Their patients can't tell them what hurts, so veterinarians must develop perceptive observation abilities to diagnose the ills of their four-legged, winged or finned clients.
The 2008 version of the popular Mini-Vet School, sponsored by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society and the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, will give animal lovers a glimpse into the techniques of 10 practicing local veterinarians who work with everything from greyhounds to giraffes, from fish to feral cats.
The Mini-Vet School, an outgrowth of UB's Mini-Medical School, has been offered since 1997.
"This is really meant for anybody who is interested in animals, the good health of their pets, or trying to understand the human-animal bond and the relationships between people and animals," said Nancy A. Fredrickson, who is administrator for the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society.
"I have attended every session [of the Mini-Vet School], and I plan to attend this year, too," said Pamela M. Rose, Web services and library promotions coordinator for the UB Health Sciences Library, who is also on the advisory board for the Mini-Medical School.
The classes draw everyone from young people to seniors, and include people who work or volunteer with animals or just want to understand their own pets.
"These classes are popular with people who volunteer for rescue organizations, but if you have a cat or a dog, you might go for your own information," said Rose. "They've always had a pretty packed house."
The topics change annually, said Fredrickson, except for the session on zoo animal medicine, which is held every year because it's "a real crowd-pleaser."
"There are so many topics available that it's difficult to get it down to something that is well-balanced," she said. "We may repeat a topic every three or four years, but we try to keep it fresh too."
For example, she said, "This is the first year we're having a class on horses. A lot of people have been asking for that, and we never realized there was such a big demand for that. Dentistry is always a fairly hot topic too."
All sessions of the school cost $50, but this year students will be allowed to sign up for a single class for $20.
"This is the first year we've offered that option," said Fredrickson. "Requests have been coming in from people who say they're just interested in what's happening at the zoo or want to learn about their cat or another single topic."
Rose said the class allows local veterinarians to share their expertise.
"Here you are, coming to a first-class university, the cost is cheap, you're getting area vets who specialize in this," Rose said. "And all the people who do this volunteer their time -- they're not paid."
The Mini-Vet School meets from 7 to 9 p.m. on five consecutive Thursday evenings starting this Thursday in Butler Auditorium, Farber Hall, on UB's Main Street campus.
All sessions of the school cost $50; a single class costs $20. To register, call 829-2196 or visit www.smbs.buffalo.edu/minimed.
Those who attend all the classes will receive a certificate noting that they have completed 10 hours of veterinary science studies.
The classes are:
Thursday: "Holistic Medicine: The Whole Picture" by Dr. Cynthia Lankenau and "Wild and Wonderful Felines: Feral Cat Issues" by Dr. Kathy Makolinski.
Oct. 9: "Dentistry: The Perfect Smile" by Dr. David E. Hansen and "Equine Medicine: Horsing Around" by Dr. Jeanne Best.
Oct. 16: "Surgery: Under the Knife" by Dr. Jim Fingeroth and "Anesthesia: Comfortably Sleeping Through It" by Dr. Robert M. Stein.
Oct. 23: "Becoming a Veterinary Professional: Dreaming of a Career With Animals" by Dr. Stephanie Westerman and "Emergency Care: Quick, My Pet Needs Help" by Dr. Liane O'Hora.
Oct. 30: "Aquatic Medicine: Nemo's Health -- It's in the Water" by Dr. Ed Latson and "Zoo Medicine: From Anteaters to Zebras" by Dr. Kurt Volle.
-- Anne Neville