Erin Jackson loving veterinary medicine
Veterinarian Erin Jackson just adopted her third black cat, a kitten called Bobby.
The new addition is unsteady on his paws due to a neurological condition called cerebellar hypoplasia.
“I have a soft spot for special needs cats,” Dr Jackson said. “The charity Cats Bermuda brought him in because his foster family noticed he was a little wobbly. I just fell in love with him.”
His disorder seems to have stabilised so he will probably lead a long and happy life but will always have shaky gross motor co-ordination.
Dr Jackson also has Bernie, who had severe burns on him when she got him, and Billy, who is cross-eyed.
She practises at CedarTree Vets on Tee Street, Devonshire, and sees between 14 to 20 pets a day.
“Around half of those are cats,” she said.
CedarTree has a mobile veterinary service that will send a veterinarian into the client’s home. The belief is that this is less stressful for the animal than bringing it into the clinic.
“Rarely can you get an accurate heart rate, blood pressure or even blood sugar reading on a cat in the clinic,” she said. “Stress makes these numbers go through the roof. You can sometimes get a more accurate picture of what is going on when you work on them in their home.”
She said sometimes the cat was asleep on the bed when the veterinarian walked in and barely woke up while they did their health checks. However, she admitted some cats were a little less accommodating.
“I often joke that half of my work is just coaxing cats out from under the bed,” she laughed.
She has wanted to be a vet since she was a toddler.
“Apparently when I was three, we took the family cat to the vet’s office and I went along,” she said. “I said, what is this place? When my parents explained, I said with absolute conviction, that’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
As a teenager she worked as an intern at CedarTree, before studying at the Royal Veterinary College in London.
This month she celebrates ten years in the profession, a milestone that allows her to be called a senior veterinarian. All of her time has been spent working on the island.
CedarTree owner Lucy Richardson sees Dr Jackson’s commitment to the profession as a triumph.
“It is often said in the profession that seven years is the average career span for a veterinarian,” Dr Richardson said. “It's a very physical and emotional journey that we go on every day.”
The pandemic made things worse for veterinarians. Many people used the downtime to get a new pet but at the same time, the number of veterinary clinics globally, decreased.
The remaining veterinarians became overworked and some left the profession.
Dr Jackson, however, has a good work-life balance at CedarTree.
The upside to the pandemic was that there was an increased interest in CedarTree’s mobile services, since more people were working from home.
Dr Jackson has no plans to leave veterinary medicine.
“I love the variety of it,” she said. “Every day is totally different, so you always have a new set of challenges and problems to solve.”
She is now working on an online postgraduate certificate specialising in feline practice. “Every month is a module on a different area such as neurology or cardiology,” Dr Jackson said. “It just takes everything I’m already doing to the next level.”
She said it was important to have a more in-depth understanding of issues such as feline cardiology, because there was no more specialised veterinary hospital on the island that pets could be passed to. It is also very expensive for people to take their pets overseas for higher-level treatment.
She really enjoys the dentistry side of her work.
“It is something that all small animal vets need to know how to do but is not something that they usually enjoy,” Dr Jackson said. “It can definitely take a lot of patience to extract teeth. It can take hours and if you try and rush you end up snapping roots.”
Dr Jackson likes pet dentistry because it gives pets immediate relief from pain.
“Sometimes the animals that come in have rotten teeth but the owners haven't even noticed,” she said. “Many pets will soldier on with an amount of dental disease that would have us humans begging to go to the dentist. They will keep eating and drinking as normal.”
She said around 70 per cent of cats and dogs older than three have some degree of dental disease.
The dental work connects with another of her interests, animal cardiology.
Mitral valve disease or MVD is a heart problem caused by a faulty heart valve. It is the most common type of heart disease in dogs and is especially prevalent in small breeds such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
“Dental disease is really closely linked to the development of mitral valve disease,” she said. “Bacteria from infected teeth can seed into the bloodstream and attach to the mitral valve and cause degenerative changes. So if you stay on your pet’s dental health, you can help to prevent the progression of MVD.”
One of the hardest parts of the job is having to euthanise pets.
“I am starting to see pets I dealt with as puppies and kittens, entering old age,” she said. “So it does get very personal and very emotional.”
However, she said it would be worse not having the option of euthanasia to alleviate an animal’s suffering.
“Every single case that I have to euthanise is hard,” she said. “It is not something that you ever get used to or adjust to; it’s something that you cope with.”