So often, we in the United Kingdom feel like we’re following the trends set by our American cousins. When it comes to “canine fertility” (a phrase I personally detest), however – for better or for worse – there’s a definite role reversal.
Perhaps due to our smaller size, the big corporates decimated our independent veterinary practices in just a few years. This has resulted in a streamlining of procedures and, often, the removal of non-essential and possibly less profitable services such as artificial insemination or ultrasound examinations for reproductive purposes. Combined with an increasingly negative view of breeding, fuelled (quite understandably) by the plight of so many shelter animals in need of homes, veterinarians who truly support breeders have dwindled to such a number that most breeders feel completely unable to turn to their vets for help, fearing judgement or simply knowing that these are services they will not offer.
It is this that has fuelled a boom in “fertility clinics” – non-veterinarians offering services such as progesterone testing, artificial insemination and ultrasound pregnancy confirmation for dogs from 30 days post-mating. In the below video, whippet owner Sarah explains why an ultrasound scan is so important for her.
What’s the problem with fertility clinics?
Undeniably, this new demand presents an opportunity for people with decades of knowledge and experience in breeding, and a passion for responsible animal care. However, it also presents an opportunity for those whose only motivation is profit. The danger these kinds of people pose to animals, to veterinary clinics, and to responsible breeders or clinic owners themselves, cannot be overstated. In the UK at least, there is a strong link between certain types of canine fertility clinic, and criminality.
In the UK, we made two big mistakes:
Good scanning professionals were protectionist. Those who invested in good ultrasound equipment and training wanted to protect their geographical areas, and were wary of others trying to start up scanning businesses near them. As a result, they were reluctant to advise them, tell them where they were trained, or where they got their equipment. This is totally understandable, but it had an unintended consequence: these people, not being as fastidious as the pioneers and therefore less likely to thoroughly research the market, stumbled across flashily advertised poor-quality training and equipment. Without properly looking into the companies, they spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on the wrong machines, and bad training from unqualified people. The end result was (a) these new scanners massively undercut the market, offering $20-$30 scans because they knew their skills weren’t worth any more than that, (b) these scanners ruined the reputation of lay scanners by providing poor quality scans which they would frequently misinterpret.
Veterinarians felt alienated. Vets have be your partners in this endevor. You need good veterinarians on side that you can refer abnormal findings to. Vets are run off their feet, so if you undertake appropriate training and conduct yourself professionally, they will respect your work – but that respect has to be earned. You can expect some initial hostility because they won’t know the training you have undertaken and the investment you have made, nor will they know that you are operating responsibly and within your remit. You need to demonstrate this to them through your actions. It’s also worth noting that, unlike the UK, the USA accepts veterinary sonographers – people with degrees and accreditations in ultrasound who perform ultrasound examinations in veterinary clinics. You are equally likely to upset these professionals if you do not know how you should be using your scanner.
If you want longevity, you need to invest in yourself
If you want to build a trusted business and earn the respect of vets in scanning, you need to be amazing. Vets have spent years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, learning and practicing everything that they know. They continue that learning process every year of their careers. But, unless they’re a repro vet, they aren’t specialized in canine pregnancy scanning. You can be, but only if you take this skill seriously. You need to invest in the best training, delivered only by qualified people. You need to use safe, reputable equipment. You need to make it clear you never diagnose, and refer anything untoward to a veterinarian. You need to be beyond reproach in your ethics.
You need to know that the companies who shout the loudest and try to rush you into spending thousands of dollars on equipment and training with them so you can start your successful canine fertility business next week are scammers, and most likely, criminals who make their money from puppy farming. That probably sounds overdramatic, but I’ve specialized in veterinary ultrasound for 15 years now, and I have seen things I could never have even imagined.
The good news is, there is a clear route forward if you want to become a competent, confident paraprofessional scanner. At ScanX Ultrasound, we offer training taught only by sonographers or veterinarians, and you can also check out the Animal Ultrasound Association’s events schedule here for training opportunities. We offer professional-grade scanners such as the ScanPad, or you can get started more economically with the Elite 5600 which you can always send back to us to upgrade to something else once you have recouped your initial investment.
If you want to speak to us for advice before making a decision on equipment or training, we highly recommend this. You can call, email, or message us on live chat. If we are not immediately available on live chat, please do leave an email address or phone number in the chat so that we can get back to you with the answer quickly.
Most of the people we train here at ScanX / PortableUltrasoundMachines end up as lifelong friends and partners. In this video below, one of our great clients, Carly, shows off the new ScanPad ultrasound machine.