7 Things I Love About Being a Veterinarian
I think people who love animals are awesome.
If you’re here reading this, and you have a dog (or a dog has you!) that you love so much it hurts, you’re amazing.
And I want to thank you.
It’s people like you and your incredible furry friends that make my job an absolute joy. You guys make the highs higher and the lows bearable. Being a veterinarian, like any career, of course has its ups and downs. There are good days, great days, quiet days and no-time-for-the-toilet busy days. There have been heartbreaking experiences I wish I could erase from my mind forever, and special moments that I grip onto tightly, hiding them away in a secret place so I can dig them up and remember what’s important when I’m feeling down.
Overall being a vet incredibly rewarding profession to be a part of, and I feel deeply grateful to have found my calling.
Having given it some thought, I’ve shortlisted seven of the things I love most about being a veterinarian. I hope it gives you a little insight into the kind of people involved in caring for your dog’s health, because I think most veterinary professionals would have a very similar list.
1. My patients
I thought I’d start with the most obvious one! I wouldn’t be much of a vet if I didn’t love the furry creatures who need my help! Although many of them don’t quite realise they need my help, and sometimes they’re downright ungrateful. Some expected a lovely walk in the park when the leash was produced, only to discover with horror that they’re being walked through the door of a veterinary hospital. Occasionally these guys will look at me sideways, give a little growl, or even go for a nip. Many will glance around the room with distaste before cocking their leg on the nearest piece of furniture, or even decide it’s the perfect time to do their number twos… It’s best for us vets not to take these things personally!
Luckily for me, I adore each and every one of these beautiful animals. I adore the happy, bouncy dogs who slide and skid on the waiting room floor because they’re so excited to come visiting they can’t get traction. I adore the gentle giants who peer at me hesitantly around their owners, unsure just what this strange place is and whether this smiling lady with the jar of treats can be trusted or not. And you know what, I even adore the dogs who want to bite me. Strange? Well I don’t think so. You see, I’ve yet to meet a dog that tried to bite me because he was a mean, nasty dog. Every time it has ever happened, (and I can count all the times over the last decade on one hand) it’s been because the dog is scared and I’ve done something that has just pushed them too far out of their comfort zone. In fact aggressive behaviour is actually really, really uncommon in the vet clinic. It’s unbelievable really, given the circumstances. These animals are brought into an unfamiliar environment that smells strange (maybe even like the pheromones of other scared animals). They are possibly in pain or feeling really unwell. Then they get hoisted up onto a cold, shiny table where they are poked and prodded by a complete stranger, who may even stick a thermometer in a rather undignified place. I have so much respect for all those dogs who are feeling utterly terrified – much the way I would feel locked in a room with a hissing snake or a pile of creepy crawly spiders – and somehow manage to hold themselves together and not lash out.
I really do love all of my patients.
2. Their families
People who make the effort to bring their pets for a routine check-up or to have their fur-kid looked at when they are sick or hurt, are good people. One of my favourite things ever is getting a sneak peek at the awesome bond families have with their pets. I see it in the way they absently touch their dog while talking to me and in the way their dog looks over their shoulder at them for reassurance when feeling a bit unsure. And of course I see it when people make very difficult decisions that show incredible selflessness and deep kindness to their furry friends. For the most part I have as much affection for the owners as I do for their dogs, and I see the health, happiness and medical care of any dog as a partnership between me and the family. It’s a bit of a triangle – vet, owners and dog – all important players in every consultation, decision, or procedure undertaken in the veterinary clinic.
Ah prevention. They say it’s better than a cure, and I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but you know what, they’re right. While vaccination consultations and talking about intestinal worms and heartworm and fleas and desexing, etc. etc. is certainly not the most riveting, exciting part of my day, it’s really important. These simple things can save doggies a whole lot of woe. This is also why I love annual health checks.
Think about it, your dog visiting the vet once a year is kind of equivalent to you popping into your doctor’s office once every seven years or so! A huge amount can change in a year for our pets, and every physical exam I perform is thorough and painstaking, starting at the nose, and working back to the tail. These are the crucial opportunities to catch something early. Because remember, from little things, big things grow. Sometimes a health check on a seemingly robust, healthy dog, detects a problem such as a lump where no lump should be, ultimately making the difference between life and death.
4. Making a difference – one dog at a time
Like any normal human being, I hate to see animals unwell or suffering. When a sad little bundle is carried through the door, admitted into hospital because she’s not eating or drinking, vomiting everywhere, and is hunched over in pain, it’s an amazing feeling to be able to help bring her back to health and watch her bound joyfully out of the clinic a few days later.
There are so many situations where something little can make a huge difference too. Sometimes a dog will come in shaking his head and howling in pain. A quick look down the ear canals with an otoscope, detection of the offending grass seed, gently extracting it, and off they go, happy as can be. Of course not every story has a happy ending, and this leads on to number 5.
5. Preventing Suffering
This is a difficult one to articulate. I do not enjoy euthanasia. It hurts my heart – every time. The grief accumulates, and sometimes it threatens to spill over. The important thing about euthanasia is described by its actual meaning; ‘good death’. When done correctly it is painless, it is quick, and it is performed with kindness and compassion for an animal whose only other alternative is suffering. If we can’t give an animal an acceptable quality of life, then euthanasia is a decision made out of love.
6. The nerdy stuff
Yup. Not really surprising to those who know me, I love the science of being a vet. My eyes light up when blood results churn out of the printer for interpretation, and I hop about with excitement when there’s a sample to be examined under the microscope. Sad, huh! There’s something really satisfying about putting all the pieces of a puzzle together from an animal’s history, physical examination, and diagnostic test results and coming up with an answer that can be used to make their life better. The more challenging the case, the more satisfying this aspect is when we have a great outcome for the animal involved.
7. The really special ones
Should I have favourites? Probably not. And as I said, I really do love them all – even the ones who want to bite me. For whatever reason though, there are some who I just have an extra special connection with. Sometimes it’s the trust they have in their eyes from the start, and sometimes it’s the difficulty of earning such trust. And sometimes it relates as much to the owner as to the dog. Just something about their close relationship with their dog that leaves me thinking and rethinking their treatment plans or care while I have the privilege of knowing them, and missing them long after they’re gone.
I’m really lucky to be a vet – because I love it. There are many more than seven things I love, but I will leave it at that for today!
Give your dog a big smooch from me xxx
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