Dr. Chris Bern

21 Years Experience

Cartersville, GA

Male, 49

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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116 Questions


Last Answer on January 14, 2019

Best Rated

Assuming my pet is of good/normal health, would you recommend I purchase an animal healthcare insurance plan or just stick with pay-as-you go services?

Asked by Mellie almost 12 years ago

It really depends on the insurance plan, and I'm not familiar with all of the ones out there. Currently pet insurance requires you to pay for the services yourself and then you get reimbursed for a percentage of qualified services, so you still have to have the money. It's a good idea to consider it and look over the details of the various plans. If you're just worried about catastrophic care (sudden illness or injury) you can self-insure by setting money aside in a separate savings account. I would recommend at least $500, but honestly $1000 would be best. Complicated surgeries can easily run $2000-3000. If you're very disciplined just set up a "pet fund" yourself and use it only for unexpected care. Regardless of which direction you go, please be prepared for emergencies. It's very common for pet owners to have do decline care because they can't pay for it, and the pet ends up suffering, taking longer to recover, or being euthanized.

Do you ever recommend outright that a client have his/her pet put down, or do you allow them to come to that conclusion themselves?

Asked by Dan79 almost 12 years ago

I actually get this question frequently. Many people don't want to make that kind of decision themselves and ask if I think that they should euthanize. If the pet is very sick or injured to the point that quality of life will be poor without treatment, or there really isn't any possibility of treatment, I will bring it up as an option. Rarely will I come right out and say "you should euthanize" because this is a very personal decision and sometimes the client isn't ready to decide at that moment, but there have been times when I've been this direct because I feel the pet is really suffering. I believe that my job is to provide information and options and help the client come to the best decision for themselves and their pet. It's not my pet so I can't make the decision for them, but I can certainly guide them.

What's the oddest pet you've ever seen someone walk in with?

Asked by Tr3 almost 12 years ago

Considering that I work with a lot of exotic pets that's a bit tough. In my first job we had a client with a private zoo, so I saw some primates as well as smaller cats like caracals and servals. In general practice the oddest one was an oscar (fish). The client brought him in a wheeled drink cooler filled with his water to have me look at a tumor growing from him. I've seen snakes, pet lizards, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, and just about anything you can buy in a pet store.

Do you think keeping monkeys as pets is a bad idea?

Asked by Tr3 almost 12 years ago

Primates as pets are a VERY bad idea. They look cute but they are not pets. They can be very temperamental and aggressive and are far stronger than most people realize. Primates can also be destructive and are not domesticated to be comfortable with human environments. Additionally there are numerous diseases that humans can catch from primates, making them a significant health risk. You also won't find many vets who will work with them because of the need for specialized equipment and a lack of training that we get. Unless you have a licensed zoo or need a small monkey as a service animal, I don't think people should have them as pets.

I've never understood how vets diagnose pets without being able to ask things like 'where it hurts' or 'what the symptoms are'. How do you go about figuring out what's wrong if someone brings in a dog who "just doesn't seem like himself"?

Asked by Justina almost 12 years ago

It's actually not that different than when pediatricians work on infants or very young toddlers. We are trained to take detailed histories, piecing together a probable cause based on what has happened at home. For a trained doctor a thorough physical exam can give many clues as to what is going on. Sometimes what you don't find can be as important as what you do find and helps us narrow down the possibilities. If we can't figure out the problem based on the exam we have to start running diagnostic tests before coming to a conclusion. Yes, it would be easier if our patients could speak, but we spend much of our education learning to overcome such limitations.

Who are the bigger hypochondriacs - dog owners or cat owners?

Asked by Gracie Jane almost 12 years ago

Okay, I'm probably going to get in a little trouble here. Cat owners do tend to be a bit more "out there" than your average dog owner. That being said, statistically cat owners are less likely to bring their pets in than dog owners. It seems to me that more dog owners see their pets as family members than do cat owners. Taking all of that together I might give the slight edge to dog owners but it really comes down to the individual person.

Have clients ever brought in a type of animal you've never treated before? Are some SO exotic that they NEED to be seen by a vet who specializes in them?

Asked by 7y7kan almost 12 years ago

There definitely are pets that a truly specialized vet needs to work on, though most of these are going to be zoo animals such as primates, camels, and so on. The truly uncommon exotic pets are the ones you can't find in typical pet stores, and therefore there isn't much opportunity for learning their behaviors, diseases, and physiology. But a lot of it comes down to personal training. I have a vet friend who has never become board-certified in exotics but had worked on venomous snakes, Galapagos tortoises, and alligators. He has done a lot of personal research and learning to become skilled with these species, all of which I wouldn't feel at all comfortable working with. Personally I also draw the line at invertebrates, which I don't like and don't have the skills for. Thankfully most clients with exotic pets call first to find out if we'll treat, so I haven't had any big surprises.

Do most vets have pets themselves, or is dealing with hundreds of other people's more than enough? :)

Asked by Ann1e almost 12 years ago

Actually, most vets tend to have small zoos at home, often filled with "problem" pets. We frequently end up with abandoned animals or ones with complicated medical problems. Personally I have two dogs, three cats, a rat, a bearded dragon, and a beta fish. We love animals enough that we can't imagine not having them around us.

Do patients ever try and blame you if their pets take a turn for the worse?

Asked by Milana almost 12 years ago

First, just a clarification. In our business the patients are the animals and the clients are the owners. Possibly a minor semantic, but one that's important when we discuss cases. Yes, I have had clients blame me for bad outcomes, though thankfully not very often. Some people have a hard time understanding that no doctor can be 100% correct 100% of the time, or that there are cases that we simply can't help. Sometimes our initial diagnosis and treatment isn't correct, but that's not uncommon in medicine (not just veterinary). In may illnesses correct diagnosis can be a long process and we can't always get it right on the first try. Diagnosing disease isn't as easy as many people seem to think, especially if the client declines some of the diagnostics we recommend. Have I made mistakes? Sure, I'm only human. And if you have any doctor (human or animal) tell you they have never misdiagnosed a case or chosen the wrong treatment they are lying to you. Such situations are thankfully rare, but do happen.

Have you heard about the Burmese pythons invading Florida? The media makes it sound pretty terrifying (and basically unstoppable). Is that just typical media hyperbole, or is it as scary as it sounds?

Asked by mordore almost 12 years ago

Honestly this is not my area of expertise, so I don't know much about the subject. I read the article and it does seem like a legitimate concern. Problems like this have happened around the world and can cause serious ecological issues. For example, colonists to Australia brought rabbits as food sources. The rabbits escaped, reproduced, and started decimating the environment. So they started releasing cats to combat the rabbit overpopulation. The cats decided that lizards and other species were better prey, leaving the rabbits alone. Now there are species endangered by predation from cats. Any time a non-native species is released into an ecosystem there is a potential for severe harm. It sounds like that's the situation with these pythons. However, I don't think it will be a significant problem for most people unless they have small pets that are outside unsupervised in areas where the snakes are "invading".

What was your most heartbreaking loss of a "patient?"

Asked by j-bird almost 12 years ago

Wow, that's a really tough one because so many have affected me over the years. One that sticks clearly in my mind was from before vet school and was one of my motivations for becoming a vet. As a teenager I worked for a local vet. One time a small black kitten came in after having been abandoned outside. She had a horrible wound near her anus that had maggots crawling through it. She was a tough little girl and seemed to have a strong will, so I named her Cleopatra. Unfortunately will wasn't sufficient and she got worse as infection spread and had to be euthanized. That was over 20 years ago and I still remember her clearly. More recently I had a dog who swallowed part of a cloth toy and I had to go into his stomach and intestines to remove it. The surgery went well and he seemed in good condition immediately afterwards, but over the next few days he developed serious complications and had to be euthanized. That one was hard because I expected him to make a full recovery. I've been practicing 15 years and on average euthanize at least 3-4 patients per month, though at times I've done that many in a day. Thankfully I don't have patients die due to illness as often. But it's hard to think of one specific case over that time. Though I think the absolute worst was my own family dog, a lab named Guinevere that we had to euthanize two years ago. She was only 5 and developed lymphoma in the brain, so there was nothing that we could do. Even as a vet we still have to treat our own patients, and those are the hardest cases of all.

What kind of hours do you keep and do you ever handle after-hours emergencies?

Asked by Soleil almost 12 years ago

Personally I work 9am-7pm four days per week, totaling an average of 40-45 hours per week. Currently I don't do after-hours emergencies, but have done that in the past with previous clinics. A vet's hours significantly vary from practice to practice, though there have been trends to move away from the 50-60 hour work weeks of the previous generations and have clients go to local emergency clinics rather than doing their own emergency work. Vets have been increasingly realizing that they deserve a good quality of life outside of work and don't want to be at work 6 days per week.

If parents are at your clinic with their kids and you have to tell them their pet died, will you first ask to speak to the parents privately to break the news?

Asked by jenny almost 12 years ago

That's a great question. It really depends on the situation because often the children are young enough that we can't leave them alone to have a private talk. The older children will often suspect something if I ask to speak to the parents without them around. Thankfully, most parents are astute enough to suspect a possible euthanasia either before they come in or early in our conversation. I do try to be aware of the children and not give incredibly grim news right away. I have children of my own who have gone through their own pets being euthanized, so I'm sympathetic to how difficult this can be. If the case is bad, I try to say things in such a way that the adult will start getting the idea and can decide how to talk to their children. Then I'll offer to leave while the parent and child discuss what is going to happen. This is always a delicate situation and there's no set answer. Each case is a little different and you have to develop the skills of discussing such things with tact and aplomb.

How do you euthanize an animal? Is the same method / agent used regardless of the type of animal?

Asked by porter123 almost 12 years ago

In most cases of euthanasia we use a special solution containing pentobarbital. This is given as an IV solution, though in very small pets with veins that are difficult to access we might give it in the abdominal space or directly into the heart. This solution is standardized and almost no other methods are used. The chemical causes rapid deep sedation and then ceases brain and heart activity. In essence we are overdosing them on anesthesia. This chemical is used across all species. However, in animals going into the food supply we can't use it because it will end up in the meat and could be highly dangerous to anyone anything eating it.

How can a single vet have the skills required to treat dogs, cats, parrots, and snakes? Don't they have completely different physiologies? Are vets who specialize in a single type of animal typically more skilled (as to that animal)?

Asked by vivafifa almost 12 years ago

Veterinary school is designed to give us a strong education in the main animals seen (dogs, cats, cattle, horses), a good education in secondary animals (poultry, swine, small livestock like goats & sheep), and a basic introduction to less common animals (fish, pet birds, reptiles, small mammals). During school we can focus our education in a particular area with elective courses and rotations, and by our senior year most have chosen a focus. This may be small animals (pets), equine, livestock, or something more specialized like swine or poultry. I never wanted to be a farm vet so I concentrated in small animals. I also had a strong interest in exotic pets and took extra training in this area. Once we get into practice we tend to focus a bit more. Since graduation my skills have greatly improved in pet medicine and I wouldn't feel qualified at all to work on cattle or horses in anything other than the most basic capacity. I have a greater skill in exotic pets than most vets but not as much as a board-certified specialist. Yes, the anatomy, physiology, and disease processes of these species are often radically different. But there are significant differences even between dogs and cats. Our training takes into account the variety of species, and a single person can indeed be skilled in all of these animals. In the veterinary profession we sometimes jokingly look at our human colleagues and think "REAL doctors treat more than one species." ;)

What animals do you least enjoy dealing with and why?

Asked by samantha j nyc almost 12 years ago

Aggressive ones! There isn't one species I like less than others and I'm willing to work with most of them. Regardless of the type of animal I really hate risking bites and scratches. It's part of the job, but it's no fun. Serious wounds can happen, though I've been lucky enough to not be hospitalized due to any work-related injuries.

You mentioned tail docking. Why is this done? Seems cruel and unnecessary.

Asked by ouch almost 12 years ago

Historically it was done to prevent the tails from being grabbed or caught during fights. "Fights" may have been dogs that were deliberately pitted against each other, certain hunting breeds where the pray could get ahold of the tail, or military dogs. In modern times tail docking doesn't serve a real purpose, and is continued merely for cosmetic reasons. Because it's tradition for certain breeds to have docked tails and people have grown accustomed to the appearance, the surgery continues to be performed. Many countries outside of the US have outlawed the procedure because it serves no medical purpose and is done only because people want the dog to look a certain way.

Was there a point during your education where you had to make a choice between traditional and veterinary medicine, and what made you decide to go "animal"? :))

Asked by Vivian almost 12 years ago

Human and veterinary medicine are similar in many ways but the education is quite different. I made the decision early in life, around 9 years old. But the true deciding point was towards the end of college (undergraduate). By the end of college you need to start thinking about where you are going to apply for graduate degrees, and in some cases have to take specialized entrance exams (such as the MCAT for human medicine). Undergraduate training is pretty similar in both areas of medicine. I've always loved animals and grew up watching nature shows. Believe it or not I'm actually grossed out by human medicine and injuries, and couldn't handle seeing the things on humans that I deal with daily in my job. I also have liked the variety in anatomy and physiology in veterinary medicine. We have an adage..."Real doctors treat more than one species." ;)

Is table food bad for pets, or is that an old wives' tale? (I don't mean bacon, french fries, chocolate cake, etc... I mean table food that's generally healthy for humans.)

Asked by Elle7 almost 12 years ago

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 is a very, very bad idea to feed human food to pets.

Is there an age after which there's no point in bringing a dog to obedience school? Like, does it HAVE to happen when it's a puppy?

Asked by Mark almost 12 years ago

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 am a U.S. citizen but am studying to be a veterinary in Brazil, would I still have to do the ECFVG program if I want to practice in the U.S.?

Asked by Elisa almost 12 years ago

Whether or not you go through the ECFVG program is based on what veterinary school you attend, not your citizenship. Many US citizens attend non-US schools and still have to go through the requirements of a foreign graduate. Conversely, I believe that a legal non-US citizen could attend veterinary school in the US without going through the program. You should contact the AVMA to see if your school is considered accredited and what you need to do

What can make a dog lose a lot of weight and constantly drink and pee?

Asked by tracy over 11 years ago

Many things, including cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease. This is something you need to have a vet evaluate in person, and you will need to expect lab tests.

If someone brings in an animal that's illegal to keep as a pet, do you have an obligation to notify the authorities? And if so will you treat it first and THEN call the cops, or refuse to treat it altogether?

Asked by 7y7kan almost 12 years ago

Thankfully I've never been faced with this situation as most pets that would be illegal won't come to me. If I did feel that the client was doing something illegal I would feel morally obligated to report them to the authorities. However, I would have to be able to reasonably prove or have assurance that their actions are illegal. For such pets I would have to think that they didn't have the proper permits, and if they told me they did I wouldn't have cause to think otherwise. Interestingly, most states have laws prohibiting a vet from treating many wild species unless they work for the wildlife department. So if someone brought in an injured eagle or even a deer, I would have to refuse treatment or face being fined by the state government.

My dog is such a lover and is so affectionate. But she gets so upset when I leave and cries like crazy (even if someone else is home with her). It breaks my heart! Is there a way to train her to stop? Why doesn't she realize I always come home?

Asked by ColeD almost 12 years ago

Animals don't have long-term memories in the same way that we do. They also do not have the same sense of time. So when you leave the house she doesn't remember that you'll come home in five minutes or five days. Also, it sounds like she has a bit of separation anxiety, a very well-recognized and studied disorder. There are several methods of treatment, from behavioral therapy to antianxiety medications. Such treatment requires a lot of work and consultation, and isn't something that can be handled here. I would recommend talking to your vet about the various options. If your vet doesn't feel qualified to handle behavioral cases, ask them for a recommendation of someone who does.

Do people ever come in and ask you to prescribe ADD or anti-depressant meds for pets?

Asked by anna_b almost 12 years ago

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.

Weird question, but is there a such thing as plastic surgery for pets? People adorn their pets with so many stupid clothes and costumes, and I've heard of some dying their pets nothing surprises me anymore.

Asked by Best in Show almost 12 years ago

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.

Do you think "...because I love animals" is enough of a rationale to consider becoming a vet? Why did you get into it?

Asked by georgia_navarro almost 12 years ago

"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.

I'd love your thoughts on eastern medicine treatments and the amount of corn in most dog food. Our dog had terrible troubles in her last years, domino effect caused by repeated drug treatments. Are you aware of the MDR1 mutation in herding breeds?

Asked by kevinselle about 11 years ago

Honestly, I know little about Eastern and holistic/homeopathic medicine. I was trained in traditional Western medicine and believe that there is much more empirical evidence for this than other methods. Corn in pet foods is much maligned, and that's unfortunate. Corn is not a "filler" as is often claimed and actually has many nutrient benefits. Processed, cooked corn is quite digestible, and contains good levels of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and linoleic acid. Personally I don't like it as the first ingredient, but there is nothing "bad" about corn in a diet. The MDR1 mutation occurs in some individuals among herding breeds. There is a test available for it, so people worried about it can have their dogs screened. The biggest historical concern is a sensitivity to ivermectin, though only in comparison to other dogs. Doses of ivermectin found in heartworm prevention are far too low to cause a problem even in dogs positive for MDR1. There are other drugs that these dogs can also be sensitive to, including antiparasitics, antibiotics, analgesics, sedatives, and chemotherapeutic agents. There's a relatively small list of the concerning drugs, so most in these categories are perfectly safe, and even the potentially dangerous ones may be safe at lower doses (such as any used in heartworm prevention).

Do animals feel pain as severely as people? Last year my parents made us get our cat declawed even though I told them it would hurt her. Even if she didn't feel it, I don't think she's been as playful since.

Asked by caroline almost 12 years ago

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.

I love animals and enjoy biology. I also like trying to solve a problem. I've seen all the pictures on your blog and do not think they are gross, but interesting. Would I make it as a vet? And what kind of math do you do in your career and how often?

Asked by someone over 11 years ago

Being a vet is much more than being able to handle "gross" or graphic sights. While it certainly helps, that doesn't say anything about your ability to remember details of diagnostics, drugs, and disease. It also doesn't indicate if you can handle the daily stress of the job, make proper decisions, and so on. So it's impossible for me to be able to tell if you would make it as a vet based on that alone. As far as math, most schools require you to take calculus, though I have no idea why. I use basic algebra on a daily basis, so that's essential. Understanding how statistics are calculated and reported also allows you to interpret studies properly. Math is important, but you don't need highly advanced knowledge.

Do you agree that pet cats should always be kept indoors?

Asked by cracked09 almost 12 years ago

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.

I originally planned on becoming a paediatrician, but have recently felt that I would get more pleasure out of dealing with animals. I live in Quebec, Canada and I'm still undecided. Is the salary enough for a comfortable living? and do you enjoy it?

Asked by Claauuv over 11 years ago

I can't speak entirely for Canada, as I'm in the US, but I think North America is pretty similar in the outlooks. Veterinary medicine is actually in a tough situation right now. Student debt load continues to rise while starting salaries are decreasing. A newly graduated vet has on average over $150,000 in debt and can expect to make around $60,000 per year. New vets are actually finding it difficult to survive and pay back their loans. While the situation may change in the future, it's not a great time to enter the field, at least financially. Now, if you have a substantial fortune or can get incredible scholarships so that you can graduate without any debt, you can make a good living. Most new vets I know are not at this point and are happy to simply be able to pay their bills and afford a fast-food meal. Do I enjoy it? It depends on the day you ask me. It's a hard job and not as rewarding or glamorous as most people think. I've gone back and forth over the years and am at the point where I do enjoy it most days.

My dog has been diagnosed with megaesophogus the vet told my husband that it could be fixed with surgery but it was very expensive what does something of that nature usually cost?

Asked by shana 1971 over 11 years ago

This is a very tough one to answer. Whether or not it can be fixed depends on what caused it. Some cases of megaesophagus cannot be cured. A surgery like this should normally be done only by a board-certified specialist surgeon. The cost can be highly variable depending on which kind of surgery is needed and who is performing it, but you're probably looking at a few thousand dollars. My best recommendation is to ask more questions of your veterinarian.

can dog and cat fleas survive and reproduce on human blood and is it possible for humans to cary fleas from home to there work place?

Asked by charlotte over 10 years ago

Fleas are nasty little creatures and are adept survivors.  There are actually many different species of fleas, but what most people come into contact with are "cat" fleas.  Despite the name they can live off of most warm blooded animals, including dogs, cats, raccoons, squirrles, and yes, humans.  We aren't their preferred host and they will typically chose animals over people, but they do just fine on human blood and will certainly reproduce after feeding on people.  A flea typically stays on its host during the adult part of its life cycle unless somehow removed.  While fleas have been known to come in from a yard into a home, hitching a ride on shoes and socks, a longer journey would be less likely but not impossible.

Do you have any desire to retire, or do you love what you do so much that it's not something you often think about?

Asked by Kal over 11 years ago

Great question! To many vets, myself included, it ends up being a job rather than a "calling". We may enjoy our work, but it's still work and it does wear us down. Burn-out is actually a serious concern among medical professionals because of the emotional roller-coasters we have (even in veterinary medicine) and the often extreme mental work-out we have when diagnosing cases. To me being a veterinarian is what I do, not who I am. I have much more passion in my non-veterinary activities (theater, ministry, being with my family, playing on my computer...) and would like to be able to have more time for those things. So yes, I hope to one day retire and am looking forward to not having to be in a clinic daily. However, I'm still young enough that retirement will be 25-30 years away unless my personal finances improve greatly before then.

Do vets have to carry malpractice insurance just like doctors, and how often do they get sued? What's the biggest settlement or award you ever heard a vet being hit with?

Asked by hijinx about 11 years ago

We can get sued for malpractice and do carry insurance for it.  However, the laws and expenses are different than in human medicine.  Animals are considered a special form of property and therefore a person can only sue for financial loss, not for pain and suffering.  Someone can sue for the financial value of the pet, which is usually minimal, and is only higher for an expensive breed or a quality breeding stock.  They can also sue for any expenses incurred, such as medical costs.  In most lawsuits you will have maybe $100-500 for the pet itself and a couple thousand for medical expenses the client paid.  So a basic lawsuit might be for less than $5000, which in most states is enough to qualify for small claims court.  Malpractice on an expensive breeding horse may get into the tens of thousands of dollars due to loss of future income.  But the million dollar lawsuits common in human medicine really don't happen in veterinary medicine.  Because of this my annual malpractice insurance cost is less than what most human doctors pay per month.

There is a movement in many states for people to be able to sue for their own mental anguish at the loss of their beloved pet, and there have been a few lawsuits where this has happened.  Even in those cases it ends up being minimal total cost, around $10-20,000.  If more expensive lawsuits happen our malpractice insurance costs will go up and that increased cost will get passed on to clients.

Do vets get lobbied by animal food manufacturers to push their brands?

Asked by Garcia about 11 years ago

In a way, yes.  But that's true of all drugs and products a veterinarian carries, and from what I understand it's also true in human medicine.  I do believe that each company believes their products are the best and obviously in order to make money they want people to utilize and purchase what they have.  First they have to convince the veterinary clinic that they have the best product or offer.  This is done nationally through advertisements in veterinary journals.  Locally, representatives from a given company will come to talk to the clinic owner and staff.  Sometimes this may be through passing out informational brochures on a disease or parasite that the vet can then give to clients.  These are actually very helpful for explaining things to clients, but obviously will have the brand logo.  Sometimes they will have a "lunch and learn", where they bring food into the clinic and hold an educational seminar for the staff.  This is also done on a larger scale with local and national continuing educaiton meetings sponsored by a given company.  

The pressure is typically low, centering around "our product is the best because...."  While there may be incentives for the vet to purchase it and then sell to clients, there is not "you MUST carry our product!"  There are multiple food companies and pharmaceutical companies, so competition is certainly out there.  In the end it comes down to the individual veterinary practice to make a decision.  Some may decide to carry a food or product because they have looked at all of the options and feel that it is truly the best.  Some may promote a product because the clinic gets the best financial incentives that way. It all comes down to the practice owner and manager, and how the make their decisions.

Is it true that people and their pets often end up looking alike, or is it just a thing the media likes to play up when they see it?

Asked by Guanita almost 11 years ago

That's definitely a media thing!  The physical appearance of a dog or human doesn't start to change to duplicate anyone or anything in the surrounding area.  If it did, husbands and wives would resemble each other and children would look even more like their parents.  It's amusing to us to see owners and pets looking similar, so media sources like to highlight these situations.  I can't think of any clients I've had who closely resemble their pets.

3 yr old mini -dachs 13 lbs severly injured muscles from his neck back rear by twisting backwards falling 2wks ago. xrays done/ discs appeared fine. He is on prednisone mg 1per day,methocarbam 500. He is worse. can i inc pred by 1/2, pain is very bad

Asked by Ms. Blair Sterling almost 11 years ago

Here's advice for this pet owner as well as all others out there.  When you have a situation like this one where your pet is injured or sick and needs an immediate answer, DO NOT go to the Internet with questions.  It would be immoral and unethical for me or any other vet to give dosage advice with a pet that is not a patient of ours.  Changing dosages is not something to be done lightly and has to take into account the pet's other health situations, current lab tests, and many other factors.  In fact, giving specific medical advice like this without having seen the patient is against state law.

My best advice is to contact the vet who made the diagnosis.  He/She is the one who will know whether or not to change the dosage, or if potentially more needs to be done.  Sometimes a spinal/disc injury does not show up on x-rays and additional diagnostics need to be performed.  Talk to your vet.

If a vet that specializes in a particular field, are they able to practice general medicine as well?

Asked by Lee almost 11 years ago

Technically and legally, yes, at least in the US.  Specialty licensing is given out by organizations recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association, not by state laws.  Each state's licensing governs veterinarians as a whole, not any particular specialty.  So when a state grants a license it automatically includes all aspects of veterinary medicine.

In reality, however, most specialists become very rusty with disciplines outside of their field.  I'm sure that I'm better at doing spays that most specialists other than surgeons, though they are better at their discipline than I am.  So even though a specialst might be legally able to practice general medicine, they may not be skilled outside of their field, especially if they have been a specialist for a long time.

We adopted a 5-month old kitten whose whiskers seemed to have been chewed short by siblings the night before we finalized adoption. I figured they would grow back. Well it has been 2 weeks and all the whiskers on 1 side just disappeared altogether, why?

Asked by drekom over 11 years ago

It would be hard to say for certain without examining your kitten myself. But I can make an educated guess. Whiskers are modified hairs, but their structure and growth is very similar to other hairs. When a hair is old or damaged, it will fall out. In fact, the old hair needs to fall out and the follicle goes through a brief dormant period before a new hair can regrow. Whiskers will follow a similar pattern. Give it another month or so and I'll be they'll be regrowing.

Can ANY cat be an indoor OR an outdoor cat, or should some species be kept as one or the other? When my indoor cat pokes his head outside when the front door's open, he starts sneezing like crazy. Is it because he's not used to the pollen?

Asked by Smelanie about 11 years ago

Technically any cat can be either indoor or outdoor. However, I do think that some cats should remain indoors. Long-haired cats will be more likely to get twigs, leaves, and brambles in their fur, as well as have a higher tendency for matting. Hairless cats like the Sphinx have less insulation or protection due to the lack of fur, and so shouldn't go outside. Beyond that a particular breed isn't more or less likely to have problems. Your indoor cat may be sniffing heavily, bringing in more air and dust particles, therefore causing tickling of the sinuses. Pollen isn't the only cause of irritation in the nasal passages. Because he's not used to going outside he'll be sniffing and investigating more than a cat who was outside frequently.

If you had to guess, what % of your clients pay for visits through animal healthcare insurance vs. out-of-pocket? And is dealing with insurance companies one of your biggest headaches?

Asked by Go 'Canes! over 11 years ago

Here in the US it's less than 1% of clients. Pet insurance is also very different than human insurance. With pet insurance the client actually pays for the medical bill themselves and then is reimbursed a certain amount based on their policy. Vets actually never deal directly with the insurance companies, so it's pretty easy for us.

Hello. A few hours ago I was on a bed and when I stepped off the bed I stepped on my dogs front paw. She has been limping on it, I lightly moved her paw and toes, she didnt yelp but flinched a little bit. I feel bad and I am not sure what to do.

Asked by Liz over 11 years ago

This may sound trite or callous, but it's not intended as such. When something like this happens you should call your vet, not go to the internet. It may not be anything serious, but there is no way someone online can properly diagnose a pet. You will need to have a vet examine your dog and then determine if there is a real concern. I know people want to save money and that there is a ton of information on the Web, but the health of your pet is worth at least an office visit.

Has putting down so many animals made you think harder at all about death or your own mortality? Obviously we don't all share the same beliefs about the afterlife, but to what extent have your own beliefs evolved? (Sorry to be a downer)

Asked by Brian P. about 11 years ago

Wow, that's a very profound question! An excellent one, though. And one in all my years I've never been asked. It may be anticlimactic, but euthanizing animals has not made me really think about my own mortality. As much as I love my pets and consider them part of our family, I don't see human death and animal death in the same way. Due to my own religious views I see the two very differently. So to me an animal's death doesn't compare to a human's. I eat meat, and the death and consumption of those animals doesn't bother me at all. I will say that euthanizing pets has helped me deal with human grief in a way that I never expected. I have to perform this service almost every week, and everyone grieves and lets go of their pets differently. Though it doesn't make me reflect on my own death, it does make me think about how people react to death. And any evolution of my own beliefs have happened outside of the field of veterinary medicine. I don't have the same beliefs I did growing up or even in vet school, but that has to do with experiences unrelated to my profession. Great question, Brian! Since you brought it up, I probably will think more about it!

My dog is weird and barks at things on wheels. WHY DOES HE DO THAT? He goes crazy if someone goes by on a bike, skateboard, or rollerblades. But someone can be running (at around same speed as a bike) and he won't flinch.

Asked by Krass about 11 years ago

Without watching him myself this is purely speculation.  Sometimes it is the noise of the wheels, which is different from the sound of running or walking.  It can also be the motion of the wheels themselves.  This is different than legs and can trigger a different response.

Why do race horses get put down if they break a leg? I know they won't race again, but isn't it still really lucrative for the owner to put them out to stud?

Asked by lol_e2e4 over 11 years ago

Horses are surprisingly delicate creatures. Their legs carry a lot of weight on a surprisingly small surface area. In essence they are putting all of their weight on their middle finger. Sure, the bone is wide, but it ends up being a lot of pressure. When they injure their leg sufficiently the can't heal well and often can't even walk. While a dog or cat can do very well with only three legs, a horse can't. Many injuries that can be fixed in pets with surgery and casts simply won't heal in horses, and they can't get around with a severely damaged leg. So it's not just a matter of them not being able to race's a matter of them not being able to move and thrive. Thankfully veterinary medicine has come a long way in treating bone injuries in horses and things that were once fatal can now be treated. However, there are still many injuries where it's more humane to euthanize the horse.

do you help pythons?????????????????????

Asked by nate about 11 years ago

I'm not an expert, so it depends on the problem. However, I do enjoy seeing "exotic" pets and have better than average knowledge and skills in this area (compared to most general practitioners I know). I will see just about any animal that is commonly kept as a household pet, with certain exceptions. I won't see primates because I don't have the proper handling equipment and they're difficult to handle. I won't see venomous pets because of the potential for serious harm. I don't have the expertise and equipment to see fish. And I'll admit a mild arachnophobia so I won't see invertebrates. It can actually be hard to find a vet who will see exotic pets, so call around if you have a snake that needs to be seen.

What's your favourite method of dog training?

Asked by Dogs almost 11 years ago

That's a very broad question and therefore difficult to answer.  Overall I very much prefer positive reinforcement techniques, rewarding behavior that you want repeated.  It's far more effective than punishment and also helps with the bond between pet and owner.  Beyond that it's hard to answer the question as "method" can be defined many different ways.

Has a pet ever attacked you when the owner brought it in for treatment? I'm always surprised when our dog doesn't even flinch when he gets a shot, because most people would yelp when they get pricked with a needle.

Asked by billyboy over 9 years ago

Many, many times! In fact, on average I'll have an aggressive pet virtually every day, and it's frequent that we'll have more than one in a day. Part of the hazards of working in this profession is the very real threat of personal injury from aggressive animals. Thankfully most injuries are minor, but I've been bit and scratched more times than I can count.

Has anyone ever abandoned their pet while it was in your care?

Asked by JT III about 11 years ago

Believe it or not, it has only happened to me a couple of times, though I know vets who have had it happen on numerous occasions. My most memorable time was with a very sick cat that after some tests the owners decided to euthanize. I said all they needed to do was come in and sign an authorization form (I had been talking to them on the phone while we had the cat). They didn't come by, and I spent several days continuing to contact them, trying to get a signature, all the time while the cat was getting worse. Finally I did something questionable, looked up their address, and went to their home with the paperwork. I did get that signature and ended the cat's suffering.

My dog has a thyroid disorder (hypothyroidism) and I can't afford to go to the vet, to get a script for meds. What would be the best herbal med that I can give her?

Asked by Lollie about 11 years ago

I have to absolutely recommend that you go to your vet for proper diagnosis.  If your dog hasn't had a vet run tests and confirm a low thyroid level, you don't actually know if this is the problem.  The symptoms of hypothyroidism can be similar to several other disorders.  A basic initial thyroid screen is inexpensive and can often be performed in the vet's office.  I also trust traditional medicine over herbal remedies in most cases, and cannot in good conscience recommend a herbal remedy, especially without a proper diagnosis.

I have to also be very blunt for a moment.  If you cannot afford a simple blood test and an office visit, do you have your dog on heartworm prevention and proper vaccination?  If not, then I would seriously consider whether or not you are giving proper care to your dog.  Yes, you may love her very much, but proper health care costs money.  By not doing appropriate preventative care you could be willingly exposing her to the risks of more serious and expensive diseases.  Give it some thought.

Do you know of any/many people who became vets later in life? Do you have any views on how difficult or easy it is presuming studies have been successfully completed?

Asked by ?1 almost 11 years ago

This is more common than you might think.  In my own veterinary class of 70 people at least 10 of them were in their 30s having had careers in other fields.  I knew a man who had a successful career in magazine publishing before deciding to go to vet school at 40.  Age or previous careers should not be any barrier to starting into veterinary medicine.  However, non-traditional students may not be as in the habit of studying as the ones starting in their 20s.  Also, it is increasingly expensive to become a vet and debt burdens are becoming unbearable and difficult to survive.  Becoming a vet at 40 gives you much less time to pay off debt than starting at 25, so that should be kept in mind.

Is it true that if given unlimited food, a dog will just eat and eat and eat until he gets sick? Do dogs lack whatever biological mechanism that tells other animals they're "full?"

Asked by tummytrouble about 11 years ago

That's definitely not true.  Dogs do have a biological trigger that will make them feel satiated or full after they have eaten a certain amount.  It has to do with stretch receptors in the stomach wall, and when the stomach is distented to a certain point the dog no longer feels hungry.

Unfortunately this feeling of fullness doesn't last long.  Within a few hours the dog will start to feel somewhat hungry again, and therefore if food is left out all of the time a dog can over-eat and become obese.  Also, dogs will enjoy the taste of foods just like we do, and will eat something that tastes good even if they're not very hungry.  How many times have all of us been full after a meal and then the chocolate cake is too tempting and we eat it even though we're really not hungry.  We can (or should) have the mental self-control to realize we don't need the extra food.  Dogs don't have that mental process, and will continue to eat as long as they can.

What are your thoughts on animal welfare and claiming animals as pets? Also, What are your thoughts on animal breeders and the conceptions (or misconceptions) behind animal breeding?

Asked by Solis about 10 years ago

Well, these are Some very different sets of questions.  I'll take each one in turn, though briefly.

First, there is a clear distinction between "animal welfare" and "animal rights".  Animal welfare is typically about looking out for the well-being of animals, treating them humanely, reporting abuse, and so on.  "Rights" look to impart certain legal rights on animals as individuals, often equating them to having equal importance to humans.  But both terms can have certain gray areas.  I certainly believe in the importance of the welfare of animals, wild ones as well as pets and livestock.  I feel that we need to always treat animals in a respectful way that minimizes or prevents suffering.  That being said, none of the breeds of cats, dogs, horses, cows, chickens, pigs, etc. that we commonly see would even exist without deliberate genetic manipulation by humans through selective breeding.  The only reason these kinds of animal breeds exist is because humans "designed" them for a particular purpose.  I have no problem with raising livestock in order for us to slaughter them and eat their bodies.  I love steak, hamburgers, grilled, chickent, and so on.  And I've been to slaughterhouses and processing plants, so I know what goes on.  "Animal rights" would see most of this closed down.  "Animal welfare" would see it done in the way that causes the least suffering.  I fall into the latter and personally think that many (or most) animal rights groups go way too far in their efforts.

I firmly embrace animals as pets.  We have 12 animals in our home, all of whom are pets.  They are loved, protected members of our family, but they do not have the same status as the humans in the home.  If we as humans didn't desire the companionship of animals, cats and wolves would still be wild and we wouldn't have the amazing variety of breeds that currently exist.  We also wouldn't have animals with the desire to be our companions (I'm typing this as one of our cats is nudging my hand and purring).  Anyone who equates pet ownership to slavery really doesn't understand either issue very well.

I'm not sure what conceptions or misconceptions you are asking about breeding.  If a breeder is being careful in who they mate, are working to eliminate inherited disorders (allergies, hip dysplasia, heart disease, etc.), don't over-breed, and only breed those with show-quality conformation, I have no problems whatsoever.  It's the breeders who just put two dogs together, get puppies, and then sell them to whomever that I oppose.  

Hopefully this answers the questions.  Please ask a follow-up if I didn't address what you were trying to ask.

How often are you simply not able to figure out what's wrong with an animal?

Asked by Sam Dorin almost 11 years ago

More often than people may think and certainly more often than I'd like.  Theoretically we should be able to figure out almost anything.  Many of the times we "can't figure it out" it's actually because the client can't afford further diagnostic testing in a complicated case, or simply doesn't want to pursue the issue for one reason or another.  Even if we don't have a specific answer, with knowledge, experience, and diagnostic tests we can usually narrow it down to our top 2 or 3 possibilities.

I've absolutely had cases where the pet is obviously sick, but every test I run comes out normal, leaving me scratching my head.  In those situations we either make our best guess or refer the patient to a specialist for further work-up.  And sometimes I believe our patients get better in spite of us rather than because of us.

What are your feelings (both personal and professional) about keeping pitbulls and rortweilers as pets? Are they statistically more dangerous than other breeds? Do you think they should be outlawed?

Asked by billyboy over 9 years ago

Great question! Let's start with pit bulls. Personally I'm not a fan simply because I don't like their look. But as far as personality and behavior, they're great. I would trust an average pit bull over an average chihuahua or shih-tzu any day of the week! Most pits I've worked with are sweethearts, and I hate that they have a bad reputation. Can they bite? Sure. But there isn't a breed I've worked with that doesn't have bad apples. I've had more Labrador and Golden retrievers try and bite me than pit bulls, but I still consider those breeds friendly dogs.

Rottweilers are a bit different. I have had many that are great dogs, but just as many that were "sketchy" and potentially aggressive. This is not a breed of which I am a fan in general, but I've had some that are in my favorite patients category. As a veterinary professional, this is one of the breeds that I'm cautious around until I get to know them.

I don't have specific statistics, but I don't think they are more likely to bite than other breeds. In fact, some of the data I've seen put dogs like lhasa apsos at a higher bite risk. I know that insurance companies consider these breeds more dangerous. Personally I think that this is due to the amount of damage they can do rather than their likelihood of attacking. If a chihuahua bites me, I might have to have a few stitches. If a pit bull bites me I'm probably going to end up in the hospital. I'm more likely to be bit by the smaller dog but am more likely to be seriously injured by the larger one. Then it becomes a matter of deciding if "dangerous" is based on the risk of being bitten or the risk of severe damage.

I don't think either of these breeds should be outlawed, or any other breed for that matter. The majority of dogs who are dangerous have become so because of lack of training, improper socialization, or abuse. If we focus on the cause rather than the breed, we can help solve the problem. Breeding for disposition and behavior combined with proper training is the answer....not passing a breed-specific law.

I am entering a sonography program, but the waiting list is 3 years. I was wanting to get my vet tech degree in the mean time. I would love to do vet ultrasound, but is there a demand? Would the salary compete with human ultrasound? Any advice,thanks

Asked by Brooke over 10 years ago

Let me first burst your bubble and say that NOTHING in veterinary medicine has a salary competitive with the human medical field.  Whatever you make in my field will have a salary 2-3 times higher for a comparative position in human medicine.

Currently there really isn't a demand for veterinary ultrasound techs, at least as far as I know.  Most of the time the vet does the ultrasound themselves, even specialists.  It's very uncommon for the tech to do the exam and then pass the results on to the vet for interpretation.  So if you're going to get extensive training in sonography it will probably be wasted in the veterinary profession unless you're a vet yourself.

I'm a writer. This is research. Hero's horse was scraped & cut by a barbed wire fence-one section more open- Might need sutures (?) Scratches elsewhere. Washed with sterile saline before vet arrived. Has tetanus shots. Does this sound feasible?

Asked by MJ over 10 years ago

First, let me say that I haven't worked with horses since around 1996 while I was in vet school, so my equine medicine is quite rusty.

That being said, this does sound reasonable.  Tetanus shots are very important as horses are highly susceptible to this disease (interestingly, dogs and cats are NOT and therefore don't need tetanus vaccination).  Barbed wire can cause some nasty wounds, depending on how badly the horse was caught on it.  Sometimes it may need cleaning, stitching, and antibiotics.  In more severe cases it may require some reconstructive surgery, regular bandage changes with topical medications, and so on.  So part of how it is treated depends on how severe the wound is.

how old should a cat be to be spaded? and at what age do male cats spray?

Asked by jessica over 10 years ago

Spaying and neutering a cat is typically done between 4 and 6 months old, though many shelters perform this surgery at young as 8 weeks old.  Each vet has their own typical comfort level regarding the age at which they will "fix" a pet.

Puberty and the associated hormonal surges happen around 7-9 months old in dogs and cats.  When an male cat who isn't neutered hits that point they may start to urinate ("spray") to mark their territory.  However, there can be other behavioral and medical reasons why a cat may urinate outside of the litter box, so if you're concerned talk to your vet.

hi Dr. Bern,
My 3 yr old Stella (peke faced Persian) has been losing hair & has scabs on her back & neck. No fleas, & was treated last year for allergies. Shes been on Royal Canine Hypoallergenic for 9 mos. What should I do now?

Asked by Kissifit4U about 10 years ago

Talk to your vet more about this case, as I'd have to have the full case work-up to give any reasonable advice.  I'm also careful about giving specific advice via the internet, as I don't have a proper relationship with the pet to be truly informed.  A couple of things come to mind, though.  First, make sure that she has been getting NOTHING other than her food for that time period.  And I mean absolutely, positively, NOTHING.  No treats, no sneaking another pet's food, no eating scraps out of the sink, and so on.  If there is a true food allergy you should see results in about 10-12 weeks on that food.  But if there is ANY deviation at all during that time it could activate the allergy.  

Second, she may need to see a dermatology specialist.  This is not uncommon as skin and allergy cases can be difficult and frustrating.  Talk to your vet about this option.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a veterinarian??

How did becoming a veterinarian compare to what you had originally expected??

What area of veterinary care do you specialize in??

Asked by Aj Cote about 10 years ago

I was 9 years old when I first realized that I wanted to be a vet.  I already loved animals and science, and it was a natural progression.  

Becoming a vet was definitely different from my expectations!  I had worked in the field for about 13 years prior to graduating so I thought I had a good idea.  The longer I practiced the more I realized that there were politics, communication issues, managing staff, and many other concerns that I had never considered.  I also didn't realize that the job could be so mentally draining because of the stress of trying to figure out complicated cases.  And then there are the very long days sometimes without a lunch break.  No matter what I thought I knew, actually being a vet was different.

I'm a small animal general practitioner.  That means that I'm a jack of all trades, master of none.  Most of my patients are dogs and cats, but almost every day I'll see an "exotic" pet, such as a tortise, rat, cockatiel, etc.  I have special interests in behavior and soft tissue surgery, but I'm not specialized in those areas.

Why is a vet a good job to have?

Asked by Ruby over 9 years ago

First of all, you get to work with animals, which may people enjoy. You also help strengthen the bond between animals and people, help heal the sick and injured, and relieve suffering. The salary isn't bad, though is not as high as most people think.

The downsides is the rather frightening debt-to-income ratio, which is reaching a true crisis. You also work long, often hard hours. And it's frequently disgusting with daily doses of urine, feces, pus, and blood.

As a junior in high school, how should I prepare to study veterinary medicine? What did you do in high school and college to become a veterinarian?

Asked by Carol Hunter over 9 years ago

At this point in your schooling, concentrate on Biology, Chemistry, and Math. I hate to break it to your counselors, but the classes you take in high school have no real bearing on whether or not you get into vet school or are successful once you do. When considering colleges, get information from a vet school you may eventually apply to and find out the course requirements. Not every college has a "pre vet" program, and not every college offers the classes required for entry in vet school. Honestly, you don't even need a "pre vet" program. The vet schools look at your overall grades as the first screening process, and then whether or not you have the required courses in college and what your grades are in them. I also hate to break it to your high school and college counselors, but your college major doesn't matter! It only matters whether or not you have the specific classes.

I had a BS in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. But I've known veterinary students who had English majors, Computers, human nursing, Teaching, careers in publishing, and just about everything else. Life experience, good grades, and the appropriate classes are the keys.

But the biggest help would be to actually work for a vet. First, that lets you get behind the scenes on a regular basis and see if it's something you want to do for the rest of your life. Believe me, it's hard work for little pay and you deal with disgusting things every day. Vet schools will be looking for that experience to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.

I don't typically plug my blog, but in this case it would help you, Carol., and search for "student questions". I've answered in detail many times over the years and you can find lots of information there.

Do you feel Greenies are a safe treat to give your dog today.

Asked by Bob almost 10 years ago

Absolutely, and I recommend them highly.  They are very safe and are one of the best ways to prevent dental tartar.  Several years ago Greenies reformulated their treats to make them dissolveable in simple water.  Wanting to test this out, I took a sample from them at a veterinary conference, took it back to my hotel room, and put it in a glass of water overnight.  The next morning I could easily pull it apart with my fingers.  However, you should always watch your dog any time they are chewing on something.  No matter what it is, if a dog swallows a large piece it could result in a dangerous gastrointestinal obstruction.

How can you tell if a pet is suffering?

Asked by Maggie7 over 9 years ago

Unfortunately, that's a rather difficult question with no simple answer. "Suffering" is a bit subjective. We all know when a pet is really painful or sick, and we all know when they're happy and feeling well. Between those extremes is a lot of gray area. In general we look for pain, lethargy, difficulty moving, loss of appetite, and similar things. If you're concerned about a specific pet I would have him/her examined by a vet in person and talk to them about your concerns.

How long did it take to become a vet?

What are some specific classes you need to get a degree for this profession?

How many hrs a wk do you work?

What is your favorite part of job?

Do you have any benefits?

Do you still have family time?

Asked by Josh about 10 years ago

Rapid-fire questions, so rapid-fire answers!

In the US it takes a total of 7-8 years.  Undergraduate college is 3-4 years and vet school is 4 years.

Lots of Biology classes!  In vet school you have a pretty set curriculum with a few optional courses.  Each vet school has slightly different entry requirements, but you'll end up needing lots of Biology, Chemistry, and Math.

I work around 45 hours per week.

I love getting to instruct clients and staff, imparting new knowledge and seeing them really understand it and apply it.

Benefits depend on the employer.  I have health insurance, paid time off, a budget for continuing education, and similar basic benefits.  But this can vary greatly.

Family time depends on the week!  Mostly I do, though I can't always predict when I'll be home in the evening.  Last-minute cases or a busy day can make me very late.

how old were you when you decided to become a veterinarian?

Asked by potter41 over 8 years ago

I was 9 years old! And just about everything I did after that was to get into and through veterinary school. Most people who become vets starting having an interest when they were young, though I know many people who started as a secondary career.

As someone who works with dogs, do you think a law requiring dogs to be destroyed after they attack someone is smart? What does the science say: are dogs who have attacked in the past much more likely to do it again?

Asked by R.E.M. over 9 years ago

This isn't as simple of a situation as you might think. My first question would be "Why did the dog attack?" Most attacks happen because of a specific trigger or triggers, even if the people involved may not realize it. For example, let's say that a dog attacks a child. The first response most people would have would likely be "Euthanize this dangerous animal." But would that be the same thought if it turned out that the child had been throwing rocks at the dog? Or if the child had been picking up the dog's puppies? Suddenly the "attack" becomes a situation of having been provoked or acting protective. In these cases we can't really blame the dog and I don't think it should be euthanized.

I see aggressive dogs pretty much every day. Sometimes they're aggressive towards us but are fine at home. Sometimes they get aggressive at home in specific situations. Outside of these instances the dog acts normally. Yes, it may attack again, but only if put in the same conditions. We have some patients that are what we call "cage aggressive". When they're in a cage they are very defensive, feeling threatened, and if approached will bite. But once out of the cage they act more normal and can be handled. Now there truly are psychotic dogs who have a problem in their brain and can attack unprovoked. I've known several of these, and they can be truly dangerous. I've euthanized pets over the years due to extreme, uncontrolled aggression, though always as a last resort.

I don't disagree with laws requiring euthanizing dangerous, aggressive animals. But I think that they need to be carefully worded to not make it automatic with an attack. I think that a healthy dose of "it depends" needs to be used in each situation, and someone knowledgeable in pet behavior needs to be consulted before such a permanent decision is made.

I have a dog of 8 months old,male (poodle breed), he has been with us for about 6 months Weight-6.5kg ,he was normal until now ,very playful . But recently he ate Soap paper ,which lead to vomiting so we took him to a doctor ,where he was treated and

Asked by sagar over 9 years ago

Sorry that your question didn't go all of the way through. Hopefully your dog is doing better now. I'm not sure what the original question was supposed to be, but I would recommend not using the Internet for any urgent medical advice. As you can see by my response time on this question, you're not going to typically get an immediate reply. It is ALWAYS better to contact your vet directly than to go online. And if you have doubts about the medical care at your vet, seek a second opinion in person. I've had plenty of clients come to me for second opinions, and I always welcome that.

what advice would you offer someone considering to have a career as a veterinarian

Asked by emily over 8 years ago

Spend time working in a veterinary clinic. It's a lot different than what many people think. It's a lot of hard work, you don't get paid much, you literally risk injury every day, and you deal with many gross things. You simply don't know if you can handle all of that until you spend some time working side-by-side with vets.

My 18yr old cat has CRF 3rd stage kidney disease. Bun:51 Creatinine:2.8 He stopped eating dry KD food 10 days ago and will only eat fancy feast (never ate it b4). He pees every 3 hours. He has enlarged heart/murmur. Vet plans subQ fluids. Is it safe?

Asked by thomas warren almost 9 years ago

Unfortunately it sounds like your kitty has several serious conditions, which together make for difficult treatment. Subcutaneous fluids are normally one of the best treatments for end-stage renal disease. However, I can't give advice on this case as to whether or not the treatment is safe without much more information. I'd want to actually see the radiographs and other blood tests besides what you have reported, and also the results of a physical exam. Even then I couldn't give accurate advice without personally having seen your cat. You really need to talk to your own vet about this, as they know your cat's complete condition better than I.

what personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?

Asked by Alan Martinez over 8 years ago

Communication skills! This is likely the top skill that will help every veterinarian. I've seen some vets with incredible medical and surgical skill who have rather sorry people skills and have a hard time developing clientele. Being comfortable talking to people and having a good ability to connect with them is going to be the single most useful non-medical skill. A great communicator can handle a cranky client when a case goes bad. A poor communicator will have a hard time keeping a client happy when everything goes well.

Emotional resiliency is another useful skill. As a vet you go through some incredible highs and lows throughout a day. You lose patients you've grown attached to. You have clients get mad at you when you've done everything correctly. You get overwhelmed with the number of cases you have to see in the course of a day. You get staff that can be difficult. All of that can combine to make it really tough to maintain a positive outlook and handle the stresses of the job. Someone with a steady emotional outlook or who has good coping mechanisms is going to be more successful at getting through those challenges.

A good head for business is also extremely helpful. Even if you don't own the clinic, having a good understanding of charges and how to keep the doors open will keep you from giving everything away and potentially sending the practice into bankruptcy. Knowing how the charges are figured and what goes into them will also help you feel less guilty when charging a client, as you know that the prices really are reasonable for the service.

Dear Chris, i would like to ask if a doggie dental could wait for 1 month while i renew my dog's 3 year rabies booster - needed for travel in late april or may... dental is needed because of loose tooth and i want to do the best for my boy. thank you

Asked by archie.stjohn about 8 years ago

Talk to your local vet about this. If a tooth is loose because of a bad infection this should probably take priority. However, you'd need a vet to actually look at your dog to determine what is necessary to be done first.

Do vets needs to have the same kind of malpractice insurance that human doctors have and have you ever had a claim filed against you?

Asked by Barry about 9 years ago

We have similar malpractice insurance, but it costs FAR less than our human colleagues. What an average human physician pays for in a month would cover a vet for a year. Thankfully I've never had a malpractice claim filed against me, and hopefully never will.

What made you decide to be a veterinarian.

Asked by Christian over 8 years ago

I've always been fascinated by animals and science and loved watching nature shows growing up. For me it was just a natural progression from an interest in biology to wanting to help the animals. That interest started very young, and I just made the decision that I would become a vet. It was such a strong desire that I never stopped trying for it.

Hello there - I have 4 dogs who are my life. I use monthly treatments for parasites and also vaccinate but everyone goes on and on that they cause cancer...any thoughts? Worried sick as not sure what to do.

Asked by elena papazoglou almost 8 years ago

Ask them to show you statistical and scientific proof. And I'm not talking about a blog, opinion piece, or a naturopath who is against all traditional medicine. Ask them for peer-reviewed journal articles which have been scientifically proven to support their belief. I'll help you out here....they won't find that evidence.

Are there risks to vaccinations and preventative medications? Sure. But ask them for something that carries no risks at all....such things don't exist. With modern medicines we have decidedly saved lives and prevented diseases in countless numbers. Ask anyone whose dog has died of parvo virus if they would have preferred to have had the puppy vaccinated. Ask anyone who has had to spend hundreds of dollars on heartworm treatment if they would have rather purchased preventative.

Vaccines to NOT cause cancer and do NOT increase the likelihood of autoimmune diseases. These claims have been studied and found to be false. Monthly heartworm and flea preventatives are safe and effective for the vast majority of pets (when used appropriately) and have saved millions of pets from serious disease. If these people continue to question you, direct them to my blog ( and I'd be happy to have a discussion with them.

What are your thoughts on vaccines and heart worm preventatives? Are we over vaccinating? I've heard that wolves, living out doors all day, don't take monthly heart guard and very few have been found to have heart worms.Are all these toxins worth it?

Asked by Bryan almost 9 years ago

Great questions!

First on vaccines....Since I started practicing back in the late '90s the attitude around vaccines has changed quite a bit, as has the science behind them. What we use in the 2010s are not the same as what we used 20 years ago. Vaccines are safer and more effective, with longer accepted duration of immunity (for many of them). Most vets have also gone to more of an approach of looking at the lifestyle risks of pets in determining which vaccines are needed. Do we over-vaccinate? Personally I don't think so. However, we do need to be judicious as to which ones we give. One of the reasons why pets live longer, healthier lives is because of preventative vaccination. If we stop using this important health tool we'll start seeing greater epidemics of disease. Simply put, vaccines save lives. Don't believe me? Talk to my many clients who failed to get their dog vaccinated for parvo and watched them die.

Heartworm preventative is ABSOLUTELY essential! The medicines we give are not toxic to the dogs, and this is a 100% preventable disease. At my location alone we've had 10 dogs test positive in the first 7 months of this year alone. I've treated far too many dogs for heartworms over my career and there is no reason for this. Heartworms are deadly, extremely expensive to treat, and completely preventable.

I realize that it's easy to look at a healthy pet and wonder if vaccines and heartworm prevention are worth it. But spend some time around dogs who have died of preventable diseases and you'll change your mind.

What's the most common reaction you get when you tell someone you're a vet? Any questions you're completely sick of people asking you?

Asked by redddittt over 9 years ago

"Oh, you're a vet? Well my dog......" Variations on this theme are typically what I get when people find out I'm a vet. They share an anecdote about their pet, talk about a health problem, list all of their pets, or start to ask me for my opinion or advice on an issue. When I first graduated from vet school I would proudly wear jewelry or clothing proclaiming my new profession. But it quickly got old when the cashier at the grocery store or a random person in line would try and get some free advice. Over the years I've gotten more used to it and have realized that people are just very passionate about their pets. Which is a good thing! But at the same time when I'm off work I don't want to think about it much and want to try and detach myself from my job so I can think about othe rthings. To avoid some of these situations I don't make a big deal about my job in my private life and don't ask people to refer to me as "doctor".

The second question is a really good one and I've been trying to wrack my brain thinking of some specific questions. Unfortunately, I can't! I answer the same questions and discuss the same situations multiple times every day so I've gotten used to repetition. When someone asks me a question it may be the 10,000th time I've answered it (LITERALLY!), but to them it's the first time they've asked it, so they deserve to get a good answer no matter how tired I am of it. But I really don't get too tired of it because to me client education is VERY important, and when I answer those repetitious questions I'm helping the client take better care of their pets.

It's not quite a question, but one of my biggest pet peeves is people who don't listen to their voice mail message. Sometimes I'll call a client to let them know their pet is ready to be picked up and will record a brief message with a summary of what we did. Almost every day I'll get someone call back and say "Yeah, I got a call from you guys? No, I didn't listen to the message." That gets old VERY fast, and to me it seems such a simple thing to listen to the message before you return a call.

What would you do if a client brings in their injured animal but doesn't have enough money for the medical attention?

Asked by Jasmine over 8 years ago

This is always a tough situation. Veterinary clinics operate on a very small profit margin, so believe me when I say that most vets aren't wealthy and are happy to make ends meet. Because of this vets can't really afford to treat pets who come through the door with no method of payment. A vet who does this frequently will go out of business quickly (and it's happened many times). When a vet expects payment, it's simply because they have many bills to pay, not because they are "money hungry".

There are several options for clients with money difficulties. Pretty much every vet accepts credit cards, and many also accept Care Credit. Some vets may have an emergency fund filled by donations from other clients, but it's rare to have that set up. We will sometimes see if people can borrow money from friends and family. Some shelters and rescue organizations can help out in treating pets for people who are genuinely in need.

But the situation inevitably comes up that a client doesn't have money or credit, yet the pet needs treatment. Remember that the responsibility for care is on the pet owner, not the vet. The person who accepted that pet into their family is the one who is supposed to provide care for the pet, not the doctor. We as vets provide a professional service and it's only fair to pay us for the time and facilities that we have invested. In these cases we often refuse treatment. Or we may do minimal care such as placing a bandage and sending home antibiotics, even if we don't think these are sufficient. We try to help out as much as we can without putting our livelihoods in danger.

Do you need to like maths or be good at them to be a vet?

Asked by Tamara over 9 years ago

You don't have to like math, but you do have to be good at basic algebra. Personally, I don't like the subject. But I have to calculate drug dosages, fluid rates, and similar things multiple times every day. If I get them wrong I could severely under- or overdose a patient.

i have a chihuahua and he hates getting his nails trimmed. I haven't taken him in a while to get a nail trim but now his nails are too long is there any way to put him to sleep while he gets a trim? Do you know price range?

Asked by haylie about 8 years ago

It is possible to sedate a dog for a nail trim, and I've done this many times. However, the cost can vary a bit in different areas of the country and depending on what medications are used. Ask your local vet about this.

How do you stay up to date in the field of veterinary medicine?

Asked by Ivy Gonzales over 8 years ago

In order to maintain our license, we are required to take a certain amount of continuing education every year, with the number of hours varying between states. We mostly get this through attending one of many professional conferences around the country (and even the world!). In these conferences we attend lectures that both refresh our memories and inform us of new developments. Additionally, there are many journals to which we can subscribe, each of them focused in different areas and giving us the ability to read and learn about current trends and treatments. Medicine changes quickly and new drugs are released each year, so it can take a lot of effort to stay current!

I have a min pin w diabetes. BS is under control. He has developed a problem swallowing when trying to eat. He paws at his mouth after every couple of bites. Had Antibi, a dental, change food and now he will not eat without coaxing. Any ideas?

Asked by reelli almost 9 years ago

You should go and look at a similar response I made to another case comment a few months ago. This kind of question should NOT be asked on the internet. There is no way that I or any other doctor can tell what is going on with your pet. Any ideas? Yes, quite a few. In fact, I can think of several dozen conditions that could cause a symptom like this, none of which I could conclusively diagnose without an exam and likely some blood tests. The bottom line is that you need to contact your vet and take your dog in for a full exam. It is impossible to make an accurate diagnosis on the internet, especially with limited information.

I'm considering adopting a dog at NYCACC. She's has a deformed nose due to an attack by a raccoon. Is there any way to surgically correct her nasal passage and nose? Is it too expensive on a teacher's salary?

Asked by Kelly almost 9 years ago

Honestly, I'd have to see her in person to make a specific recommendation. From the photos it looks like the damage is pretty extensive, and may not be repairable. If so, it would likely need to be done by a surgical specialist, and I would estimate easily in the $1000-2000 range. But you should talk to a local vet who can examine her.

I have attached a picture
I am unsure if this is a wound from fighting or ringworm. It appeared overnight. The whole side of her face is swollen and her eye only opens halfway . Please give opinion.

Asked by Ophelia over 9 years ago

First, the picture isn't showing up. opinion is that you need to take your pet to a veterinarian. I know this may come across as rather snide, and I'm sorry for that, but if your pet has a health problem you need to take her to a vet, not look for free information on the internet. Even if I could give an accurate opinion (which I can't via a computer) there would be no way to properly treat either problem outside of a veterinarian's prescription or in-person advice. Taking the time to seek advice and opinions online may seem like a good idea, but it will NEVER take the place of a doctor seeing a pet in person, and may only delay proper treatment.

Hi! Well I wanna know if for studying a vet career is compulsory to study the scientific baccalaureate.
Thanks a lot :)

Asked by Tamara about 9 years ago

Most veterinary schools require specific courses, but not a specific degree. I've known people who get into a veterinary college without a Bachelor's degree, but they have all of the required classes. Each school differs slightly in their entrance requirements, so check out a few of the schools to which you might apply and see what they require.

6-yr old Schipperke has been eating same food (Costco green bag) all his life. Recently started regurgitating immediately after morning feeding (does not happen in the evening). When I re-feed in the morning there is NO regurgitation.

Asked by Whuuph almost 8 years ago

You won't be able to find an answer to this problem by asking on a website. You need to take your dog to your vet to have him examined.

Since a kid, I always wanted to be a veterinarian but now I'm having doubts because of their busy schedule. I heard some vets can have 8 hours shifts and want to know how? And should I still become a vet or a vet tech?

Asked by Connie almost 8 years ago

I don't know any vets who have only 8 hour days. Mine are typically 10-11 hours. Most vets work 40-50 hours per week. Also, your schedule can be very unpredictable. It's unusual for me to get to take a full hour for lunch every day. We rarely leave as soon as closing time comes around as we're typically still finishing up patients and notes. If you work for a clinic that does its own emergency work you will have times when you have to come in at odd hours during the night and weekends. So if this kind of a schedule really doesn't appeal to you, don't become a vet. Being able to work consistent 8 hour days, leaving right at closing, and never having to come in outside of this schedule isn't realistic for a vet.

As far as whether you should be a vet or a technician, that's impossible for me to answer based on this question. It is a highly variable answer dependent on numerous factors, including what kind of responsibilities you want to have, how much school you can tolerate, and what kind if debt load you can survive.


I am in the process of starting over career-wise at the age of 27. I am interested in pursuing my life-long goal of becoming a veterinarian. I have a BS in business and would like any recommendations on how to get started in this process.

Asked by Jacqueline Michelle Moore almost 8 years ago

Start off by looking at some veterinary schools to which you would consider applying and see what their admission requirements are. If you have a business degree there is a strong possibility that you will have to go back to school to take various biology and chemistry classes that your previous major wouldn't have required. Each school is slightly different, so you'll have to check out several. Many also require some experience working in a veterinary clinic, so you'll have to seek out that kind of work. You may also find out that you really don't like the kind of work that a vet does when you spend a long time behind the scenes at a clinic. Lastly, look at your financial situation as vets have the highest debt-to-income ratio of any medical professional, and the debt load when starting as a vet is very burdensome.

my cat has a lump on her tummy, it is growing. cat seems content, no pain or discomfort. still loving and playful. what could it be/

Asked by red about 8 years ago

This could be a number of different things, from a tumor to a cyst. Because some of the things could potentially be malignant and dangerous, you need to have your cat examined and evaluated by your veterinarian. Questions like this need to be answered in person by your vet rather than a quick internet question.

Have you ever been bitten?

Asked by Mary over 7 years ago

Many times! And by many different species! Here's a list just of the top of my head....dogs, cats, bearded dragon, snakes, parakeets, cockatiels, hamsters, guinea pigs, a horse, and probably others I can't think of right now. Thankfully most of those were minor, but I do have some scars on my hands and arms from the bad ones. We try to avoid these kinds of injuries, but at some point they are inevitable.

You seem to be an advocate for always vaccinating. How often do you recommend for each of the common vaccines and what are your thoughts on Titer tests?

Asked by Michael almost 8 years ago

Great question! And one that is often hotly debated even among veterinary specialists.

Let's start with the last part. Titer tests really aren't very valuable, and most immunologists that I've heard from don't advocate for them. The problem stems from the fact that we really don't know what a protective titer level is for pet diseases. And the titer level can vary from one lab to another. In one study samples from the same patient were sent to different labs, each lab giving a different result. If a titer is really high we can assume it's protective, and if it's really low we can assume that it isn't. But the middle values are a gray area and there is no consensus on what constitutes a protective level in these areas. Titers are also far more expensive than a vaccine, putting them out of reach for many pet owners.

So basically titers are expensive and unreliable in predicting whether or not a pet is protected against a disease.

How often for each vaccine? There is a lot of "it depends" in this answer. For example, we know that a rabies vaccine needs to be boostered one year after the first one. But after that it depends on which vaccine is used as well as local laws. Most rabies vaccines carry a 3 year duration of immunity after the first one, but states or local jurisdictions may require it to be given more frequently than that. We know that some manufacturers have proven a 3 year duration on vaccines for canine distemper and parvo virus, but not all have. We also know that bordetella and leptospirosis vaccines don't last more than a year, so they have to be given more frequently.

There is a lot of discussion over whether or not some vaccines may be protective for 7 years, 10 years, or longer. While some data suggests this may be the case, I haven't seen any conclusive proof of this and respected specialists still advocate for annual or tri-annual vaccines.

How does this come into my own practice? I believe in risk assessment for each pet. So an indoor-only cat doesn't need feline leukemia vaccination after kittenhood, and a dog doesn't need a lyme vaccine unless it lives in an endemic area or has a high risk lifestyle. I recommend re-vaccinating based on the manufacturer data and warranties, while choosing vaccines that have the longest duration of immunity.

Hopefully that answers your question, as there are many sides to this issue.

I want to be a vet but would i have family time? I plan to have 3 children and be a small animal vet. So will that workout? Will i have enough time to be there and have fun with my children?

Asked by Laila over 7 years ago

Most vets do have children and have an adequate family life. But it can be tough. Thankfully the times of working 60+ hour weeks are mostly over, and younger vets are looking for more work-life balance than previous generations. I typically work about 45 hours per week, though my days can sometimes be 10 or more hours, and I don't always leave on time every night. You will have to make some compromises and sacrifices, meaning you may not be there for every moment, game, recital, or other event. I have two children and don't feel like I've missed out on anything and am very involved in their activities. But there have been some times that I've missed things my kids were doing because of my work schedule. It can be tough to find the right balance, but it's not impossible. You'll need to really sit down and think about what is more important to you....being a vet or having open flexibility for your family. You won't always get both.

Is it possible to be a Veterinary Ophthalmologist and a Veterinary Surgeon at the same time?

Asked by Emily McV. over 7 years ago

Technically yes, but it would be very difficult and likely unnecessary. Currently in the US you attend 3-4 years of undergraduate college, then 4 years of veterinary college. To specialize you typically do an internship for 1 year, and then 3-5 years of specialty training. You would need to do this for each specialty, so if you wanted to be board-certified in both opthalmology and surgery you would be looking at around 10 years AFTER vet school to achieve this goal. During that time you would be making nearly nothing and pushing off your student loans even further, which wouldn't be a good idea financially. I know do know vets who have double certifications, but usually not in such different fields. For example, I know vets who are specialized in both internal medicine and nutrition. But most specialists focus on one field.

I am in middle school and we are doing our career day project and we must ask someone in our career a question or two so my question is , what does it take for someone to become a veterinarian.Also, what degrees do you need to become a veterinarian

Asked by Anastazia over 7 years ago

The only actual degree you need is a veterinary doctorate. But most people get a Bachelor's degree (usually in Animal Science or Biology) before going to vet school. Outside of the US it may be different and I am only familiar with the US requirements.

The most important things about being a vet have nothing to do with your degree. You need to be compassionate while having an ability to distance yourself when you see death an injury daily. You need to be flexible and able to change mental directions at a moment's notice. You need to be a quick thinker with strong science skills. You need to be very resilient considering you're working long, hard hours for comparatively low pay. It's not easy!

Why did you become a veterinarian?

Asked by Mary over 7 years ago

I always loved animals and found science and nature shows fascinating. I wanted to pursue medicine but didn't have an interest in working with humans. I wanted to help animals who were sick and injured, and veterinary medicine was the way to go. As I got older, especially after college, I realized that I liked the human-animal bond and wanted to foster that as well.

Do you have a favorite animal to treat? If so, why is it your favorite?

Asked by Mary over 7 years ago

I treat all kinds of animals so it's kind of hard to say. But I really like dogs. Not all of them, because some are pretty bad and aggressive! I love the bond that people have with their dogs, as it's different than what we see with any other kind of pet.

What is your favorite part of being a veterinarian?

Asked by Mary over 7 years ago

It's probably getting to develop relationships with families and their pets over the years. I have had some clients for going on 9 years now, and it's wonderful that I can know their pets without looking up any records.

Is it true that in vet school, you learn to work with all types of animals?

Asked by Mary over 7 years ago

Definitely! While most vets end up directing their efforts into one group of species (such as dogs and cats, farm animals, etc.), our basic education includes at least a little in every kind of animal used in pets or food production.

What is your favorite thing about being a vet

Asked by Marjorie almost 7 years ago

Building bonds with clients and getting to take care of their pets year after year. I love most of my long-term clients and the ways we learn to interact with each other. That bond is awesome and something you don't always get. As far as actual tasks, I love any kind of soft tissue surgery. But that's something not every vet can say and some dread surgery.

What are the biggest challenges of being a veterinarian?

Asked by Mary over 7 years ago

It's very hard emotionally. We see death, injury, and illness on a daily basis. Often the health and life of a patient is entirely in our hands, and that's a huge weight on our shoulders. If we make the wrong decision in diagnosis or treatment it can literally mean the difference between life and death. You WILL make mistakes, no matter how good you are, and that's hard to realize and handle.

Our indoor cat yelps every night at the same exact time between 11:00 pm - 11:30 pm
for about 5-10 minutes What in the world is the cat trying to tell us?

Asked by Doug almost 7 years ago

Hard to say without talking to you in more detail in person. He (she?) could be asking for food, trying to find you, wanting to be let out, or just about anything else. Cats only meow to humans and not each other, so he's vocalizing just to you.

What is the hardest animal you ever worked on?

Asked by Marjorie almost 7 years ago

Turtles! They're not hard to handle, but there are a lot of other problems. It's extremely difficult to give them anything orally since they don't want to open their mouths unless biting you or eating, and the way their upper beak overhangs the lower one you can't force it open. It's impossible to hear their heart and lungs through their shell, which limits your exam. You can also feel only small parts of their body so you miss a lot of palpation that you can easily do on any other animal. I find them my most challenging patients.

what is your favorite thing about being a vet

Asked by michelle almost 7 years ago

Seeing the deep bond between pet and owner! It's one of the reasons I decided on companion animal medicine rather than livestock.

Hi, so I live in the Netherlands and I'm fairly sure that I would be able to graduate veterinary school with a low amount of student loans. Would it be a more lucrative field then? You talk a lot about how it doesn't actually make that much money

Asked by Jade over 5 years ago

I can't say what the financial prospects are like in your country, as I only know details in the US. Here you can make a decent living, but you are unlikely to become wealthy or drive luxury vehicles. It mostly comes down to debt-to-income ratio. In the US the average debt load at graduation ranges around $150k-$200k, and the average starting salary is $70k-80k. New vets spend a large portion of their salary simply paying back loans, leaving little for savings or lifestyle. You'd have to talk to a Dutch vet to find out the data in your area.

What is a typical day (or week) like for you?

Asked by abby about 6 years ago

Wow, that's hard to say. I work 40-45 hours per week, some weeks up to 50 hours. I see around 20-25 patients per day, as we are a very busy practice. The majority of my day is minor illnesses or injuries, well pet visits, and routine surgical procedures. However, at any point I can get a sudden serious illness or emergency surgery that could completely disrupt my day. If you are working in a full-service general practice there is only so much predictability to the day. You learn to expect the unexpected.

Hi I have a question about my future of being a vet I don’t know what type of veterinarian I want to be but I don’t want to do any surgeries on animals but I was wondering if you could help me and teach me about becoming a veterinarian but I’m only 14 years old and I’m going to college soon and really needed some help from an expert

Asked by over 5 years ago

It would take more time and space than we have hear to teach you about becoming a veterinarian. Though I'm not actively writing on my blog, I've talked about this topic a lot over the years, so do a search on You don't know what you want to do in the field when you go to school. Many vet students change their interests and direction several times over the four year training. During the time in school you WILL be required to perform surgeries! It is not an option to elect not to do so, as it is required training as part of the program. If you go into general practice you will also be expected to perform at least routine surgeries such as spays and neuters. However, if you're willing to do training (internship and residency) for 5-6 years after vet school you could become a specialist in an area where you would never have to do surgery again, such as dermatology, behavior, or internal medicine.

Lastly, what have you gained from your experiences in this career?

Asked by Samantha over 5 years ago

A better understanding of animal anatomy and physiology. Greater ability to effectively manage people. Conflict resolution. Greater empathy for people and for pets.

Is vet school really hard?

Asked by Haley over 5 years ago

Extremely! I graduated cum laude in undergraduate, then obtained a Master's degree, and vet school was far harder than either. Imagine how hard you think human medical school may be. Now, realize that you have to know that level of detail about MULTIPLE species! You can't go to school part time and between classes and studying you can't work full time. Most of your social life is out the window. For four years you are doing almost nothing but going to school in the day and studying in the evening. The amount of information you have to learn is incredible. Honestly, getting into and through vet school is harder than the equivalent for human doctors. Not to disparage my human colleagues....they are great, knowledgeable professionals who had to work hard for their education. But there are significant differences between animal species, even dogs and cats, and we have to know all of them.

What is your favorite animal to treat?

Asked by Merle91 over 5 years ago

Typically dogs. Even if they're aggressive they're easier to handle than cats. I also feel more comfortable with their anatomy and physiology compared to the exotics that I see and treat.

What direction did you take to get to this career? Who helped you along the way? What actions did you take to get to your career you have now? When did you start preparing for this career? How did you get started? Why do you work in this field?

Asked by Samantha over 5 years ago

Let me answer this with bullet points.... Direction--Biology major in undergraduate with a BS degree, then a MS in Ethology (not required for vet school, but I had a minor digression in my path), then a DVM Help--My main help was the vet I grew up working for, Dr. John Strasser. He was an incredible mentor and I still use things he taught me. Obviously my parents helped support me. And there were many professors in school who gave me great advice and direction. Actions--Working for a vet before school, finding a good job, spending time consciously working on medical/surgical skills, taking management classes.When--When I was 9! And then it really started when I was 14 and worked for a vet. How--Careful interviewing and picking of my first job.Why--I enjoy medicine, science, and animals.

Has there ever been a time where you felt like ripping the head off of a pet owner but you had to remain nice, calm, and professional? If so what for? Another time have you ever been mandated or voluntary reported something? Are you ever mandated?

Asked by Kyle almost 4 years ago


what are your daily task?

Asked by Oreo about 5 years ago


How did that tiger get COVID?

Asked by asdf about 4 years ago


What do you know about ESA? My dog is heartworm positive and I was wondering when he gets negative, if I could make him an ESA. What do you think?

Asked by Cheryl over 4 years ago