The Legacy of Veterinarians: Everyday Heroes
“Waiting for the Vet” by Normal Rockwell
In one examination room, a veterinarian counsels a couple about their elderly cat, and the end of life care the cat requires. In another room, the vet’s patient is a pregnant dog, about to become a first time mom. That vet’s conversation centers on animal health.
Every patient requires professionalism, sensitivity and good communication. Pet parents may require sympathy, congratulations, lengthy discussions about choices, and sometimes, even harsh reality.
The profession of a veterinarian requires not only knowledge of treatments, technology and options, but every veterinarian must be able to alleviate fears, encourage pet owners to do make tough choices, and help pet owners to make the best decision possible for their beloved pets. End of life decisions are especially difficult for pet owners, and most rely on the vet to assure them they are doing the right thing.
Sasha’s Loving Veterinarian
Once, a loving dog owner faced a lengthy illness for his dog, Sasha. Sasha was a Silky Terrier who had many end of life challenges. The vet was able to bring Sasha back from the edge of death several times, while claiming that she “wasn’t into heroics.”
Sasha was well loved by her owner, and the owner wanted to do the right thing by her. He says the vet provided the best analysis of what to expect, and what to look for during each leg of Sasha’s illness. The owner trusted the vet so much, he did what she recommended. He can look back now with confidence that he did the right thing.
Sasha’s owner always respected the veterinarian’s professionalism, as well as her sensitivity to the choices he faced. The vet even gave Sasha’s owner her cell phone number, in case of an emergency.
Finally, Sasha needed a feeding tube, and her owner decided to euthanize her. The next day, the vet called to see how he was doing, answer questions, and provide counseling. Soon afterwards, Sasha’s former owner had another elderly dog, which became ill. Again, he was again faced with decisions, but he remained secure in knowing that this dog, Taco, was in good hands, too. For Taco and Sasha’s owner, his task of taking care of sick animals was helped, knowing that their vet was there for all of them.
What Vets Do
Many veterinarians will tell you that over time, they become less sensitive to making end of life decisions. It can be a good thing.
Vets help owners make the best decisions, without their own emotions coming into play. Choices are generally based on an owner’s state of mind, the technology available, and the pet’s suffering. The vet is more professional, but not necessarily insensitive.
It usually takes a veterinary physician eight years of education to become licensed, and there are only 28 schools with veterinarian programs. After four years of regular college, a veterinary student must go through four years of veterinarian education. The first three years are in a classroom, then the next year is spent in a veterinarian clinic, learning all the specialties that animals require. Veterinary students study physiology, anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, zoology, nutrition and genetics. Being accepted into a program and becoming a pet doctor can be as difficult, or more so, than becoming an M.D.
The biggest change in veterinary medicine in the last 50 years is the technology, and the investment vets’ offices or clinics make in order to have it. Vets now use dental equipment, X-ray machines, anesthesia equipment, and just about anything else humans use. The resources needed to get a new vet office started can be expensive.
For more information about veterinarians, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association.
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