Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nebraska Veterinary History Part IV


By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

From 1900 to 1918 most Nebraska veterinarians could be pictured as large animal practitioners. Until automobiles and roads became more reliable, those in rural Nebraska still traveled dirt roads by horseback, buggy or cutter. There were some creditable animal hospitals developing in a few towns and interest in doing some small animal practice began following World War I and the demise of horses for farm horsepower. The tractor was here to stay.

However, by and large, an office in a livery stable was still common. There were few partnerships. The solo practitioner was the usual and the totality of veterinary medicine was what he could do with his hands, his back, and his little black bag. His treatments were often secret and jealously guarded although the components were usually commonly known.

During every disease epidemic – notably equine encephalomyelitis, hog cholera, tuberculosis, infectious abortion and others there were all kinds of unscrupulous persons taking advantage of the situation with magic remedies that would cure anything. The food animal practitioner in Nebraska has a long history of competing against non- professional interests with a system of standards hostile and inferior to his own.

It was during this same era that another development occurred that was to reshape the character of many large animal practices, the production of anti-hog cholera serum. A demonstration at the Kansas City Stockyards was brought about in 1909. Shoats were injected with live virus alone or with anti-serum concurrently. The serum – treated pigs remained healthy while the others died. Soon after the conclusion of this experiment, the development of commercial hog serum companies began at Kansas City. From this point, many practices in Nebraska’s heavy swine producing areas became principally concerned with the administration of great volumes of hog cholera serum and virus. However, in retrospect, it may be seen that this activity may have caused some damage to the total usage of the practitioner. Many did not even own a stethoscope.

Small animal medicine began during this period in Nebraska, but was still an adjunct to large animal medicine, primarily equine medicine. Only a small number of veterinarians gave any considerable portion of their time to small animals and a few hospitalized dogs and cats. Most well-qualified veterinary practitioners did not feel complimented when their horse-owning clients requested them to give attention to ailing dogs. In such instances, attention given to a dog or cat was usually gratuitous.

In the period just prior to 1900 and during the early part of the 20th century the Department of Veterinary Science at the University of Nebraska developed many scientific breakthroughs including the production of blackleg vaccine and hog cholera anti-serum.

From the standpoint of the graduate veterinarian in Nebraska the passing of a licensure law in 1905 marked the beginning of the end of non-graduates practicing veterinary medicine. While the “grandfathers clause” permitted many to continue practicing with a permit, they could no longer attach the title of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to their names.

Bibliography: A Century of Veterinary Medicine in Nebraska By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

Further readings:
Dr. O.M. Franklin
Horse Doctor — Compliment or Insult

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