I’ve been out of veterinary school for almost ten years now and just like back then, I occasionally get asked why I chose animal medicine over human medicine. Some of the reasons may have changed but the core remains the same.
7 – Veterinary Medicine…because humans are gross
You may have seen the internet memes, t-shirts, or coffee mugs that have this emblazoned across them. Personally, this is true. I don’t handle human blood very well. That’s really the root of it…I admire the work done by MDs, nurses, and paramedics; I just couldn’t handle the “ick” factor.
6 – We can be the ultimate teammate during a zombie apocalypse
In my experience, veterinarians are aware of zoonotic diseases much more so than human general practitioners. This is not a knock on the human medical community because certainly infectious disease specialists do amazing work and work very closely with veterinarians, but whenever I’ve been faced with a patient that has something transmissible to people, the family has had difficulty getting info from their physician about how to take precautions at home. And if you ever need to stop a zombie, I’m sure we can take care of that too.
5 – Every day is different
On any given day, I (and our awesome veterinary technicians) take on the roles of general practitioner, x-ray technician, anesthesiologist, surgeon, parasitologist, food inspector, phlebotomist, dentist, dermatologist…the list goes on! We can specialize as a veterinarian but many of us choose to enjoy this variability for the fun and different challenges it brings. It’s almost like the Swiss army knife of jobs, except don’t ask me to fix anything automotive.
4 – Intense problem solving with a unique challenge
Very much like our pediatrician counterparts, our patients can’t tell us what the problem is. We must rely on the info we get from the family and then our physical exam. After that, we bring all the pieces together from any blood tests or radiographs to develop a plan. Sometimes it’s like a large logic puzzle, and I enjoy the challenge of our non-verbal patients that some of my human counterparts miss out on.
3 – We can humanely euthanize our patients
This is a gift that we are able to give to our patients, though sometimes it can also be a burden. How does one weigh such a decision? It’s not always easy, but it is a blessing that we can relieve that suffering. In most of the world, this is not a benefit that human doctors have although that perception is changing in some places, including recently in Ontario. If I were a physician, I would find immense difficulty in watching a patient with a debilitating terminal illness and not be able to end that suffering. It’s the hardest part of our job, but in some cases one of the most rewarding as we can help animals pass on with some dignity.
2 – I can hug & kiss my patients
Yes we can, and nobody will get upset for it! This really helps break the ice with clients if their pets wants to snuggle and give sloppy kisses but they are concerned their pet might be nervous about the veterinarian. Even though I know how dirty a pet’s mouth can be (we can fix that!), it pleases me when they seem so eager to make a new friend who happens to be wearing a white coat. The cuddles and hugs we get from our furry patients help brighten up any day!
1 – I get to help take care of those who can’t care for themselves
This is truly the core difference (aside from #2) in what made me want to be a veterinarian. I believe in a world where we do our best to look out for each other and that includes our animal friends. I get the best of both medical worlds where I get to help animals but also their people as we strengthen the bond they share and keep it happy as long as possible. In this way, I’m helping people almost as much as animals – that’s a win-win. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
About the Author
Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses and a pet rat named Sherman. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at www.drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram.