A Brief History of Veterinary Medicine Part Two

1831 – 1899

Agricultural Needs Helped To Drive Veterinary Science in The USA

The remainder of the 19th century saw an explosion of activity in the field of veterinary medicine. Greater demand for veterinary services came from a variety of causes, such as the hog cholera epidemic of 1833, the introduction of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (shipping fever) to the U.S in 1843 and the development of reapers and other horse/mule-driven machines for farm work. Of course, the westward expansion of U.S. territories created enormous ranching and farming operations that involved many horses, hunting and herding dogs, cattle, buffalo, pigs, fowl and sheep — many veterinarians would be needed to tend to the health of these animals. Later, the rise of the railroads revolutionized the transport of meat and agricultural products.

Michigan State University Veterinary College
Michigan State University Had The First American Agricultural College And Is The Alma Mater And Veterinary College Attended By Dr. Paul Sedlacek, Author Of This Blog.

The first North American veterinary school was established in 1843 in Mexico, though it closed and reopened several times. The year 1855 saw the first U.S. publication of a professional veterinary journal, as well as the first American agricultural college, at Michigan State University. Four years later, Darwin writes Origin of the Species, creating a new worldview of all life on Earth. The U.S. Department of Agriculture was created by Congress in 1862 and to this day provides support for the livestock industry and veterinary science. Early on, the Department disseminated important statistics about various animal diseases and plagues, such as Southern cattle fever, anthrax and distemper.

In 1863, the American Veterinary Medical Association was founded by 40 delegates from seven states meeting in New York. The Association aims to improve the best scientific evidence available to veterinary practice. One year later, Pasteur developed pasteurization and subsequently created, with Robert Koch, the germ theory of disease, which had profound effects on medical and veterinary practice, especially with regard to cleanliness. Joseph Lister published Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery in 1870, further promoting clean practices and reducing deadly infections.

By 1877, there were at least 22 state land-grant colleges teaching veterinary courses. These soon developed into public veterinary schools, and were quickly joined by private ones. For example, Iowa State College opened its veterinary school in 1879. Once again, the ever-expanding use of horses spurred demand for more schools. Around this time, Congress created the Bureau of Animal Industry, staffed by many veterinarians from Cornell University, to investigate livestock diseases

In the 1880s, about half of America’s workers were farmers. Even at this time, many small towns lacked veterinarians, and those that existed concentrated on livestock. The increasing industrialization of America and the development of refrigeration created new demands for agricultural products, such as milk and meat, and more vets were needed to help keep cattle healthy. The Hatch Act of 1887 channeled federal funds to veterinarians working at state agricultural colleges, thereby greatly enhancing veterinary science. The parasites causing various livestock diseases were discovered, leading to treatments and prevention. In the last decades of the century, several new regulations and associations were created to help improve livestock sanitation and health.

1900 – Present

By the start of the 20th century, many state and local veterinary associations were scattered across the country. Most veterinarians were still “horse doctors,” who remained very important through WW I, when many cared for cavalry animals. States set up veterinary examining boards to determine who was qualified to be called a veterinarian. By 1905, there were 22 state boards, and today every state has one. In 1916, Congress created the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, still going strong today.

Veterinary Digital X-Ray
A Modern Digital X Ray Facility at Animal Clinic of Morris Plains In New Jersey. Today’s Veterinarians Stand On The Shoulders Of Those Who Came Before Them, Enabling Far Better Care For Our Pets.

As horses were slowly replaced by the internal combustion engine, vets had the opportunity to broaden their practices beyond equine care. This was coupled by the founding of the field of population genetics for animal breeding in 1921. However, by the 1920’s a “veterinary depression” developed because of the shifting away from horse power to mechanized farm machinery, and later, was exacerbated by the Depression and the Dust Bowl. It was only in the 1930’s that veterinary school attendance once again outstripped capacity, leading to the opening of many new veterinary schools during the years of WWII. After the war ended, many American veterinarians were dispatched to Europe to stabilize animal-related conditions.

Over the 20th century, the scientific revolution profoundly changed the practice of veterinary medicine with new tools, practices and knowledge. Antibiotics, X-rays, modern medicines and inoculations, improved diagnostic and surgical techniques, research into the causes of diseases, advances in animal nutrition, the rise of the computer and the development of molecular genetics transformed veterinary practice into today’s advanced, sophisticated science. Once impossible procedures, such as sheep cloning and gene splicing, are now commonplace. The turkey’s genome was mapped in 2003, leading to the breeding of healthier birds.

Today’s veterinarian is most likely in private practice and spends the majority of time with dogs, cats and other pets. But many other vets care for less-familiar animals, from whales to hummingbirds. The future of veterinary medicine continues to be bright.