The Many Hats I Wear as a Veterinarian

Posted October 15, 2013

If I asked you what I do for a living, most would answer “take care of sick animals”. That’s the hat most people see me wear and are happy enough with that. However, my role in society is much more complicated and there a lot of other hats I sometimes wear.

1) Public Health Hat: Vets inspect every piece of meat sold through public outlets. Although I don’t do that, my education includes microbiology, food-borne illness and diseases spread from animals to people (zoonoses). This is why I don’t want people to feed raw food…. your dog may be OK, for now, but you are risking your own health. It’s also why I recommend rabies and leptospirosis vaccination for families with young children or heavy wildlife exposure. I am not doing it for some imagined reward from pet food or vaccine companies. It’s just the right thing to do for your own safety.

2) Family Counselor Hat: Our pets are often euthanized at the end of their lives. That is an incredibly sad, gut-wrenching time that reminds us how big a role our pets play in our happiness. My task is not only to end his/her suffering compassionately and painlessly, but also to help the family deal with this loss. Maybe this isn’t any of my business, since I am not a grief counselor. However, after 26 years of witnessing families go through this, I have valuable perspectives to give parents of young children, children of aged parents, and even schoolteachers who must gently tell 30 kids about the death of their classroom bunny. As many of you know, I take this role very seriously and do my very best.

3) Myth-Buster Hat: I never thought I would have to explain and refute label claims, internet rumors, and the “wise” words from a cashier. Clients ask me every day about something they heard, read on the internet, or were told by a pet store cashier. Here are a few of my favorites:

“ I heard that I can deworm my cat by feeding him a cigarette!” (good luck with that)

“ Vaccinations caused my dog’s ear infection.” ( Ok, if it was injected in the ear!)

“ My cat gave me a Herpes infection!” (…..ummm……)

“ The pet store said Vet Diets are sold for profit!” (Absolutely, like everything in the pet store, grocery store, farmer’s market, etc etc)

“ I read on the internet that my Swiffer caused my dog’s kidneys to fail” (no it didn’t)

The other hats I wear include public protection (from unscrupulous vets), legal advisor (“what can I do about my neighbor’s dangerous dog?”), and even travel consultant (taking your pets across international borders).

I am not complaining – far from it! These many hats make me proud of my profession, and make me feel like a necessary resource for all families, even those without a pet. Next time you see a bug on your kid’s neck….who yah gonna call?

Dr. Ray

(with creative and content credit to Dr. Christy Corp-Minamiji)

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