Penn Vet Holds Free Vaccine Clinic

For some Philadelphia residents, meeting their own medical care costs can be difficult, and providing preventive healthcare for their animal companions is simply out of reach.

On Monday, Jan. 16, in observation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine offered help by providing free wellness examinations and vaccines to dogs and cats at Ryan Veterinary Hospital. This was the fourth consecutive year the event has been held.

“We tried to reach out to communities where people might not have access to veterinary care,” says David Holt, professor of small animal surgery at Penn Vet, who helped organize the event.

One of the ways Penn publicized the event was by contacting churches in underserved neighborhoods and encouraging parishioners to bring their pets to the clinic. More than 60 people, including nearly four dozen vet students, worked as clinic volunteers.

In one day, they vaccinated 158 cats and dogs. Cats received inoculations against upper respiratory tract viruses, feline parvovirus, and rabies, while dogs got shots for canine distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and rabies.

“Rabies has been seen in areas as close as Cobbs Creek in wildlife,” says Holt, “so it’s a potential problem in Philadelphia’s pets, as well as being a potential zoonotic disease.”

In addition to administering the vaccines, vets conducted general wellness exams and made anti-flea and anti-tick topical treatments available at no cost. Clients could also have microchips implanted in their pets for a nominal fee. Commercial sponsors of the event included Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis.

“It’s a win-win,” says Holt, “because the people are very grateful and the animals we’re seeing are quite healthy.”

Text by Katherine Unger Baillie
Photos by John Donges