Pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health is donating a replenishing supply of vaccines and medications for use at two regional animal shelters by Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine students assisting staff during clerkships.

Meghan Byrnes, clinical assistant professor for shelter medicine and surgery, said the first donation will cover four to six months’ worth of vaccines, deworming medication and flea and tick treatments for dogs and cats at the Montgomery and Pulaski county animal shelters. She said the donation can be renewed as needed provided certain guidelines are followed.

The donated medications can only be used as part of student programs at the shelters.  Also, Boehringer Ingelheim veterinarians Linda Grace and Erin Casey have provided educational support during each three-week clerkship rotation to augment the students’ education.

“Students are still trying to understand appropriate vaccination protocols for puppies and kittens versus adult dogs and cats,” Byrnes said. “And there’s a difference in the way you do those kind of vaccine protocols or preventive care needs when you’re in a shelter versus in a regular client setting. I felt like that’s something we could really sit down and focus on.”

“We are proud to support this program, which allows veterinary students to experience Boehringer Ingelheim products on a case,” said Jody Ray, director of Veterinary School Alliances at Boehringer Ingelheim. “The focus of the Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health’s College of Veterinary Medicine shelter collaboration is to place our companion animal preventive health products in the hands of veterinary students, faculty, and staff on clinical cases. These product donations enhance the health of animals in shelters making them more adoptable, as well as advance shelter medicine and contribute to the education of future colleagues.”  

Byrnes said veterinary college students have performed an average of more than 800 vaccinations per year at the Montgomery County Animal Care and Adoption Center. Those vaccines include rabies, canine bordetella, canine distemper combination and feline distemper combination.

The student program at the Pulaski County Animal Shelter only began in May, but Byrnes expects a similar number of vaccinations there annually.

“These numbers are based off of visiting the shelters once a week, but we are doubling that this year at the Montgomery County shelter so we could safely double those estimated numbers going forward,” Byrnes said.

The Boehringer Ingelheim donations will save money for the shelters, which have had to buy most of the vaccines in the past.

“This donation of vaccines not only forwards the Animal Care and Adoption Center’s mission to provide the best level of care for our animals, but it also strengthens the relationship with the College of Veterinary Medicine and assists in providing valuable educational opportunities in the shelter environment,” said Eileen Mahan, director of the Montgomery County shelter.

Byrnes said she learned about the Boehringer Ingelheim donation program while visiting the University of Florida veterinary college’s shelter medicine program for a week on a $1,500 faculty mentorship grant through the Virginia Tech provost’s office.

That investment in her education is now leading to an investment in her students’ education and a savings for regional animal shelters.

“It’s a win-win-win,” Byrnes said.

Written by Kevin Myatt, Writer/Editor for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine