior to the advent of modern medicine, modern sanitation, modern food storage and handling, and the development of vaccines, antibiotics, anesthesia, modern medicines, and modern surgical and treatment techniques. NO IDEA AT ALL.
Maiwand, Afghanistan - the last stand of the 66th; the dog in the painting is Bobbie, the mascot of the British 2nd Battalion, of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, the only survivor of the battle of Maiwand in 1880, during the British 2nd Afghan War. Bobbie received the Afghan Medal from Queen Victoria the following year in 1881; he died the year after, run down by a cab.
Thanks & Recognition:
These pages about the history of veterinary medicine are NOT a serious adedemic endeavor: most of the information is simply material I found pertinent and more or less copied and organized into a timeline style outline.
Credit, thanks, and recognition deserves to go to:
BVSc, MPhil, MRCVS
Editor, Veterinary History (the journal of The Veterinary History Society)
1 St James Court, Grange Park Drive Biddulph, Staffordshire, ST8 7XX, UK
Susan D Jones; author of a superb book about the history of American Veterinary Medicine called
This book focuses on our society's changing outlook and relationship with animals over the last 150 years.
I don't agree with some of her seemingly queer theory-feminist implications that early veterinarians were male sexist pigs motivated mostly by economic greed and political power complicit in our culture's use of animal body products.
(I think she means meat)
However, having made these critical comments, please note:
1. She's an expert; both a professor of history and a onetime practicing veterinarian. I'm strictly an amateur historian.
2. I may be misinterpeting her viewpoints unfairly and, besides, she may be right.
Indeed, I think she's mostly right. For example, I'm sure that most vets in the early 1900's were in fact male chauvanists who believed that veterinary practice was unsuitable for women.
What I disagree about is the significance: So what? This chauvanistic attitude was the norm for the times in most professions...not an indication that the veterinary profession was especially evil or flawed.
It's certainly a situation that was quickly corrected; the profession is now dominated by exceptional women who as far as I can tell are motivated by the same things as their male counterparts: service to the animal, medical, and food-livestock industries, a love of animals, economic survival, and so forth.
3. Whatever your feelings on such matters, the book is excellent, thoughtful, and fair. I've liberally used her material as a source for the timeline and comments on these pages. Enjoy.
4. Her book is available from Amazon.
And many thanks to veterinarian James Porter for his 1956 book about American Veterinarians combatting foot and mouth disease in Mexico.
Veterinarians, along with animal and plant biologists, and certainly physicians ...first in Europe in the 1800's and later dominated by Americans in the 1900's, played a major role in the development of modern disease control and treatment. It's an exciting story.
Very early veterinarians were mainly concerned with the care of livestock and horses and mules.
But by the 1890's, many veterinarians were involved in figuring out and controlling those diseases that affect humans and our food supply:
In 1891, Dr. Leonard Pearson initiated the tuberculosis testing of cattle to help stop the spread of this disease to both man and other cattle.
Dr. Evan Stubbs isolated the avian influenza organism.
Dr. Karl F. Meyer saved America' s canning industry by developing a method to prevent botulism.
Veterinarians helped to create the Bureau of Animal Industry which played a very important role in protecting the American livestock and assuring the safety of the food supply.
Veterinarians have been at the forefront of controlling many major diseases:
-Hoof & Mouth Disease
-and many more. I will mention many of these diseases again in the following pages.
Veterinarians have been involved with experimental medicine and surgery throughout the 1900's. Whenever a new technique or surgery was being developed or tried, it was often done on animals first ...for better or worse...and veterinarians were there.
Veterinarians are the vanguard of our modern food inspection services. Recently our media went "ape" when one cow with "Mad Cow Disease" was detected entering the US. That cow was quickly detected and isolated BECAUSE of a well run livestock and food inspection service staffed and run by veterinarians and agricultural scientists.!
They have been instrumental in the development of organ transplantation, transgenics, and almost every other important medical development.
Veterinarians in the United States Armed Forces and The Center for Disease Contorl help to assure the security of our nation and are essential in the efforts to protect us from the threat of bioterrorism.
Throughout the developing world, you will find veterinarians alongside of agricultural scientists helping less advanced nations to maintain safe water supplies, to control parasitism, and to develop safer and more reliable food supplies.
In more recent years, advances in pet animal medicine have allowed our pets to live significantly longer, healthier, and more comfortable lives.
When one looks at all of the contributions that have been made to our society by the veterinary profession, it quickly becomes obvious that those contributions touch almost every aspect of our lives and that our lives have been improved by those contributions.
Imagine the miracles to come.
Roger Ross, DVM
Sir Ronald Ross
In 1902 my ancestor, a British Army physcian, polymath, and founder of the Ross Institute of Tropical Diseases won the nobel prize for identifying the life cycle of malaria and more importantly identified the mosquito as the carrier. Think how many lives that discovery saved.
He was involved in the medical aspects of big projects in the 1800's all over the world, including the Suez Canal.
His father was Sir Campbell Ross, Major General of the British Army in India.
The picture above is the 1st state veterinary college founded in the United States. (The building has been remodeled since 1903 when it was first built). Cornell, a private University taught veterinary classes as early as 1865 and founded a separate veterinary college in 1894. Canada established the first veterinary school in North America at Guelph, Ontario in 1862. And the Spanish Empire had a veterinary college in Mexico City before that. Lyons, France 1762, is credited with establishing the first college of veterinary medicine in the modern era.
Cardiology Heart disease in Cats, Cardiac Hypertrophy, Valvular disease, Cardiac Insufficiency, Congestive Heart Failure, Heartworm Disease, and a little history about the milestones in treating heart disease
Cats: general information page and directory of diseases and problems specific to cats including vaccine recommendations, leukemia, feline viral infections, feline upper respiratory disease and cats that just aren't feeling well.