Welcome to vet school! You’re likely here because you grew up surrounded by animals, you might have a list of names of your future pets, or you’ve acquired a mini zoo from working in clinics. Either way, if you’ve chosen a career dedicated to helping animals, there’s a good chance you want one for yourself. Vet school might seem like a good time to get a dog. And in some ways, it is! But there are some things to consider before you bring home your furry friend.
I acquired my pup spring semester from a clinic I worked at while she was just a puppy. Having 2 to 3 obligatory walks a day turned out to be great for me- it got me out of bed and broke up my studies, as well as keeping me active. Being an out-of-state student at my school, having my dog also gave me a great way to explore new hikes and trails nearby and to meet new people. There is a dog park in the school’s town which allowed me to get to know a lot of my classmates better as well as other young adults. In terms of finances, being enrolled in vet school automatically enrolls you in many discount programs. Hills, Purina, and Royal Canin- to name a few- all offer extremely reasonable feeding plans for student pets. My university’s hospital also offers a discount for student’s pet medical care, as well as local clinics in the area since it is heavily a college town. Representatives from various animal pharmaceutical companies often give free samples of products to vet students too. Another perk to having your own pet is that you always have a pet to practice what you’re learning in the classroom. I practiced my physical exam, studied anatomy, and practiced getting used to my stethoscope on my pet. Along with that, many wet labs allow you to bring your own pet to learn on. Our internal medicine club did a “cardio workup” on our own dogs.
Something to really consider when thinking about getting a pet is the time commitment. The studies aside, especially VM1, a lot of time is committed to actual time in the classroom. The beast to tackle year one is anatomy, which is purely a time commitment course. Since its imperative to be in the lab for learning, I spent on average 8-10 hours a week outside of my scheduled class time studying anatomy. When scheduling these study periods into my week, I always had to consider getting home in a reasonable amount of time for my dog’s bathroom breaks and meals. Also, many clubs will host speakers during lunch. Since I personally have to drive the distance from school to home, I often have to opt-out of meetings to care for my dog. As you may know, it seems to be an uncanny trend in the veterinary profession that our pets always end up with the craziest health problems (I say this as I book an appointment with a dental specialist for my pup). Now, maybe it’s a coincidence, but pet emergencies are not something we can plan for, and since income is little during school, pet insurance is an investment to consider making with a pet.
Overall, having a pet in vet school has significantly helped me manage my stress. There is nothing more uplifting after a stressful day at school than to be greeted by puppy kisses. Although my days are largely planned around the care of my dog, the benefits definitely outweigh the stresses. It’s also a good reminder and motivator of the human-animal bond we as future veterinarians are working to preserve in our future patients and owners.