I accepted a seat at vet school three years ago equally interested in both large and small animal medicine. I was hoping that my interests would manifest themselves as my schooling progressed, but I seemed to love everything, except perhaps reproduction. Some of my classmates (and myself included) picked Tufts precisely because it’s a school that doesn’t track, which would allow us more time to explore the different fields before having to choose a broad career track like bovine, equine, or small animals.
This spring I spent two weeks at a mixed animal externship in western New York, trying to answer the question: “Should I pursue mixed animal medicine or small animal medicine only?” The first week, spent at the small animal clinic, was solidly familiar: lots of wellness exams, spay and neuter surgeries, and some orthopedic surgeries. I enjoyed the chance to perform my first cat spay, which went remarkably fast due to the smaller size and better visualization in comparison to my 3rd-year canine spay patients.
The second week, spent riding with various ambulatory vets, was illuminating for many reasons. I felt like I gained a good appreciation for both the lifestyle and medicine practiced by large animal vets in this dairy-rich region; and I found, to my slight disappointment, that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy the lifestyle of being constantly on the road, spending much of your day alone. And as silly as it sounds, I didn’t enjoy spending the majority of my day in overalls and muck boots, flecked in urine and manure. But most of all, I wasn’t excited at the prospect of herd health checks or colic work-ups the way I get excited about wellness exams.
It can be tough to choose what species and what field you wish to work in as a veterinarian because the medicine you’ll practice and the lifestyle you’ll live will vary greatly depending on your decision.