Gator Vet Tails | June 2023

DVM, Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner, practice owner

Dr. Ruth West

Karma K9 Mobile Acupuncture | Raleigh, NC

Ruth West, DVM

Dr. Ruth West graduated from UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011. She found a passion for acupuncture during her third year of vet school and became a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist in 2010 through the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine. After graduating, she then went on to become a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through the University of Tennessee, while working in private practice and gaining valuable mentorship. She is now the proud owner of Karma K9 Mobile Acupuncture, a mobile veterinary practice that offers in-home acupuncture for pets in the Greater Raleigh area of North Carolina. She is set to relocate to Kentucky later this year, where she will continue to run Karma K9 Mobile Acupuncture in both Kentucky and Tennessee.

What advice do you have for upcoming/new graduates just starting their careers?

My advice for new graduates is to find a practice that actually will mentor you! You will have the book knowledge and some clinical experience, but my first mentor had owned his own practice for over 30 years and was a kind and patient teacher.  I’m not sure I would have survived my first year without him. Make sure the practice encourages weekly staff meetings and case reviews.

What insight do you have for current DVM students (in one sentence)?

My advice for current DVM students is to be sponges. Soak up all the knowledge our wonderful clinicians, lectures, and technicians give you. Join the student clubs! You not only get free food, but you will also gain practical experience, knowledge, and networking skills you will definitely use later in life. Vet school is not just about grades, it’s a journey you will never forget, and the friends you make will become friends for life. And, for goodness’ sake, apply for any and all scholarships that come your way! I received so much free money by simply writing essays or filling out applications.

What did you learn at UF CVM that you never thought you would benefit from?

UFCVM did a great job preparing me for the “real” world of veterinary medicine. I used my notes and formulary from school a LOT my first few years out. I kept a small notebook in my pocket to write things down to research later. My mentor was impressed by my ability to present cases clearly and concisely, a skill I definitely honed during our clinical rotations.

What is one of your fondest memories or meaningful experiences from your time at UF CVM?

My fondest memories of vet school: Anatomy lab with Dr. Anderson and my awesome anatomy teammates; baking cookies to bring to the lecture hall, and having my classmates call me “Momma Ruth” (I was 45 years old when I started Vet school!); coating ceremony; first Gator football game (Tim Tebow era!) and two National Basketball championships under Coach Donovan. Most of all, being able to attend the Chi University during my Junior year, and finding my passion!

Is there anything in the veterinary field you would like to see change?

I think the veterinary field is starting to come back after dealing with COVID and curbside and constant staffing issues. I see a new model of vet clinic emerging, where clients are allowed to stay with their pets through the entire visit and are active participants in the decision-making process. In our area, there are wonderful urgent care clinics springing up, helping ease the burden on overworked and understaffed hospitals. Veterinarians and their staff are practicing more self-care, and striving for better work/life balance.

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

Currently, I own my own mobile veterinary acupuncture practice called Karma K9 Mobile Acupuncture.

I practiced for three years with my mentor in Florida, while completing CCRP certification at the University of Tennessee. I was recruited to a practice in Raleigh, NC to start an acupuncture/ rehabilitation department within the practice. After it was up and running for a few years, I decided I would like to start my own practice, and Karma K9 was born. I have owned my own practice for 7 years now, and love it.

I love being able to offer something more than medication and surgery to my clients. Most of the pets I work with are geriatric or have mobility issues, so being able to treat them in the comfort of their own home and spare them the anxiety and pain of visiting the office is amazing and greatly appreciated by their owners. It is awesome to see a painful patient relax and even sleep during a treatment. Caring for pets in their homes offers me a unique insight, and I am able to make practical suggestions to help both the patient and their caregivers.

What is the hardest part of working in the veterinary medicine field and how have you overcome this challenge?

There is a downside to my practice. Since the pets I work with are mainly in their sunset years, I often times have to say goodbye to both the pet I’ve grown to love, and the family that I’ve grown equally close to. Many have remained friends to this day, and in many cases, I’ve been called back to help other pets in the household!

How do you practice work-life balance?

I think one of the most difficult things about being a vet is maintaining a work-life balance. When I worked in a clinical setting, I would often work long hours and worry about decisions I had made during the day once I finally got home. Trust me, that’s not ideal for you or your patients. I began to realize that at the end of the day, I had given my best. The outcome couldn’t be changed by worry or stress.

Now, running my own practice has its own set of stresses and frustrations, but I am truly the happiest and most fulfilled that I’ve ever been. I love my clients and their pets, and I love the freedom of being mobile. I can set my own schedule and usually get home to make supper for my husband, Dave, and spend time with my own dogs, Atom and Biscuit. I enjoy hiking in the North Carolina mountains, and rowing in nearby lakes in my Glide boat.

Do you have any career goals you are currently pursuing?

We are moving to Kentucky late this year, and I was able to obtain my DVM license in both Kentucky and Tennessee. I am excited and nervous to start re-building my practice there, and will greatly miss my clients here. But, life is a journey and you never know where it’s going to lead you unless you take that first step.