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13 Things you need to Know Before Becoming a Veterinarian

Becoming is always a tough job, you have to let yourself serve the humanity… no matter whether you are doctor of human being or animals… here are 13 things you need to know before becoming a Vet:

1. Training to become a veterinarian takes almost as much time as becoming a human doctor, and it’s just as involved. You typically do four years of undergraduate and have to complete the prerequisites and required tests to get into veterinary school, which is another four years of school. And then if you decide you want to specialize in a field, you do an internship for a year and three more years of residency after you graduate. As a general practitioner, you’re not required to do a residency or internship. But even if you ever only plan on practicing on household pets, your training encompasses all fields of veterinary medicine. So you go from seeing small animals, like dogs and cats, to exotic animals like birds and reptiles, to farm animals, like sheep, cows, and goats. ys. A lot of people sort of have this impression that you play with puppies and kittens all day, and that it’s inferior to human medicine. As a veterinarian, I need to know how to do dentistry, surgery, internal medicine, and X-rays, where in human medicine, you specialize in one of those things.

 2. Working with people is as much a part of this job as working with animals. It’s the owners that need to decide what treatment they want done or what their budget is, which limits what you can do. And then you have other staff, like receptionists and technicians, and occasionally you have an outside specialist or veterinarian you have to collaborate with. It’s sort of surprising how much training you have working with animals in veterinary school and how little training you have working with people. It’s a steep learning curve to figure out how to communicate in a way that is effective for the owner, you, and the pet.

3. Putting down a pet is the most difficult part of the job, but it will become more bearable over time. It’s a really difficult time for the owners. What I personally try to do is present them with every option available, whether that’s additional diagnostics and treatments or hospice care, and try to help them make the best decision for themselves and for the pet. And if they do decide on euthanasia, I do everything in my power to make sure it’s as dignified as possible. Most of the time, the owners are right there the entire procedure. I always tell them exactly what to expect and what will happen. And there are certainly times I cry right along with the owners.

4. Some animals will be difficult to handle, but it’s usually because they’re scared. But there have been times where I’ve been nervous examining a 100-pound dog I don’t know very well. To examine a dog, you really have to be right in their face, so you have to have a lot of faith in whoever is restraining the animal for you. I’ve come to realize that probably 95 percent of the time when those animals are acting aggressively, it’s really all based out of fear instead of behavioral issues. They’re terrified because they’re in a new environment with new people, and they’re having things done to them that they don’t understand. Because we understand that perspective, we do everything we can to minimize their fear, provide care for them, and make them feel comfortable, and I think that helps significantly.

5. Pet owners might get offended or won’t always listen to your advice, and it can be frustrating. Obesity in pets is probably one of the biggest health issues that I deal with on a daily basis, and it’s a very touchy issue. If the pet is just a little overweight, I try to approach it with some humor and tell them their pet is a bit on the chunky side. The owner will usually laugh and we’ll come up with game plan to fix it. I try to educate them about why being overweight is a concern. It’s not a cosmetic concern. It’s that their pet is at an increased risk of diabetes and painful arthritis.

6. Even when you don’t work late, you’ll be totally exhausted. I’m pretty fortunate to have a job where I leave by around 5:30 and have weekends off. But there are days that it’s a very emotionally draining job. From 7:30 in the morning until 5 at night, you’re seeing appointments nonstop, and if you’re not in an appointment, then you’re fielding phone calls. And every single one of those owners has a different concern and a different priority and you have to be completely engaged for it all. I’m often exhausted by the time I get home and have to switch to mom and wife mode.

7. You won’t always be working with kittens and puppies. It’s not super common, but we do see some guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, bunnies and occasionally birds and lizards for annual exams. I’ll do the best I can even if I’m not as familiar with that species. I have all my class notes scanned on my iPad so I refer to them a lot, and I can call the specialist at a nearby exotic animal hospital and ask for their opinion. If something is really wrong and I feel like it’s out of my comfort zone, I tell them it would be in their best interest to see a specialist, but if they don’t want to or can’t go, I do my best to help in any way I can.

8. Being a pet owner will make you a better veterinarian. Our patients can’t tell us what’s wrong, so I think living with animals in my personal life helps me be a little bit more in tune with them. And it certainly helps me understand my clients’ perspective because I’m a pet owner as much as they are.

9. It will be hard to separate your professional life from your personal life. When we’re out at a social setting, I often honestly don’t mention that I’m a veterinarian because it becomes the focus of conversation. Even with friends and family, if it becomes a very involved conversation, I give them my card and tell them to make an appointment. It’s important to have boundaries so you can still have a personal life because animals are a topic most people feel pretty passionate about, especially their own animals.

10. People will mistakenly think their expensive vet bill contributes to a high salary. They may not understand the cost of education, staffing, medications, and supplies, since their personal health insurance hides those expenses when they go to their doctors. And student loan debt for veterinarians is so high. The average veterinarian graduates with around $135,000 in student loan debt, and salaries are far below what medical doctors make. Different types of veterinarians make different amounts, but the median salary for a veterinarian is around $85,000. So most veterinarians have significant debt and are not living extravagant lifestyles at all.

11. Not every pet owner will be able to do — or want to do  — everything for their pet. Everyone has a certain budget, so while I know what the best medicine is, sometimes you have to decide what’s best when you’re given a set price. For example, we see inflammatory bowel disease in older cats pretty often. If we suspect it’s that, we start with blood work or ultrasounds, which aren’t too expensive. From there, really the only way to confirm the diagnosis would be to send them for a biopsy. That’s fairly invasive and expensive, and the majority of my clients draw the line there. I would love to have the biopsy results to know what I suspect I’m treating, but if they can’t do that or they’re not willing to do that, we give them other options.

12. Preventive medicine is just as important for your pet as it is for you. It’s very easy to give pets their yearly vaccine and send them on their way until they’re due for their next vaccine or a crisis happens. But if you take the time to ask those extra questions, to dig a little deeper into their medical history, or you spend that extra time to educate the owner about proper nutrition or lifestyle, it can have such an impact. If you can do preventative things early on like a diet change, you can increase quality of life for the pet and for the owner.

13. You’ll be there for the pet from the beginning to the end, and you’ll be there for the owner beyond that. ​One of the reasons I absolutely love being a general practitioner is that you can meet people when they come in that first day with their new puppy. You’re part of that excitement, you’re part of educating them on how to best take care of that puppy, and you’re seeing them every month for a while, and then every year, and then it reaches a point where that animal starts getting elderly and you help them through that with senior care for their pet. And then at the very end, you help them to have a very peaceful, dignified end of life, if that means euthanasia or something else. I get incredibly bonded to not only our patients but also the owners. You get to know them and their family and what’s going on in their lives. One of the most rewarding parts of the job is that you really form a bond because you’re seeing them so often.  The majority of our patients, even after they lose their pet, come in two months later with their next pet.

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