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Veterinary Advice and Information
Back in the late 1800's and early 1900's, many books were written to help farmers and others care for pets and animals, when a veterinary advice and information was either too expensive or unavailable.
Much of this advice and information was very practical, and certainly meant that many animals were able to be helped or cured of their illness or affliction.
Veterinary Medicine in the Victorian Era
Ever since humans and animals started living together back in prehistory, veterinary medicine has been a major concern for the human race for a variety of reasons, including human-animal contagion possibilities, the hoped-for health of food sources and economic resources, and of course, our love for our companions.
Although we have been working on it for a while, veterinary medicine didn't really start to be understood until relatively recently.
Prior to industrialization, our livestock and pets mostly lived in something resembling their natural environments, while we lived in a world without much communication of any kind, so health disorders tended to be relatively isolated.
In the days before we understood fun things like disease vectors, infection, antibiotics, aseptic technique, bacteria, viruses and the use of dietary supplements for our animals, veterinary medicine was a rather catch-as-catch-can endeavor.
Of course, all of that changed in the Victorian era, just as it did for human medicine and frequently due to the same inventions and techniques.
Because of the vast changes sweeping the globe, veterinary medicine progressed by leaps and bounds as various animal diseases and treatments were found using new, more precise equipment and scientific methods instead of superstition and guesswork.
Today, Victorian times are often thought of in quaint, overdecorated terms, or as the setting for opulent old horror films.
The image of the London horse-drawn cab is a universal symbol of what we think of as a bygone age.
Two important things we often forget about this era are how they considered themselves at the time and how important that horse, and all the livestock implied thereby, were to the Victorian way of life.
The reign of Queen Victoria was an age of wonder, when it seemed that all the dark and dangerous mysteries of the world would soon be understood and conquered for the first time in human history, including the mystery of animal sickness and death.
Veterinary Medicine Prior to Queen Victoria's Reign
Prior to the innovations of the 19th Century, humanity slogged through cycles of history that included some bright periods of literacy and inquiry and several eras best characterized by the darkness of ignorance.
In the healing arts, herbalism often reigned supreme, but it was and often still is plagued by superstition and magical thinking.
Mandrake was feared for its magical effects at the same time as echinacea was used and overused for its ability to fight infection.
Illness in animals and livestock was feared both for the loss of food or work such illness represented, but infectious material from diseased animals was frequently disposed of badly, leading to infection in the rest or infection in the nearby human population.
Our animals put up with some of the most ignorant kinds of treatment, from bloodletting to cauterization to stuffing the exact wrong kinds of medicine down their throats.
While some people had their act more or less together after centuries or millenia of observing what worked and what didn't, whenever any environmental factor changed the entire process of trial and error had to start over again.
People may have known what worked and what didn't in a particular set of circumstances, but they hadn't the foggiest clue of why. Until the Victorian era and the advances in observation tools and techniques it brought, they didn't even have the ability to ask why.
Before the Victorian era, when animals got sick there was always something or someone, people wanted to blame.
Animal sickness and death, like human, was often believed the result of a supernatural curse.
Sometimes it was the owner of the animals to blame, as many people living within a magical paradigm believe that illness is a consequence of breaking social and cultural taboos.
When the owner took responsibility, he or she often had to go through several ceremonies along with the sick livestock. While these ceremonies may have helped the owner to acheive internal cohesion and acceptance within his or her culture, the medical effect on the sick animals is questionable at best.
On other occasions, someone with magical evil intent was found to blame, whether actually present or not.
According to some people in medieval history, these witches and sorcerers were the root and cause of all animal illness.
Again, participating in protective ceremonies of some kind was the order of the day, even if that included dragging the "witch" or "sorcerer" out and having a roast. Obviously, this didn't do very much for the sick animals themselves either. The best that can be said about these is that sometimes the herbs used in the ceremonies may have had a beneficial effect.
Unfortunately, veterinary medicine was also not terribly well documented prior to the 19th century.
The general response to sick animals that wouldn't get better with ceremonies was to kill them off so as to save all the other animals.
In addition, doctors frequently treated both humans and animals before the differences between the two were well understood, and of course they thought far more of their human patients.
We do know that animals were often used by inquiring physicians attempting to develop more effective medicine, but their records often did not survive the test of time.
Veterinary Medicine in the Victorian Era
Then came the Empire on which the sun never set, namely the British Empire of Queen Victoria. Some may not realize it, but at that time the British Empire really did span the entire circumference of the globe.
So many things became widely available and known all at once, from new cultures to new animals to new diseases.
It was quickly evident that the old ways and old reality paradigms were not going to suffice in this expanded world, so the residents of all countries started coming up with new ones.
In addition, industrialization offered precision metal and glassworking that made microscopes and telescopes widely available for the first time in history. For the first time, many people had the ability to see more than the unaided human eye could, from the reaches of space to the intricacies of living bodies.
The precepts of the scientific method were put into something resembling the shape we know today, where a conclusion must be tested repeatedly before it would be accepted as true.
Industrialization brought its own dark side too, as we are well aware. People and animals alike were crowded together in vast warrens, allowing filth and disease to travel that much faster from one to the other.
The medical pioneers of the 19th Century did their first work on both the humans and the animals so much of the working of the world depended on.
The major medical inventions of the Victorian Age that had a lasting benefit on both man and animal were:
Anesthetics in 1846
The opthalmoscope in 1851
The hypodermic syringe in 1853
Antiseptics in 1865, along with proof of germ theory
Pasteurization in 1862
Discovery of tubercule bacillus (responsible for tuberculosis) in 1882
Discovery of cholera bacillus in 1883
Rabies vaccination in 1885
Chicken cholera vaccination in 1885 (cholera accounted for approximately 2000 deaths PER WEEK in the cholera epidemic of 1848)
The contact lens in 1887
The X-ray in 1895
These inventions took place in laboratories all over Western civilization, and quickly caught on due to the new communications systems going into place.
A scientist in Paris could check the work of one in Moscow without too much trouble.
Instead of waiting decades for news from abroad, the wait was shortened to weeks, days or even mere hours with the invention of the railroad and the telegraph.
The Victorian Age came with great leaps and bounds for veterinary medicine, including the protection of cows from tuberculosis, awareness that animals needed a clean environment if they were going to live so close together, anesthetics for animal surgery, and so on.
Of course, the new awareness of and worry about animal disease also led to the creation of many a "patent medicine" that was little better than quackery.
In the disorganized field that veterinary medicine was at the time, con men and scammers often found easy pickings from farmers who agonized over the health or sickness of their stock.
However, the Victorian Age was an era of exponential increases in public health, safety and cleanliness, none of which deserve to be ignored today even if the patent medicines do.
While some of the Victorian remedies seem laughable to us now, knowing much more of how medications work and what they do, some of them still hold up.
In particular, Victorian ideas on cleanliness and a pleasant environment in which to heal benefit both man and beast.
Whether you're trying to heal one of your prize stock or a beloved family pet, if nothing else seems to work go back and discover what our ancestors knew about healing animals.
They combined scientific methods and principles with the sort of understanding that only day in, day out contact with our animal companions can give.
However, the veterinary advice and information provided in these old books can still be quite useful today, just be a very discerning reader, and work out what is still appropriate, and what treatments have better modern day alternatives.
Currently we have the following books on Vetrinary Advice and Information:
The Peoples Horse, Cattle, Sheep and Swine Doctor This old book focuses very much on, as you guess, vetrinary practices for horses, cattle, sheep and swine. It also goes into the classes of medicines to use and the doses required for these animals.
The Farmers Practical Guide covers bees, cattle, horses, mules, asses, swine (pigs), sheep and dogs. It is much more than just a book on vetrinary advice and information, as it focuses on many other issues related to farming life - such as crops (cereal, fruit, vegetable, grasses), barn layout and much, much more.
More books on Vetrinary Advice and Information to come
Yes, there are several more to come, some are nearly completed as I write this. So, if you can't find the vetrinary advice and information you after, please come back and check us out later.
Thank you, and I hope the information you find here will assist and help you and your animals appreciably.
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Main research and write by L Ice, Initial write and subsequent editing by DS Urquhart.
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