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Meckley Fills Void Of Local Large Animal Veterinarians

By Staff | Jul 1, 2009

Dr. Shaun Meckley is happiest when he is tending to farm animals such as this horse. The veterinarian opened his office in May and while he treats most animals, he is particularly filling a void for local farmers. (Photo by Tammy Wayman)

Working long hours and being on call just like a doctor, a large animal veterinarian has the same experience, but their passion is with animals. Wetzel and Tyler County residents had this need and thankfully they now have a vet to call upon for help for cattle, horses, and other large animals.

Shaun Meckley, a local large animal veterinarian in the area, has established an office on state Route 180 at the county line in the old Arrick’s Sporting Goods Store. He officially opened his office on May 1 and just by word of mouth his business for large animal calls on farms has him busy.

In the month of February he had 45 “call outs” to farms and in April he did 52.

Meckley, as a child, followed his dad, Dentist Gerald Meckley, on farms to help people who were in need of medical help with large animals. “Dad, being a dentist, had surgery skills and knew how to sew up incisions. So people would call on him when a vet wasn’t available.” He was also exposed to working with cattle on his dad’s farm.

This passion and love of animals stuck with the younger Meckley and he attended Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine to study to become a Veterinarian.

There he had the experience of being exposed to all kinds of animals, including different ones at the The Wilds, a wildlife conservation center in Ohio that has non-native wildlife. It was there that Meckley worked on rhinoceroses, buffaloes, and other large animals. He has even had veterinary experience with kangaroos and assisted in putting a pin in a camel’s leg.

Meckley worked for a while in Pennsylvania with dairy farmers doing herd health checks, but he decided to come back home and open a practice where he could put his skills to work helping those in this area. “I like to provide a service that is needed,” explained Meckley.

“I like educating people,” he explains. “The way grandpa or grandma did it, back then to help a sick animals was fine, but I like explaining to people that we have more advances now in medicine and a better way to do it now.”

Meckley explained that there is a shortage of food animal vets. A food animal vet is vital in keeping the food supply in the United States safe. Food-animal veterinarians guard the nation’s food supply by protecting people from disease, such as E. coli, salmonella, and foot-and mouth disease, which can be spread by animals.

“‘They are involved in virtually every aspect of our food supply system, from farm to the dinner table,”‘ according to David Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

If a person does not have the exposure or the experience of being around large animals, such as on a farm, one tends not to be a large animal veterinarian. Instead, they just want to specialize with small animals.

Meckley tends to lean to the large animal side. Large animals include goats, pigs, sheep, cows, and horses. “I enjoy doing the farm calls,” he states. A farm call can be for multiple things, including helping with a birthing of a calf, tending to an injured horse, or just doing routine vaccinations of large animals. Each farm call is different. And each season brings on different situations for a vet. Spring is birthing time for cows, sheep, and other animals. Winter can bring on an sickness or other problems from exposure to the cold.

Women are getting into the large animal practice, stated Meckley, but he admitted that down the road, after they have their own children, many start working part-time or change to seeing small animals in a clinic with normal working hours. So in the end, you loose the large animals vets this way too.

“You plan your life around your hours,” explained Meckley, stating vets work long hours and can get called out for emergencies in the middle of the night. “The other night I didn’t get done with work until 10 p.m.,” he stated. “A lot of large animal veterinarians get burned out; you have to be willing to suck it up,” he stated.

Another reason there aren’t many large animal vets, explained Meckley, is that by the time you get out of college you can be in a large amount of debt from student loans and many small animal vets make more money working at a clinic than the large animal vet. “Large animals vets definitely make less money,” explained Meckley.

Large animal vets have to buy all of their own supplies, have some type of four wheel drive vehicle to drive to farms in the winter, have their own portable equipment to use, and numerous other supplies they need to take with them to work on a large animal.

And their work area can literally be right in the middle of a field if an animal is down or inside a barn with a not-so-sterile situation to work in. They sometimes have to perform cesarean sections on birthing animals, set fractures, sew up a laceration on an animal, or even perform surgery at times.

And, as Meckley stressed, “You have to be willing to travel,” acknowledging how vets have to drive to different locations to reach people with veterinarian needs in different locations.

Large animal veterinarians work in all types of weather conditions and are exposed to injured and sometimes frighten animals that can react in a moment’s notice with more strength than the vet and a farmer might have to to hold them sometimes. And in this process, yes, sometimes a vet gets kicked or slammed by a large cow or horse. But this is part of a vet’s daily experience in his line of work.

Meckley’s passion for animals flows into the work he does with children, including the Wetzel and Tyler County 4-H, giving talks and doing horse camps. He stressed he likes doing education of animals for kids and speaking to them.

He gives advice and helps locally with the Olive Branch in Sistersville, the Wetzel County Animal Shelter, the Pleasant County shelter, and other organizations that call upon him. But he stressed that he tells them to maintain their previous relations with other vets they use.

Meckley said the location of his office is in a region that is distanced from the other large animal vets in areas like Clarksburg, Parkersburg, and West Union. “But we don’t overlap each other,” he noted. Meckley is is focusing on Wetzel and Tyler counties. “I don’t go north of Proctor nor past St. Marys,” he said.

He explained that he wants to add more veterinarians to his office, which is part of his three-to-five-year project down the road. He added that this would free up more time for him to handle the farm calls.

A tour of Meckley’s Mountain Valley Veterinary Clinic office shows a waiting area, separate exams rooms for cat and dogs, an x-ray room, surgery room, treatment room, and he is adding on to the building now for isolation rooms and boarding areas. “The building is designed to expand and add more exam and surgery rooms,” explained Meckley. “We literally gutted the inside of this building and started from there.” He is also in the planning process of the clinic’s rooms.

“We are not doing boarding for people on vacation, but if a cat has diabetes which requires monitoring or a sick dog that needs to stay, we can do that,” he noted.

Meckley also explained that he will offer services on all types of animals in his clinic, except birds or snakes. “I don’t do snakes,” he stated, and explained that birds are really hard to work on because of their very small internal organs and, he said, “When they get sick, their treatment is expensive and they usually end up dying.”

Farm call visits do require an extra free, but he charges by a zoning method he has established. The zoning areas are how far he has to drive to reach an area. “I am trying to keep cost down for customers,” but he added, “For emergency calls, (which are after hours calls), I do have to charge more, an additional $40 to $60 fee, depending on the zone area they are in.”

Appointments must be scheduled to see Dr. Shaun Meckley. He stressed if they don’t answer the phone right away, leave a message. He explained sometimes he is busy in the clinic or his wife is away from the desk for a moment, but they do check their messages often.

To contact the office, one may call (304) 337-8080 or their alternate number, (304) 652-1948 for after hours. You can also e-mail them at mountainvalley@yahoo.com.