Letters to the Editor

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Talking internships

In a recent JAVMA News story1 about the AVMA House of Delegates Veterinary Information Forum this past July, it was reported that the discussion touched on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on veterinary student learning; one delegate suggested that it will be important for practitioners to work on being mentors for recent graduates, saying “We're going to be filling in gaps down the road … For the next several years, this will have a ripple effect on their education.” Let's be clear: no one is done with learning when they graduate from veterinary school, but this year's graduates may have a higher hill to climb than previous graduates, given that the fundamentals of how we practice have been so drastically altered.

I would like to remind veterinary students that an internship is a year devoted to mentorship and growth. It doesn't negate the value of a veterinary school education; it complements the work done during those 4 years. It also doesn't commit someone to a residency.

Yes, interns work hard and are paid relatively little for that work. A critical eye is needed when choosing an internship, and talking to previous interns to make sure the hospital can deliver on promises it makes in the program description is vital. Focus on colleagues who graduated in 2020, because their last year of school was like no other in the history of modern veterinary education, and talk to those who accepted an internship as well as those who went directly into practice to learn more about the pros and cons of each.

Please consider the value of an internship beyond salary alone. Internships can teach you how to be efficient, work with people you may not like, perform procedures you didn't get to do in veterinary school, and manage cases that can't be referred. These skills are vital to your career and professional longevity.

I was an intern once, and it was a hard year. As an intern director, I have seen interns struggle, but I have also seen them complete the program as capable, confident doctors. Under the new conditions imposed by the current pandemic, internships will continue to be of value.

Anya Gambino, dvm

Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle Lynnwood, Wash

1. Larkin M. Busy times, stress for veterinarians during pandemic. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2020;257:566568.

Canine intestinal parasites: it's not just the dog parks

Thank you for publishing the JAVMA News story1 about the recent presentation at the AVMA Convention 2020 on the DOGPARCS (Detection of Gastrointestinal Parasites at Recreational Canine Sites) study. The news story provided a valuable overview of findings from a study2 by veterinarians at Elanco, Idexx, and Oklahoma State University who assessed the prevalence of canine intestinal parasites at dog parks across the United States. However, it is important to note that in reporting this study, we did not intend to suggest that dogs visiting dog parks are different from those in the general population in terms of parasite infection prevalence. Intestinal parasites are surprisingly common in pet dogs regardless of background or lifestyle, and a high infection prevalence is likely not unique to dogs that visit dog parks. We suspect that the prevalence of such parasite infections in this study and other dog park studies may be more representative of the prevalence in the general pet dog population than estimates based on samples submitted by veterinary practices to diagnostic laboratories, which often come from dogs receiving routine wellness care and preventive medications, or collected from dogs in shelters.2–4 As the summary highlighted, owner-reported preventive use was associated with lower parasite prevalence in our study.

Dog parks provide valuable socialization and exercise opportunities for both dogs and their owners. Visiting these shared-use areas allowed us to collect a large number of samples from a cross-section of pet dogs, including many that, as reported by their owners, were not receiving preventive medications. Because we did not include a random control group of pet dogs that do not visit dog parks, our data cannot be used to determine whether dogs visiting these parks have a greater risk of intestinal parasitism than those in the general population. A valid conclusion of the study would be that intestinal parasites are common in pet dogs in the broadest sense. As such, our findings should serve to reinforce the recommendations of the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) that all dogs should receive broad-spectrum monthly intestinal parasite control treatment year-round or be treated 4 times a year with a broad-spectrum anthelmintic with efficacy against intestinal parasites.5 The CAPC also recommends that all dogs, including those receiving preventive medications, be regularly tested for intestinal parasites to safeguard their health, limit zoonotic risk, and monitor the continued efficacy of anthelmintics. The current prevalence of intestinal parasites is high, but with consistent effort, we are confident that our profession can reduce parasitism in pet dogs across the United States, including those that visit dog parks.

Susan E. Little, dvm, phd

Oklahoma State University Stillwater, Okla

William G. Ryan, bvsc, mba

Westfield, NJ

  • 1. Cima G. Study finds parasites common in pet dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2020;257:673.

  • 2. Stafford K, Kollasch TM, Duncan KT, et al. Detection of gastrointestinal parasitism at recreational canine sites in the USA: the DOGPARCS study. Parasit Vectors 2020;13:275.

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  • 3. Savadelis MD, Evans CC, Mabry KH, et al. Canine gastrointestinal nematode transmission potential in municipal dog parks in the southeast United States. Vet Parasitol Reg Stud Reports 2019;18:100324.

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  • 4. Duncan KT, Koons NR, Litherland MA, et al. Prevalence of intestinal parasites in fecal samples and estimation of parasite contamination from dog parks in central Oklahoma. Vet Parasitol Reg Stud Reports 2020;19:100362.

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  • 5. Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Hookworms. Available at: capcvet.org/guidelines/hookworms/. Accessed Sep 29, 2020.

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