Dr Marvin Firth
Dr Marvin Firth is an internationally recognised veterinary surgeon whose practice County Equine (and more recently County Canine) are celebrated for ground-breaking use of laser therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic medicine to assist and cure pain and mobility problems in animals, predominantly horses and dogs.
Brought up in Cornwall, Marvin trained at the prestigious Liverpool University Veterinary School, receiving scholarships from the Wellcome Trust, British Equine Vet Association and the University of Liverpool to undertake several research placements in the USA and Europe. After qualifying in 2009, Marvin worked in a variety of general first opinion, referral and academic practices before setting up his own company in 2015. His work with horses sees him examine and treat animals worldwide, from the south of England to Europe and beyond; County Canine services are focussed predominantly in London and are available both in the comfort of your own home and in his clinic in Belgravia.
Tessa Packard [TP]: Have you always wanted to be a vet? What inspired you to follow this profession?
Dr Marvin Firth [MF]: It was always a decision to study medicine or veterinary medicine. Both of my parents are in the medical field and I did spend many a time at the Nurse’s Station as I was growing up in a variety of hospitals and spent time in some surgical wards as I got older, observing the roles of the doctors. However, I loved being outside and working with animals. I had friends who had stables and farms and they had a nice lifestyle.
The role of the general vet is much more complex; you are the surgeon, the anaesthetist, the radiographer and consultant and have to have the skills to do everything for your patient. In medicine it seemed much more compartmentalised and I wanted the challenge to gain all of these skills. I started spending time with local vets at the age of 14 and really enjoyed my time with them. Despite my school saying that ‘students rarely get into vet school’ I was often encouraged by these local vets to follow my dream.
[TP]: In your opinion, what is the one thing that needs to improve in the veterinary industry?
[MF]: I think that it is crucial that as vets we continue to offer our clients the very best in service. I am privileged now that in running my own company I can practice as I believe it should be delivered. All of my clients and patients get an average 40minutes to 1 hour consultation which can be in the home. I believe this means I can get a full picture of a condition and the way the animal interacts in its day to day life. The rapport you also develop with clients is also then akin to a private GP. More often than not, most consultations in general practice last 10-15 minutes; in which time the vet must obtain a history, examine and treat. I think being able to have the time to get to know your patients as individuals and their owners really is key to being a good practitioner.
[TP]: What have been your highest and lowest points in your career to date?
[MF]: My highest points would have to be graduating from vet school. It is a long course with the majority of your ‘holidays’ taken up with work experience and placements with other vets. To have finished with honours and distinction too was amazing! More recently, since going freelance, I have been nominated for PetPlan Vet of the Year 2018 in the National Veterinary Awards 2018, and also won Lux Review Best Canine Healthcare Assistance Award 2018. I really am delighted to have been recognised by clients and the committees for this new service.
One of the lowest points would have to be having to leave an academic position at the Royal Veterinary College due to my parents ill health. I had worked really hard to obtain the place and get funding, but ultimately the care of my family was most important. I am still involved with some teaching and have had research papers published up until last year so I am as involved as I can be still!
[TP]: You champion the use of several advanced or holistic therapies – such as acupuncture and laser therapy – for many of your animal patients, particularly horses and dogs. Would you say that veterinary science is on a par with that of human medicine, or is your application of these practices still seen as progressive in your field?
[MF]: I like to think of the chiropractic, acupuncture and laser therapy as additional therapies. We are not shunning conventional medicine but working alongside it to get the best response to conditions in our dogs and horses. In my consultations, I always review the medical history and current concerns with an owner and this will include use of medications too. By being a vet first and foremost, I can advise clients whether it is appropriate to use these additional therapies and where conventional medicine or further investigations may be more important.
Laser, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments are certainly an innovative service for a veterinary surgeon to offer. I think both human and veterinary medicine still have a way to go and this should only improve with more research being delivered. It is interesting that the world’s leading veterinary schools are now offering specialist residency programmes in sports medicine which include chiropractic and acupuncture training. Use of therapeutic laser is used extensively in the human sports medicine field.
[TP]: Who in the industry do you most admire, and who have been your greatest influencers or mentors to date?
[MF]: I have to thank Dr Keith Butt of the Kynance Veterinary Clinic. He has been a great supporter of what I am offering here in London and initially contacted me about offering the service here. He has practiced for over 50 years in Kensington and Chelsea and has a fantastic rapport with his clients. Offering a great wealth of experience and brilliant client communication. His approach in delivering modern medicine with traditional values really resonates with how I like to practice.
[TP]: What advice would you offer someone who was looking to become a vet?
[MF]: Try and spend as much time with vets as possible. This is vital to get an idea of what the career is like. Unfortunately, public perception of the job isn’t always reality. Salaries and working regulations/hours are often far worse than comparable subjects like medicine or dentistry so you have to really want to do the job. Whenever I do careers talks I mention about the possibilities a veterinary degree can offer you outside of general practice. It is important to realise that your degree is a passport to a whole world of career paths in research, government policy, industry, education etc.
[TP]: If money was no object, and pet sitting assistance was a given, what would be your dream menagerie of pets or animals to own and where would you call home to this ‘zoo’?
[MF]: What a fantastic question! I have so many aspirations on this front as I can certainly be a dreamer!
So… lets start with the herd of giraffe. I like the idea of having a few adults with a few calves, and performing chiropractic on these would certainly through up its challenges! I’d also have a few warthogs. They were very entertaining during my time in Kenya. Then a few polo ponies as I do enjoy stick and balling and it would be useful to use these to round the former up. I guess also my two cockapoos, Gozo and Golda… and I guess I would have to include my partner!
My most favourite place is the island of Tresco on the Isles of Scilly. I get to travel there as part of my work and it is the most beautiful, unspoilt island. Being an island, I guess it would help the pet sitter keep them all in one place!
[TP]: What are your future ambitions for County Equine and County Canine?
[MF]: My aim is for more clients and dogs to benefit from the service. As it is an innovative way to practice and I am new to London, I would like to see it grow. I am always researching the latest developments in pain management and ways to improve physical health in dogs (I am an associated of the International Academy of Veterinary Pain Management) and so be able to deliver the latest in advances for the canine patients of London.
In my equine practice, I am really lucky in that I also get to travel and support amazing riders and horses. My current sponsored rider, Jade Ellery, is doing fantastically. I have helped to promote her and support her horses and she is now representing Great Britain for her age group. Seeing her success and hopefully going on to win further for team GB would be fantastic!
[TP]: Tell us more about the work you do with the Dogs Trust and what you hope to change or develop with them?
[MF]: I was lucky enough to be asked to join the Philanthropy and Worldwide Education boards for the Dogs Trust. It has been great to be involved in some of the initiatives of such a forward thinking charity. Our combined passion for innovation has been brilliant and I have met some fantastic people. Two of their current projects we are working on promoting include assistance for the homeless and victims of domestic violence. These areas have received such worthwhile support and again I am happy to promote and assist in their development.
[TP]: How do you like to unwind in your spare time?
[MF]: I love to be at home. I travel a lot with my work and so there is nothing better than being at home with no time pressures, listening to music and preparing something in the kitchen. If I am feeling energetic then I will stick and ball with a polo club and also I am enjoying exploring new sights in London and the theatre; certainly lacking in Cornwall where I grew up!
[TP]: If you could bring back one extinct animal what would it be?
[MF]: After a recent trip to Mauritius, I would have to say the Dodo. Whilst not the most elegant of birds, I do feel sorry that it was probably due to the effect of man that we lost this animal. To be able to reinstate it to the world would be great; maybe on my Island Zoo!
ON THE SPOT
Town or Countryside? My nickname is Kernow (aka Cornish) which probably says it all. I’m definitely the country bumpkin in the city!
Favourite city? Florence
Your perfect dinner guest, dead or alive? I’d have (and should) say my partner – very good at listening to my rants and frustrations, and being in medical can offer good advice as well as being my best friend
If you could time travel to any era it would be…? I think I was designed to to be in the time of Downton Abbey – people spoke well and dressed very nicely
The best meal you’ve ever eaten is? My mother’s Sunday roast chicken
The one essential you can’t leave home without? My mobile phone. It literally has everything on it and without it I feel I am missing a limb
Pet hate? Poor grammar
Biggest extravagance? Spending money on my car! I spent such a lot of time in it that I probably spent more than I should have on it
Favourite book? This is Going to Hurt by Dr Adam Kay. It’s a brilliant insight into the ups and downs of being a medical professional and funny to boot.
What would your gravestone read? I told you I wasn’t well
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