I have been a practicing veterinarian since 1997, but have been in and around the profession since 1984. I am a general practitioner and see most pet species, from dogs and cats to parrots and snakes. In my job I do everything from routine vaccinations to complex surgeries and difficult medical cases. Becoming a vet takes hard work and dedication but can be very rewarding.
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Training is much, much easier as a puppy. Socialization is especially important. There is a "window" during which the brain is actively developing social skills and takes to new experiences and training best. That window closes around 16 weeks old! So your puppy's experiences in the first four months of life help determine how they act for the rest of their life. That being said, it's never too late. Basic training and obedience can be taught at any age, though older dogs' brains are more set in their ways making certain skills harder to pick up.
"I want to become a vet because I LOVE ANIMALS." Yep, I've heard this plenty of times. And if this is the only reason for going into the field, it is the wrong one. When you're a vet you have to see many hardships. You see pets that are injured, sick, or dying. You will have pets die despite your best care. You will see pets suffer because the owner can't afford treatment. There are many heartbreaking situations that we see every week, and if you are too soft-hearted you will go crazy. There is a delicate balance, because you certainly have to care enough to do your best and be truly compassionate, yet you can't give away your services or take in every stray or hard-luck case. You also have to handle seeing blood, pus, feces, and numerous other gross things. Just yesterday I had an angry cat urinate and then spin around, flinging urine in my eye! "Love" is not enough to handle these kinds of things. Plenty of people who love animals couldn't handle the day-to-day events in a veterinary practice. So why did I get into it? I love animals! Or at least, that's part of it. I do want to ease suffering, heal pets, and help owners. A vet can't be successful and happy if they don't love animals. But I also found anatomy, physiology, and medicine fascinating. I enjoy the intellectual challenges that I face, especially if I can make a pet better. I also love to teach, and being a small-animal vet gives me the opportunity to do it with every client.
This is absolutely true. First of all, an animal's digestive tract is quite different than ours and they are designed to digest different types of food. Pets given our foods may not absorb or properly digest our foods. Some human foods can severely upset their intestines or stomach, causing vomiting or diarrhea at the mild end, and life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas at the severe end. Highly fatty foods (such as meat scraps) or very spicy foods are especially likely to cause problems. Some human foods are actually toxic to pets. Onions and garlic are extremely dangerous to cats, to the point that even powdered versions can cause severe illness or death. Grapes and raisins have been known to cause kidney failure in dogs. The average pet owner won't know which foods are dangerous and which aren't. If a pet starts to get used to people food they might stop eating their own food. This can lead to nutritional imbalances and deficiencies, as a human diet isn't properly balanced for a dog or cat. It can also encourage picky eating. Bottom line....it is a very, very bad idea to feed human food to pets.
There are really two things to address here. First of all, yes, animals do feel pain in the same way that we do. And perhaps I should qualify that to say "higher" animals like the ones we keep as pets. Their nervous system is structured like ours, and pain can not only be debilitating but it can also cause physiological stress. Beginning about 15-20 years ago there has been a concerted effort in the veterinary field to recognize the harmful effects of pain on the body, and find ways to control it. Animals may not always show pain in the same way that we do, but they certainly feel it. Pain control should be an essential part of any surgery and post-operative period (NOT optional), and should be considered in any illness or injury. In any given situation, surgery, illness, or trauma, think about whether or not YOU would be hurting and if YOU would want something for the pain. If the answer is yes, then that animal needs pain medication also. The second issue here is that of declawing. Let me be honest in saying that I used to do this procedure, but about 2 years ago decided to no longer perform the surgery. It is an extremely painful surgery and has the potential for chronic problems (though most don't have these issues). I also personally feel that it is an unnecessary surgery where we as a profession have deluded ourselves into thinking it's acceptable. We are using surgery to try and correct what is a behavioral issue. A good analogy would be de-barking a puppy who is constantly yapping. I don't know any vets who would agree with removing a dog's vocal cords, and it's generally considered by most to be inhumane. I don't see declawing as any different. This is my own opinion, but it is shared by many.
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For the most part, yest I do. All of my cats are strictly indoors. Other than cancer and organ failure, the majority of the illnesses and injuries I see in cats are related to being outside, including bite wounds, fractures, communicable diseases, and so on. Statistically the average life span for an outside cat is around 12 years old and for an indoor cat is around 16. I realize that some cats can't make the transition to being inside or the owners can't keep them inside (allergies or other problems) so I don't get upset if someone has an outside cat. But I do believe that they are healthier and live longer on average.
Cosmetic surgery can be done! Most of the time such surgery is reconstructive after a serious injury, cancer, and so on, with the goal to return the pet's appearance and even functionality. If you think about it, ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removals are all cosmetic (i.e. "plastic" surgery) as they serve no real medical purpose. People have those surgeries done on their pets because the owners want them to have a certain physical "look". Beyond that I'm sure there are vets who will do a strictly cosmetic procedure, especially in certain parts of the US where owners have lots of money and have such things done on themselves. Most vets I know are against purely cosmetic procedures.
I really don't have clients ask for these, but I do prescribe them. Animal behavior is a very strong interest of mine and I've done additional self-education in this area. I think that behavioral medications certainly have their place in treating certain disorders and am familiar with their use. Just yesterday I refilled a prescription for Prozac for a dog.
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