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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Questions From A Prospective Vet Student, Part 1

Jasmine recently emailed me with quite a lot of questions.  Over the next few days I'll try and address them.  Here's the first part!

I am currently a first year student at the University of Alberta, enrolled in the faculty of science. All my life I have had a strong love for the well-being of animals of all shapes and sizes, and have a firm belief in the proper ethical treatment of animals. The past year I have been wondering what type of road I would take to the career that would have major involvement with the proper treatment and health of all animals. I have established some sort of path for myself where I'd like to get into the 4 year DVM program at the University of Calgary to become a practicing veterinarian, as well as take part in a project such as PETA for the ethical part of how animals are treated. Would something like this be possible? Or would the workload of being a veterinarian be too much to juggle without the extra curricular?

Let's start here.  First, just be aware that there are many vets who have poor opinions of PETA because of the often questionable practices of this group.  There's also a difference between "animal rights" and "animal welfare", so be aware of the distinction and where you stand.  As part of veterinary training you'll be dealing with livestock and production facilities for farm animals.  There are some debates on treatment of various aspects of poultry, swine, and beef production and you'll have to deal with this yet still make it through these aspects of veterinary college.

Attending veterinary school is a full-time job by itself, and leaves little time for anything else if you really want to put your full effort into it.  That being said, you can't be in school or studying 24/7. Depending on what kind of project or activity you're involved in, you do have time to do other things, as long as school is still your priority.  Also, there are often extra projects and reports you will be required to do as part of class, and you can do a project like this for credit.

And are there any activities I can participate in such as volunteering at a clinic to better prepare myself for what's to come? Or any courses I should consider taking this early on in my university experience that would greatly benefit my decision as to whether I would choose to become a veterinarian or not?

First and foremost I would recommend finding a job at a local veterinary practice. If you want to find out what day-to-day life as a veterinarian is like, there simply is no other way.  You'll get to see the hard cases, the gross and disgusting things, and the long hours required.  Courses in anatomy and physiology will help get you into the medical mindset, as well as see if you can handle the degree and detail of knowledge that you will learn in vet school.  But above everything else, you should learn about the daily life and trials of a vet, and this can only really come from working for one.  Some veterinary schools also require experience working in the field prior to acceptance in vet school, so check the requirements of where you'll b applying.  You can also consider volunteering at an animal shelter, though this isn't always directly related to veterinary medicine.

Tomorrow, more of Jasmine's questions.


  1. Poor opinion of PETA is putting it very, very mildly :)

  2. I would completely agree, Parrot. The large majority of vets I know or have heard of are very much against PETA. However, I didn't want to get into a big PETA argument in this post, so I purposefully understated the comment. ;)

    And just to head off future comments, I know that a discussion of PETA will set off a firestorm of arguments that will probably dwarf any that I've seen on this blog. I'm not opposed to doing it, but don't plan on doing so in response to Jasmine's questions. Any commenters can feel free to voice their opinions, and I won't edit them (as should be obvious by now...I value freedom of speech and expression and won't ever delete a comment just because I disagree with it). However, I'm not going to personally argue or debate positions on PETA at this time.

  3. What HP said. :-)

    I am an ethical veterinarian. Some of my practice includes racetrack work, where I am heavily involved in humane treatment of racehorses, improving management, careers after racing, etc. I support the AAEP guidelines for pari-mutuel racing, quarantine barns, out-of-competition testing, and enhanced doping screens. My clients actually trust and LISTEN to me, and as a result, I'm able to at least influence trainers every day. This has been hard-won, as I'm female and did not grow up in a racing environment.

    I think I'm making a greater difference within the racing industry than I ever would as a PETA member, demanding an end to horse racing. The same is probably true of many food animal and laboratory animal veterinarians, too: If you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

  4. Here is a great resource for any pre-vets:


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