Dr. Mike West does not try to hide it; there is one thing that rises to the top of the reasons he loves being a veterinarian. “I love getting to cuddle the dogs and cats,” he says. “Oh and bribe them with treats!”
Dr. West has worked as a veterinarian for almost 30 years. He, like many DVMs locally, graduated from the Atlantic Veterinary College. While living in England he also obtained certification in Veterinary Dermatology from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1999. “Additionally,” he says, “I have a special interest in small animal dentistry.”
When he applied to work at SPCA Veterinary Hospital, he learned that the SPCA wasn’t only opening that social enterprise, they were also about to start their first class of Veterinary Assistants at the Nova Scotia SPCA College of Animal Welfare. He was hired in August 2021 and began a dual role of working at both.
“I really enjoy re-learning all kinds of information that has been lost in the mists of time,” he says when asked about what he likes about the college. “And coming up with ways to make it accessible and comprehensible to the students.”
Working alongside colleagues and teaching the next generation of veterinary assistants has Dr. West reflecting on the future of veterinary medicine. “I am concerned about the lack of veterinarians and staff and the effect it has on people’s pets. I am concerned about the lack of availability of folks in the profession to do the hard job of providing emergency services out of hours and I am concerned for the health of those stalwart members of the profession who are shouldering the load of this part of veterinary medicine.” For his part, Dr. West is happy to have the opportunity to share with students the lessons he has learned, as well as suggesting tools to help them maintain balance and foster good mental health in a challenging profession.
Never far from his mind are the pet owners who love their animals, and the challenges they are facing. As part of a project with PetSmart Charities of Canada, the SPCA Veterinary Hospital is piloting a non-profit care model where the goal is encouraging families to access preventative care before they are in crisis. The fundraising team helps by raising money to support payment plans and discounts for low-income families when families experience an urgent situation.
“I hope that by presenting alternatives to for-profit veterinary hospitals, we will help to remake the veterinary hospital into a place where the majority of clients can find affordable care for their pets and where veterinarians, veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and other staff find a rewarding environment in which to work,” Dr. West says.
Did you know that Dr. West has coined a term for the fluff between cats’ toes? Watch and learn what Dr. West calls it.