As I’ve mentioned, this summer I’m working in an equine clinic, but I’ve also had the chance to shadow in a small animal practice. It’s given me a nice comparison of both worlds and is helping me see the pros and cons of going either large or small. I’ve always wanted to be a large animal vet, but there are definitely some major perks to being a small animal vet as well. This “in between” has caught me in a sort of battle with my planned career goal (they said this would happen to us the first day of vet school). Anyway, here’s a list of the pros and cons I’ve come up with while mucking stalls and thinking to myself.
First, for small animal–
Regular office hours. This means sleeping regularly, having a normal social life, and not having to rely on your phone constantly to tell you when to show up somewhere. Though I do recognize that emergencies happen and can change this, patients are often referred to emergency clinics.
Cleanliness. Though anal glands and surgery contribute to some messy situations, there is a much greater chance you will be urinated on in large animal practice. Not to mention farms aren’t generally kept as a sterile environment and wiped down after every patient. Can I mention rectal exams?
Cats. I have a cat, and most of the time I love her, but a lot of times cats become the terrors from my nightmares in vet clinics. Nails fly at you at the speed of light. Then all of a sudden, teeth are sunk into your hand. Then the cat is running off peeing and pooping all over the clinic as you sit there stunned and bleeding. Enough said.
Indoors. I love being outside. Vet school often has me itching to see the sun I so desperately miss, and I imagine I would be the same way if confined to a clinic all day.
Now, large animals–
Outdoors. In the opposing view to the small animal clinic, large animal medicine has you out on farms, driving around the country, exploring the area and breathing in fresh air. If I stayed in New England, however, that would also mean practicing in negative temperatures and snow storms.
Farmers. The words that come out of farmers’ mouths are always entertaining. They have great personalities and love and care for their animals. The animals’ well-being is basically their well-being, too, so they do what it takes to keep their animals happy and healthy. Preventive care is huge and used extremely well.
Size matters. Yes, cats and dogs can bite and scratch you, but that doesn’t compare to getting pinned between a cow and a wall, or getting a kick to the head from a horse. Large animals are tough on your body.
Money. The economy has been hard on farms. I’ve said a million times before that money is not why I’m getting into this profession, but I will have a ton of loans to pay back, so it has to be thought of at least.
With all of this being said, both career paths provide a wealth of interesting cases and opportunities. The animals come attached to humans, who may cherish them or not care as much as you’d like them to. You might have great working relationships with certain clients and not so great with others. You might have to euthanize a patient you’ve known since it was a baby. Emergencies always throw off the plan for the day. There are a ton of things that don’t change, regardless of whether large or small animal medicine is being practiced. I can definitely say mixed animal practice is an option for the future. I could get the best of both worlds!