Dr. Evan Antin: Advocate

Animal Magnetism
Dr. Evan Antin’s Love for Critters Extends to Their HIV-Positive Owners As Well
by Dann Dulin

Photo by Keli Squires Taylor

Grrr is a common sound to a veterinarian, especially one that has been in the jungles of Africa and the Australian Outback. But sometimes the Grrr’s that the handsome Dr. Evan Antin hears comes from a different species, since, in today’s pop culture, it denotes a revved attraction toward someone.

The former model and trainer, who credits Arnold Schwarzenegger for being his inspiration, was jettisoned into public consciousness by People magazine’s 2014 annual “Sexiest Man Alive” issue. He was also “Sexiest Veterinarian Alive” in their 2016 and 2017 issues as well. Dr. Evan just shrugs off his newfound fame with a laugh, joking, “I’ve always strived to be the sexiest something, so I’m glad it could be a vet.”

His love of animals began at an early age while growing up in Kansas City, Kansas. He also had a keen interest in medicine, as well, so being a vet was a perfect fit.

Evan graduated in 2013 from Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, where surgery was one of his favorite classes. During his training and education, he spent semesters in Australia and Tanzania, among other places, where he could learn about wildlife ecosystems and fauna.

Evan has volunteered his services on six continents, working with local chapters of wildlife organizations. He uses his notoriety to help promote animal welfare causes and local wildlife rehab sanctuaries.

For the past five years, Dr. Evan has practiced at the Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California. At home, his housemates include two rescue cats, Willy and Blue, and a rescue dog, Henry, a snake and a tortoise. Evan maintains an active international travel itinerary, so tracking down the doctor is like trying to GPS the flight pattern of a bald eagle!

Photo courtesy E. Antin

Dann Dulin: Dr. Evan, how do pets help those who have a chronic disease or a terminal illness?
Dr. Evan Antin:
Pets can’t cure anyone’s chronic disease. However, pets have been proven to substantially increase the quality of life for those suffering from chronic diseases. Pets can reduce depression along with other emotional benefits that make people happy and also help people’s drive to continue fighting whatever illness they’re suffering from. Pets also simply distract them from their illness.

In your experience, have you witnessed an extraordinary situation where a pet has played a major role in a person’s life?
As a veterinarian, the most touching stories I see with pet owners and their furry companions are when both the person and the pet are suffering from the same or a similar disease process. One particularly touching story was of an owner and his dog who both had cancer and were both undergoing chemotherapy treatment together. Both parties benefited tremendously from sharing the human-animal bond they had through a mutual support they gave each other every day. I’ve also seen this with diseases such as metabolic failures, kidney failure, heart disease and even immune-mediated diseases. I also care for many pets that suffer from allergies, just like their owners.

Do dogs and cats have a consciousness?
Dogs and cats do have a self-awareness, as do many other mammals and birds. Many reptiles, fish, and invertebrates almost certainly have a consciousness, but I would have to further research that. In my experience, the more I work with animals the more I realize just how intelligent they are. If we can behaviorally train honeybees then the cognitive potential of our pet dogs and cats is unimaginable!

What is the range and depth of emotions of a dog and a cat?
Like people, dogs and cats can experience a wide array of emotions including, but not limited to: joy, depression, mourning, guilt, jealousy, anger, playfulness, affection, love, confusion, and many more. Most people don’t give dogs and cats the credit they deserve for their intellectual and emotional capabilities.

Photo courtesy E. Antin

What risks are there if you have a pet and you are living with HIV?
Mental and emotional health is crucial for anyone suffering any chronic disease and pets can help. However, HIV-positive individuals need to be extremely cautious when caring for pets. Having a compromised immune system can be life threatening. An accidental cat scratch or bite can have health consequences, as cats have several strains of bacteria that could lead to severe infection in relatively healthy people, let alone those with immunological deficits. As a veterinarian I can’t make medical recommendations for HIV-positive pet owners and I would imagine the scale of their disease is a factor. My best advice is to consult with their human medical doctors on what would be appropriate.

Is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) related to HIV, and is it transmittable?
FIV is a very similar virus and disease process to HIV but is not transmittable to people or vice versa.

Are there any exotic pets that an HIV-positive person should avoid?
I’m not in authority to say what pets should be avoided by those with HIV but I can tell you I would be very hesitant with most reptiles, fish, birds, and probably most exotic or less conventional pets for that matter. Even our domesticated cats and dogs can pose significant risk to individuals living with HIV.

Can a dog be trained to remind their owners to take their meds?
Dogs can be trained to do just about any simple task. I’m not aware of a dog that reminds it’s pet parent to take their medications but I don’t see why this couldn’t be possible with basic training.

Photo courtesy E. Antin

Can a shedding dog or cat adversely affect their HIV-positive owners?
Most dogs and cats shed. The fur they shed does carry bacterial and fungal organisms on a microscopic level even if it doesn’t appear to be dirty or contaminated. Therefore, free fur could pose a risk to those with HIV.

Do you work with any animal organizations?
I’ve worked with pet rescues, humane societies, wildlife sanctuaries, wildlife associations, and many veterinary associations, as well. When I travel overseas, I try to volunteer my expertise with native wildlife. It’s my favorite means of giving back.

On a lighter note, what is the most unusual pet name you’ve come across in your travels?
The most unusual pet name I’ve ever come across was “Ballsack.” Ballsack is a very sweet dog and deserves a better name in my opinion. Fortunately, Ballsack does not know the meaning of his name—and is a very happy pup!

Cuddle up with Dr. Evan and his furry friends 0n Facebook: www.facebook.com/evan.antin and Instagram @dr.evanantin, and keep abreast of his journeys on his YouTube page: www.youtube.com/user/EvanAntinWildVet.

Dann Dulin is a Senior Editor of A&U.