Rural large animal vets decreasing in numbers

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Monday, April 2, 2012 - 10:17pm

Neil Wheeler owns Wheeler Stables on Greenbriar Road in Smith County.

They raise and train horses.

"Very few times a week goes by that we don't use a vet for something," Wheeler said.

And Wheeler uses Dr. John Alexander out of Bullard.

We caught up with him as he was helping one of Wheeler's horses that had just given birth.

Alexander sees dogs and cats, but horses and cows are also a big part of his clientele.

He says it's not a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job.

"Theres a lot of emergency duty.  There's a lot of time away from family.  You miss a lot baseball games.  And you end up getting broke down," Alexander said.

Alexander says due to the long hours and physical toll the job takes on your body, fewer veterinary students are wanting to get into it.

Even though that effect hasn't really been felt here in East Texas just yet, there are still several large animal vets to choose from.

But Alexander says a lot of livestock have actually been taken away from East Texas after last year's drought.

So even Alexander's clinic is slightly less busy than they have been.

He tells KETK another big difference between large animal vets and vets that strictly deal with pets is -- the large animal vets are dealing with animals that are a part of the food chain...so that's a lot of extra knowledge that is required learning in school.

"You have to have a certain amount of veterinarian students that want to be able to practice mixed animal practice.  And you have to let them in school and be able to train them," Alexander said.

Alexander says even though it's a hard job, he loves what he does.

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