I know a lot of you out there are interested in seeing fish patients, but don’t know where to start. Getting training can be a little daunting, but check out our Aquatic Education Resources page. Once you have the skills, it’s super easy to start seeing clients. Aside from some drugs, nets and buckets, you have everything else you need already! Here’s the secret to increasing your fish clients:
Put a fish tank in your waiting room.
Yes, that is it. I suggest you keep it simple. A basic 10 gallon tank with a few tropical fish or 1-2 goldfish and some decor is all you need. Since most pet fish are kept in multi-pet households with dogs and cats, you already know who your clients are. When anyone asks about the tank, have your staff tell them you see pet fish.
Don’t think fish are worth your time? Well, let’s look at the numbers:
Horse 7.6 Freshwater Fish 139.3 Saltwater Fish 18.8
Small Animal 14.0
Although only 12.5 million households own fish compared to 94 and 90 million households for cats and dogs, respectively, the total number of potential fish patients is significantly more than any other pet. And most pet fish are IN households with cats and dogs!
In every veterinarian’s career, there will come cases that try us mentally, physically and emotionally. For us here at Aquatic Veterinary Services, we have been tested by a case that we battled for almost 6 months. What started as a simple lesion steamrolled into a serious bacteria problem for multiple large koi.
Princess, a 28″ kohaku koi, had been moved with 5 of her pondmates from Redding last fall down to Carmel. Early in their acclimation, one of the koi got sucked up into the filtration and was killed. The fish were moved temporarily to another pond for a few weeks before the problem could be fixed and the fish returned. One of Princess’s cohorts, Whitey, started to have a small red spot on her nose. In addition, Princess started to have a red mark next to her left pectoral fin. Physical exams showed a penetrating pectoral ulcer on Princess’s left pectoral muscle. Princess received an antibiotic injection and would receive a re-check in a few weeks.
A few weeks later, Princess’s wound had not improved and now Whitey also had signs of a nasty ulcer on her right pectoral muscle. A culture was taken from Whitey’s wound and the owner elected to treat with an aggressive 8-hour dose of potassium permanganate. Due to the high algae load in the pond, the first PP treatment required two smaller, follow up doses in order to keep the pond purple for the full treatment. Even with the treatment, the fishes’ wounds did not start to improve. In fact, two other fish in the pond were starting to show signs of a persistent infection. One had fractured a fin ray that caused a massive hole and the other’s eyes started bulging out.
Well, when the culture results arrived, we found out why the fish were not responding. Two drugs, out of the dozen processed, would be able to kill the Aeromonas spp. present. Two, out of a panel of twelve. One of the drugs would cause kidney failure if used at too high a dose. The other was only available as a powder for oral dosing. We were able to make up a medicated feed with the powder, but unfortunately, the fish decided that it was not to their liking. Some drugs are very noxious and fish will not eat them, even when we try to hide them with flavorings. So, that left us with one drug, but only one dose taking careful weight measurements so as not to incite kidney failure. All 5 fish in the pond received injectable medications.
Did it work? Not really. Many of these drugs require repeat doses in order to be truly effective. At this point, we were left with very, very few options. This is the part where I stay awake at night thinking, ‘what else can I do?’ Thankfully, when we were trying to come up with some sort of alternative plan, the powder antibiotic was finally available as an injectable! We bought as many vials as we could and we managed three rounds of injectable meds.
Keep in mind that all of these injections were done in the pond without sedation. We also had to give all of these fish physical exams every visit, without sedation. You try holding a 25 lbs slippery rocket made of pure muscle and see how long you get to stab it with a needle. I am so proud of myself that I was able to give these fish the care that they needed with the limited options we had available.
Long story short: every fish is now on the mend. Are they healed entirely? No, not yet, but all of the wounds are showing great signs of proper healing. Thanks to their very patient owner and our unwillingness to give up. These cases don’t come around very often, but when they do, we are so glad to report a happy ending for this pond.
For all you students interested in the medical/health professions, it would benefit you to check out the 12th Annual UC Davis Pre-Medical & Pre-Health Professions National Conference coming up October 11-12 in Davis, CA. Our own Dr. Sanders will be attending as a guest panelist and will be answering questions about her unique field of mobile aquatic veterinary medicine. We hope to see you there!
From their website:
The two-day event hosts an excellent selection of keynote speakers, Dean’s Panels, and 250 workshops covering a wide variety of health professional topics. Additional full day programs are run which focus on medicine, pharmacy, nursing, veterinary medicine, physical and occupational therapy, PhD graduate studies, optometry and public health.
Some key elements of the conference are the Pre-Health Professions Fair and the Dean’s Panels. During the fair, attendees are provided with an unparalleled opportunity to interact with school administrators from nearly all US medical schools and a wide variety of other Pre-Health Professional schools, including Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Nursing. During the course of a Dean’s Panel, medical school deans discuss their respective institutions – including admission requirements and qualities desired in prospective students – and take part in a moderated Q and A session. After this, attendees are given the opportunity to select from 250 workshops. Each session is an opportunity for attendees to explore the medical school admissions process such as crafting one’s personal statement, your specific healthcare school curriculum, summer programs, financial aid, study skills, the MCAT, NET, PCAT, DAT, GRE, career options, time management, and others. Many of the workshops are led by Deans of Admissions from the country’s premier healthcare schools, leading experts, and leaders in medicine.