Skip to content

Veterinary Medicine as an Entry to Human Healthcare

Elizabeth Alvarez, DVM, DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice) , Ruthanne Chun, William Giles


With the cost of veterinary medical care on the rise, it is no secret that pet owners in poverty are having an increasingly hard time accessing services for their animals. Though there are many programs in existence that work to provide some level of care, frequently these take the form of high-volume spay/neuter or “vaccine day” type services. While this approach serves a very important public healthcare need for companion animals, it is not a viable option for ongoing management of disease. Furthermore, programs that are looking to provide more ongoing disease management for patients living with families in poverty find a few unique questions and challenges when compared to traditional veterinary practice. And yet, this sort of interaction and ongoing relationship can provide some exciting options for furthering access to human healthcare and services. This talk will look at three case examples of WisCARES, an outreach program at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Social Work, on how poverty affects the case management of a veterinary patient and the relationship the owner has with the veterinary healthcare provider. 

Case one looks at intervention and management of a diabetic patient belonging to a homeless pet owner, and what ancillary education and support is necessary to ensure that treatment plans have the best chance of success - from the types of diagnostics to client education to long-term access to medication and management. 

Case two looks at a situation in which chronic disease management of a patient is so intimately intertwined with the owner’s living situation that a true collaboration is needed for not only the goal of care for the patient, who is also the client’s emotional support animal, but also for support of the owner through that process. We also look at how the the relationship with a veterinarian puts us in a position to have a profound impact on a pet owner’s situation and look at what responsibilities veterinarians who work with these populations may have. 

Case three looks at a situation where the act of veterinary medical care delivery has a direct impact on the owner’s ability to access his own healthcare services and how veterinary practitioners can be an instrumental partner for human healthcare and social work providers to help increase the human’s access to support services.

Please Click on Image Below for Presentation Slides:

    The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.