Many animal-loving kids grow up thinking they want to be veterinarians, imagining that working with cute and cuddly critters all day long must be a dream job.
But the reality of being a vet isn’t a whole lot different than the reality of being a doctor for humans. You have to have about the same amount of schooling, but you have to know about the biology of many different species. And while helping animals can certainly be rewarding, the truth is that a lot of a vet’s job isn’t all cuddles and cuteness.
Veterinarian Tracy Lee Richardson shared a story from particularly hard day on Facebook to help people understand what vets go through.
“I always post pictures of puppies,” she wrote. “So many of you might think that my job is all rainbows and butterflies. However in reality, it can be the exact opposite.
Today I had to euthanize a very sick dog. During the process, the owner had his son on FaceTime who started to sing a song that he had written for the dog. It was absolutely beautiful. Tears immediately ran down my face, almost in sync with his guitar. I sat in the room with the other family members and just cried my heart out with them.
Unfortunately, that’s not the hard part. I had to eventually leave the room, finish crying in the bathroom and then recompose myself to head into the next exam room. I was praying for my next patient to be a new puppy to brighten my spirits, but it was another sick dog on the brink of euthanasia as well.
This is a HUGE reason the suicide rate is extremely high in my profession. So please always be kind to your veterinarian and veterinary staff. Our jobs are much harder than we give off.
I absolutely love my job. I do not regret becoming a veterinarian, but there are just some days it sucks.”
Many people may not realize that the suicide rate for veterinarians is high. In fact, female vets are about 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. Some of it is the depressing nature of the euthanasia aspect of the job. But in addition to compassion fatigue, vets are also often mistreated by their patients’ owners. People don’t like having to pay for medications or services for animals, and vets report consistently being asked to have fees waived. When you’re dealing with huge medical school debt and then have customers get angry because they don’t want to pay you, it’s rough.
So be kind to your vet and their staff. They’re likely dealing with a lot more stress than we realize.