A Conversation with Dan Kramer, Animal Health Industry Veteran

Goodnewsforpets.com recently caught up with Dan Kramer who has taken an early retirement from Pfizer Animal Health. While Dan is an equestrian at heart, I met Dan through Dr. Tom Nelson, past-president of the American Heartworm Society (AHS) while developing a public education campaign. Together with Dr. Nelson and the late Dr. Jim Richards, former director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, Germinder & Associates launched KNOW Heartworms on behalf of Pfizer Animal Health, the AHS and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), to educate veterinarians and the public about feline heartworms. Not many months later, Dan had the vision to create the CATalyst Council to champion the cat, this time with many more constituent groups. Our agency was again at the inception stage, originating the creative, the strategy, and the execution on behalf of all the organizations. While he’s executed far more initiatives than these two, it is in those moments of creative inception over the past few years that I’ve been privileged to see Dan doing what he does best ” innovate with passion for the veterinary profession — Lea-Ann Germinder, Publisher

Dan, can you tell us first how you got involved in veterinary medicine?

Ever since I was a young child, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I was actually a pre-vet animal sciences major right up until the end of my junior year at the University of Maryland. I was also a professional horse trainer right through and after college. During my sophomore year, I created a national program, “Spirit Semester,” which was an event to encourage team spirit on campus. The program won a national award and was replicated by many universities nationwide. After presenting the program around the country, I decided to pursue a degree in marketing. When the opportunity came along to combine my passion for marketing with my love for animals I took it. I accepted a field representative position at Norden Laboratories, my first job in veterinary medicine.

Your history with horses certainly predates your role at Pfizer. Can you tell us more about your personal background with horses?

I have always loved animals. I was constantly driving my parents crazy by bringing strays home, but I have always had a special place in my heart for horses. I started riding when I was 9 years old. I was very fortunate to train with some of the top people in the world. I’ve also been lucky to have had some nice horses. But I must say that I enjoyed my time working with my horses on the ground as much as I did while in the saddle. It was extremely important to me to be a good horseman as well as a good rider. I also loved teaching horsemanship and actually met my wife of the past 25 years when I was a trainer at the Columbia Horse Center. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of serving with some of the top people in the industry. I’ve served on the boards of the Horse Industry Alliance, the American Youth Horse Council and the Ryerss Horse Retirement Center. In addition, I was instrumental in helping Denny Emerson gain recognition of reining as a United States Equestrian Team (USET) sanctioned sport.

Are there any insights as a horseman you want to share?

I always wanted to write a book entitled, “Everything I learned in life, I learned from riding horses.” Where else can we expose children to many of the facets of life like personal integrity; goal-setting; sportsmanship; true partnership and empathy? In sports, you learn humility and how to be grateful in victory and defeat. When you compete in a ring, you are solely competing against your own mastery of achieving a level of performance outside it and then trying to replicate that in a ring. Many of life’s lessons are learned from the adversity. My appreciation for veterinary medicine comes first-hand in dealing with various maladies my horses incurred along the way. I wanted to understand everything and came to always appreciate the value of stall rest vs. short cuts. These lessons were the basis of my learning throughout my life.

Do you see yourself staying in companion animal or going back to your first love, equine?

How can you not be passionate about every aspect of veterinary medicine? I am constantly drawn to many issues on both sides of the business. While the challenges of the economy are certainly top of mind for many in the business, the benefits of the human-animal bond offer tremendous personal value and enrichment to everyone. The benefits from our relationships with animals enhance our lives and this is even more important when personal spending is more discretionary. People will always want to do the best they can for their pets and the veterinarian should always play an important role in preserving the welfare of these animals. The horse industry is not much different and has always offered the same fulfillment.

While the species have been different, your career has focused on parasiticides. What have you found interesting about this field of veterinary medicine?

I was very fortunate to have Dr. Bob Dressler as an incredible mentor and dear friend in my life. Bob taught me the incremental impact that even low levels of parasites can have in limiting the performance of these animal athletes. I had come to understand and appreciate that parasites are nothing new on this planet. They have overcome millions of years of evolution to survive under extremely adverse circumstances regardless if they are ascarids and strongyles in horses or heartworms and roundworms in cats. While usually unseen, their impact can be catastrophic. In most situations, they can be easily controlled and prevented. Complacency in feeling that your own pets are not at risk unfortunately usually has the opposite effect in actually placing them at risk. Veterinary clinics throughout the country all have cases where animals have succumbed to parasites’ adverse effects. Some even pose threats to humans. It’s not hard to be passionate in being a champion for enhancing the health of our beloved pets and educating people about enhancing the health and welfare of their pets.

What are some of the issues facing veterinarians and the public that we should watch out for? For example, some pet owners have not been vaccinating their pets or horses as regularly as in the past. Is there a danger there?

Complacency can be a dangerous state of mind. While the incidence of an endemic disease may sometimes seem low and you might believe your pet is at low risk though you are never at a point where you have no risk. It is very important to have your pet examined regularly by a licensed veterinarian so they can not only look for any early signs of disease but also ask them what is endemic to your area and what you should do to prevent those threats. There is a natural population of unvaccinated and/or untreated animals in the wild (feral cat populations, foxes, deer, birds, etc.) that can all serve as reservoirs for disease and ensure exposure should the general population become more susceptible by failing to vaccinate or deworm. Presently there is a significant situation in the Midwest with horses succumbing to Eastern encephalitis because people have become lax in vaccination. Eastern encephalitis also poses a threat to humans.

What contributions do you still feel you want to make to the industry and that others can make?

While many may see the cup is half empty, I believe it really is half full. Obviously if you are reading this article and follow GoodNewsForPets.com, you are clearly an animal enthusiast and I don’t have to convince you of all of the wonderful benefits of having a relationship with a dog, cat or horse. But few are aware of the positive health benefits these relationships also offer in reducing our stress and lowering our blood pressure, and the companionship they offer also reduces the effects from depression. All we have to do is each become advocates for this passion and share your personal testimonials to anyone who may have never shared these experiences. Take a friend on a trail ride or to a horse show and let them experience the world’s original 4×4. Sadly, 70 percent of cats who are relinquished to shelters will be euthanized. Yet many young professionals or active seniors may not realize that a cat makes a wonderful companion and opens the door to new relationships they never envisioned. The impact we can all have here is extremely profound as we not only relieve the burden of unowned animals on welfare organizations, but we expand the market for new services to enhance their care. Together we can make a huge difference.

Do you see veterinarians and veterinary technicians working closer together in these endeavors?

I strongly believe that there is never any replacement for having a routine veterinary exam by a credentialed professional. These relationships are critical in maintaining the health of the pets we love. We can’t change the fact that our pets have a different lifespan than humans, but as their custodians, we can make a difference in their quality and longevity of their health. You should expect the same from your veterinarian in that they are a champion in keeping your pet healthy and preventing problems as opposed to just treating the few problems that can occasionally arise. Veterinary technicians have worked very hard on professional accreditation and should be recognized as significant part of your healthcare team. I believe their role will continue to grow as they expand their partnerships with veterinarians.

Thanks to Dan for sharing his thoughts. To contact Dan Kramer directly, email him at [email protected].

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