Veterinarian is a dream career, but what is the day-to-day reality of this job? Take a look at a day in the life of a veterinarian.
The World Veterinary Association has over 500,000 members from around the world, which means there are even more veterinarians than that.
If you’re thinking of joining this career path, you may be wondering what a day in the life of a veterinarian is like. Knowing this will help you better understand what to expect and if this job is right for you.
Keep reading to learn more about what a veterinarian might do throughout their day.
Responsibilities of Veterinarians
Veterinarians have too many responsibilities to list in their entirety, but they all fall into two main categories.
The most important thing a veterinarian can do for an animal is to determine what’s wrong with it. Without knowing what part of the animal’s body is failing, there’s no way for the animal to be treated and recover.
There are a number of ways a diagnosis can be made, including:
- Physical examination
- Learning the pet’s history
- Blood chemistry panels
- Microscopic analysis of stool, urine, blood, or other samples
In most cases, a combination of these methods and several others are used to come up with the correct diagnosis of a medical condition.
Only after a diagnosis is made can a treatment be recommended by the veterinarian. The vet will use what she knows about the condition, its severity, and the pet itself to determine the best treatment for each case.
A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian
Let’s go through everything a vet may do in their day. Keep in mind that there are many different types of veterinarians, so each one will have a different day.
A veterinarian who works with farm animals, for example, will spend most of his time on the road visiting large animals. However, a vet at a wildlife preserve may primarily care for orphaned wild animals.
Since the most common type of vet is a small animal veterinarian who stays in their practice, that’s the day we’re going to look at.
Check on Hospitalized Patients
The first thing a veterinarian does when she arrives for the day is checks on any animals that spent the night at the clinic. Sometimes, animals are dropped off for surgery the day before or stay for a day after a procedure.
Other times, animals are sick and hospitalized at the clinic for around-the-clock monitoring. This is more common in clinics that have 24-hour emergency services since animals that are too sick to go home often need constant care.
If animals need attention, veterinarians will provide it or let a veterinary technician or assistant know to feed, walk, or care for an animal.
Most veterinary clinics prefer to perform surgery first thing in the morning. That way, it gives them enough time to recover at the clinic so they can go home with their owner later that day.
At clinics with multiple veterinarians, one or two may be assigned to do surgeries in the morning or all day while others take regular appointments. At smaller clinics, a vet may only do a couple of procedures in the morning before he starts taking appointments.
The bulk of a veterinarian’s day is taken up by appointments. There are five basic types of appointments a vet may take, so we’re going to go into more details about what each of those looks like in a moment.
No matter what type of appointment it is, there’s typically a procedure that’s followed.
The veterinary technician brings the animal in, checks their vitals, and takes a history from the owner. They then bring the most important information to the veterinarian.
The vet goes into the exam room, checks the animal, and asks the owner any additional questions. When being brought in for medical problems, the vet will then order various tests which the veterinarian or technicians will run.
Once everything is taken care of, the owner and pet are free to leave.
Now, let’s look deeper into what each of these types of appointments may involve.
1. Vaccines and Check-Ups
Pet owners should be bringing their pet into the veterinary clinic once per year for a general checkup and to have any vaccines updated. They will often get heartworm tests at this time and be checked for parasites.
Older animals may also get bloodwork done which can uncover problems before the animal starts showing symptoms. In some cases, this can save an animal’s life since early intervention is often key to treating liver and kidney problems.
2. Medical Exams
A medical examination occurs when a pet has something wrong with it. These appointments can move quickly if the problem is easy to diagnose, like an ear infection. They can also last for hours if the problem is more difficult to diagnose.
During these exams, the veterinarian will order a variety of tests to be performed. In many cases, these tests are performed by veterinary technicians and assistants while the vet visits other patients.
Once the results are gathered, the veterinarian makes the diagnosis or else orders more tests to determine what condition the animal has. They may also consult with other vets to figure out what’s wrong with the animal.
Then, a treatment plan is formed. Depending on the diagnosis, there are a number of things that may happen at this point:
- Owner is sent home with medication
- Injections are given at the clinic
- Surgery is performed or scheduled
- Other forms of treatment are administered
Sometimes, the vet clinic is not capable of providing the level of care or type of treatment needed for the pet’s condition. In those cases, the owner and pet will be referred to a specialist who can provide that for them.
Not all medical problems will require an owner to bring their animal back for a recheck. In fact, many times, veterinarians will simply call owners to find out how their pets are doing following the treatment.
However, there are other cases in which rechecks are important. For example, when kidney and liver problems are present it’s crucial to continue to monitor the levels of certain proteins and chemicals in the blood.
Other pets will need forms of treatment that can only be given at the veterinary clinic, like those who need injectable medication or fluid treatments. These pets will then need to visit the veterinarian more often to ensure their condition is being managed properly.
Sometimes, a pet’s life is in danger and the owner can’t wait to set an appointment. When an emergency comes in, a veterinarian acts quickly to save that animal’s life, putting off all other appointments until the situation is resolved.
The unfortunate truth is that the final type of appointment a veterinarian may have during their day deals with the end of a pet’s life. In an ideal world, this would only happen after an animal has lived a long, happy, healthy life.
However, the truth is that many animals are euthanized long before they reach their expected lifespan. This may be as a result of an accident, genetic disorder, or disease.
In some cases, owners can’t afford the treatment necessary to save their pet and have to choose economic euthanasia.
While euthanasia is never easy, it is the job of a veterinarian and all involved staff members to perform the procedure professionally while being respectful of the owners at all times.
Paperwork is the least fun part of a veterinarian’s day. However, it’s an essential one. Information about the treatment and diagnosis must be recorded for each pet the vet saw that day.
This is important for two reasons. First and foremost, a vet cannot possibly remember everything about every patient she sees every day. To make sure she has updated information about each case, she needs to record everything.
The other reason is that in bigger practices, a pet may be seen by multiple veterinarians. If a new vet doesn’t know about what treatments are being done on a pet, the results could be disastrous.
The last thing a veterinarian may do at the end of the day is transfer sick patients. If an emergency hospital is connected to their clinic, they’ll simply provide all the treatment information to the night shift vets.
If they don’t have this service, the pet may be physically moved to a 24-hour vet clinic so they can get the care they need during the night. In most cases, the owner is responsible for taking their pet to another clinic.
Want to Learn About Other Career Options?
Now you know what a day in the life of a veterinarian is like.
As you can see, veterinarians may do many things throughout their day which makes this an exciting line of work. You simply never know what’s going to walk through the door!
If you’re not sure this career path is right for you, check out the Biz section of our blog. There, you can learn about other career options so you can find the perfect one for you!