Employability and veterinary demography: a European perspective

Recently, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), aware of the changes in the European veterinary landscape with regard to the Veterinary Doctor, and of the rapid change in his professional and social conditions, decided to carry out a study ( survey ) that could put in perspective the global picture and national particularities of demography and veterinary employability in Europe . The United States had previously carried out such a study, which is essential for strategic planning for the profession. The FVE study covered almost all the countries that compose it, as well as other countries. In total it is estimated that there are about 243 thousand veterinarians in the countries covered by the study, corresponding to 3.8 veterinarians per 10,000 inhabitants. There are an estimated 157 million pets and 342 million farm and equine animals in the same countries. The number of active members initially indicated by Portugal for this study was 5,000, but the current data points to a value of 5504 active members, so the situation is even more serious with regard to the surplus of veterinary supply in Portugal .

We currently have in our country over 5.3 Veterinarians per 10 thousand inhabitants , which represents 80% more Veterinarians ( par ici ) per inhabitant than the average for France, the United Kingdom and Germany, countries with a PBI twice that of Portugal. If we continue this trend, in ten years we will have 120% more veterinarians per inhabitant than these three countries and in 20 years we will have two and a half times more veterinarians per inhabitant. The FVE study clearly points to both the trend towards surplus supply of veterinarians in Portugal and the negative effects of it. In general, we find two types of countries with an excess of Veterinarians :

Those from Southern Europe, clearly Portugal, Spain and Italy;
Some Eastern European countries, namely Bulgaria, Serbia, Czech Republic, Romania, FYROM (Macedonia), Latvia and, to some extent, Poland.
Although it is possible to better analyze the differences observed in the different blocks, it is sufficient to indicate that they exist, probably linked to political, cultural, economic and regional issues. Although the following points demonstrate the seriousness of the Portuguese situation, the small number of survey responses obtained for Portugal makes it necessary to carry out a large-scale study, in order to better assess the current situation . The way in which the status quo should be reversed is not immediately evident and subject to arbitrary criteria. While all the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine publicly report an employability of almost 100%, the data from the Ministry of Education point to values of up to 7% unemployment, depending on the school. The teaching of Veterinary Medicine in Portugal should be approached in the quantitative but also qualitative aspects, for which the national assessment of courses by the A3ES (Agency for Evaluation and Accreditation of Higher Education) is currently taking place. Negative signs and effects of the excess of veterinarians in Portugal, when compared with other European countries Data Analysis of the FVE Survey of the Veterinary Profession in Europe 2015:

1 – The percentage of the population of veterinarians under 40 is the largest in Europe – 76% against the European average of 44%.

2 – The percentage of female veterinary doctors is the 4th highest in Europe, 62% against the average of 53%; given that the current percentage of students and recent graduates demonstrates the prevalence of greater numbers of female professionals, it seems to confirm the trend;

3 – In terms of professional experience, Portugal appears both with the 2nd highest percentage of veterinarians with less than two years of experience, and the lowest percentage of Veterinarians with more than 15 years of experience. This seems to demonstrate the change at an accelerated pace and the inversion of the demographic pyramid of veterinarians in Portugal ; being that it points to the risk of quickly having future generations to be trained by colleagues with less experience than in the past and the consequent loss of quality in teaching.

4 – Unemployment reaches 5% in Portugal, against the average of 3% in Europe and 8% in Spain. Of the unemployed identified in the Study, half have been in this situation for more than a year.

5 – Underemployment in Portugal (34%) is only surpassed by some countries in Eastern Europe, many of which are also referred to as having problems with the excess of veterinarians.

6 – If we combine the unemployment and underemployment figures in Portugal, we get 40%, double that of Spain.

7 – The study seems to identify a direct relationship between the excessive supply of veterinarians with the worst reputation values in the class: Portugal appears with the 8th worst public reputation and the 7th worst among the respective Customers, accompanied in these places by the other countries with the largest number Veterinarians by inhabitants.

8 – The productivity per Veterinarian in private practice in Portugal represents 1/5 of the European average, only lower in countries like Bulgaria, Macedonia, Latvia, Romania or Slovakia.

9 – Portugal has the greatest dependence on the pet clinic sector in this study – 94%, when dividing by species.

10 – The average salary for veterinarians in pets in Portugal is 14 thousand euros, higher than only Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia.

11 – 58% of veterinarians in Portugal do not have a retirement plan , only 18% of respondents believe they have a plan that suits their needs.

12 – The satisfaction rates with the profession are among the lowest in the study (the worst for career choice, 2nd worst for salary, the worst for quality of life, 4th worst for work environment and the worst when asked if he would turn to pursue this profession). A recent study links these factors to stress, depression and burnout ( VetBizz 2015);

Diabetes: Teamwork between veterinarians and guardians

Making tutors aware of the proper control of diabetes should be an ongoing task. The novelties that emerge in terms of therapies, blood glucose monitoring, pps that help greater compliance, result in therapeutic success. Timely diagnosis also makes a difference and can even reverse diabetes for cats. Training caregivers to manage their pet’s diabetes is one of the biggest current challenges of this disease. Interestingly, the symptoms close to diabetes in humans lead to a search for help from the veterinarian when signs appear, such as drinking and urinating more. The owners are thus “with an idea” of what could be “within the countless differentials that these signs can have”, explains Doroteia Bota, a specialist in internal medicine for small animals at the Hospital Veterinário do Restelo (HVR). This is a disease that mainly affects dogs and cats over six years old, that is, middle-aged and seniors. Rodolfo Oliveira Leal, the veterinarian specialist in internal medicine, professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Lisbon (FMV-ULisboa), emphasizes the same reality. “We know that diet and obesity are factors that the community is already more aware of. The veterinarian plays an important role in alerting to these risk factors, instituting weight loss programs whenever he deems necessary. ”

Once diabetes is diagnosed, real teamwork begins between veterinarians and tutors . “Sometimes, it is not easy to ask them to make blood glucose curves at home (to avoid the stress of hospitalization, especially in cats or aggressive animals, who are unthinkable to draw blood every two hours). On the other hand, these animals are often obese [ obesity is one of the risk factors for cats] and making an animal lose weight is always a challenge ”, explains Doroteia Bota. From the point of view of the veterinarian who cares for animals with diabetes, one of the requirements is “to find the right dose of insulin, while having to insist on the intensity of the treatment in order to try to reach a disease remission ”. When the same animal has other diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, asthma or kidney disease, the challenges increase. Pedro Morais de Almeida, visiting assistant professor at the Lusophone University of Humanities and Technologies (ULHT), and clinical advisor at the School Hospital of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the same university, consider that tutors are increasingly informed, but that misinformation is many sometimes the result of “biased research on the Internet that does not favour an early diagnosis and adequate treatment”. Rodolfo Oliveira Leal argues that today’s tutors are not the same as ten years ago, not least because there is currently easier access to information via the Internet and social networks. “They are invariably more aware of the disease. We have more attentive tutors, which allows earlier diagnosis and, consequently, greater therapeutic success ”, he guarantees.

Risk factors

In carrying out his master’s dissertation on the potential risk factors for canine diabetes mellitus (DM) , professor Pedro Morais de Almeida states that 30% of DM cases in dogs are due to pancreatitis, which has a higher incidence “in dogs old people, as well as other endocrine diseases, such as hyperadrenocorticism and the emergence of infections that can induce inflammation and immune-mediated diseases involved in the etiopathogenesis of canine DM ”. The European Society for Veterinary Endocrinology will publish the first DM classification for our pets this year. “While most dogs are examined for the first time for diabetes in an insulin-dependent state, early and accurate diagnosis of the underlying disease process can alter the long-term outcome and allow some degree of insulin independence,” he adds.

In cats, obesity and age appear as important risk factors for the onset of the disease, “since more than 80% of cats have type 2 diabetes”. It is commonplace, says Pedro Morais de Almeida, “that cats live longer and are fatter”. “In the USA, between 2007 and 2011, overweight and obesity increased by 90% in cats (and 37% in dogs). The vast majority of cats diagnosed with diabetes are over eight years old, with a peak incidence between 10 and 12 years. This association of diabetes with obesity is not recognized in dogs, despite the fact that the prevalence of obesity in this species is estimated between 19.7% and 59.3% according to the geographical area of the study ”, he stresses. “In more than 50% of cats, if diagnosed early, the diabetic state can be reversed ”, warns the teacher. That is why the correct and timely diagnosis is so important. In the training and classes he teaches, Pedro Morais de Almeida never tires of emphasizing that, despite the accessibility to more sophisticated and apparently infallible complementary means of diagnosis, these “often do not add anything, they can give information that does not answer the problem of the dog or cat and they also make mistakes ”. That is why he stresses: “Medicine of continuous excellence cannot give up a complete anamnesis and a detailed physical examination, and only afterwards do complementary diagnostic methods come in, which are exactly, complementary.”

The help of technology

There is currently greater accessibility to blood glucose monitoring monitors that have become “more democratic, cheaper and easier to acquire and manipulate, associated with very intuitive applications for their interpretation”, highlights Pedro Morais de Almeida, considering that the blood glucose curves continue to be an excellent monitoring tool. Dorotea Bota mentions two technological innovations that have been helping to control diabetes and adherence to therapy, such as “systems for continuous monitoring of blood glucose, which measure blood glucose in the subcutaneous interstitial fluid [and not in the blood] using a transcutaneous sensor. ”. The HVR veterinarian considers that these devices are interesting, as they allow the glycemia curves to be carried out for seven days, at the hospital or at home, needing only to be calibrated twice a day. “

Continue Reading