Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Short history of canine veterinary medicine

A trip to the vet is a regular event for us dog lovers.  But only a century ago, you'd be hard pressed to find a small animal practice in most places. 
Founded in 1762 in Lyon, France, the first veterinary school was established to treat horses and other animals that contributed to the agricultural based economy.  

Source: Old Vet Books
Between 1762 and 1800, parallel to the blossoming awareness that human and animal lives were mutually interdependent, nineteen vet schools were founded in Europe and the UK. By the 1850s, Boston, New York and Philadelphia all had their own vet schools, but none focused on dogs. 

Apparently people didn't have access to
the "naturally tasty treat with a built in pouch for hiding a tablet, capsule or
liquid medication  - Pill Pockets - the #1 veterinarian-recommended
choice for giving pills!" 

In 1790,  Delabere Pritchett Blaine established a vet practice in Sussex, England, that mainly treated animals not attended to by farriers, meaning mostly dogs.  He had apprenticed with surgeons but was neither a qualified vet or a professor, although he called himself both.  His practice saw more than 2500 dogs per year.  
Blaine wrote this book in 1824.
It's a fascinating read for a
dog science nerd like Dr. Barkman.  
William Youatt was Blaine's assistant.  Yoatt went on to establish a successful veterinary clinic in London in 1813 that cared mostly for dogs and other small animals.  In 1828 he founded The Veterinarian, the first animal medicine journal. The first veterinarian to write extensively on dogs, Yoatt is probably most well-known for his book, The Dog, published in 1824. 
The Dog (1824)
You can purchase an original copy
from Go Antiques
for a hundred bucks.
As you'd expect, those Victorian dog eccentrics were the first to benefit from the increase in small animal hospitals.   By the early 1900s, there were many such clinics in big cities. 
First patient at New York City's Dog Hospital, sponsored by
the New York Women's League for Animals, 1914
Library of Congress

The Agnew Small Animal Sanitarium in Pasadena, California, may have been the first large hospital established to care primarily for dogs and cats.  It flourished well into the 1970s. Below is an advertisement published in the 1916 Tournament of Roses magazine. 
Image courtesy of Altadena Historical Society

In rural areas, dogs enjoyed good health with the availability of over-the-counter remedies you could buy at your local grain feed store. 

When automobiles replaced horses, large animal veterinarians generally served rural areas, and city veterinarians, looking to the future, provided health care to small animals.

New York's Bideawee Home for Animals
was one of the first welfare organizations
in the U.S. to provide treatment to dogs.
Photo: Library of Congress


  1. What an interesting post! When you think of how far they've come now in vet care, all the mod cons, ultra-sounds, x-rays, blood pathology etc, it's just amazing....those pioneers in animal welfare really were forward thinkers with great compassion!!!!

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