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Monday, December 17, 2012

Veterinary Christmas Wish List

Seth emailed me with the following question.  I was a bit surprised, because in over four years of blogging I haven't been asked this and honestly haven't thought much about it.  

Question please, What do vets want for Christmas? I have been dating vet who own's her own practice and I am trying to think of things that a vet would want for him/herself but may not necessarily buy. Is it a super sweet stethoscope or otoscope? If so which one? Is it something else cool and different? What would you want to get for x-mass? I am a computer guy so, while I minimally understand and appreciate the business end of being a vet, I am pretty clueless about this end of things. Looking forward to your response.

A gift for a vet doesn't have to be specific to veterinary medicine.  In fact, I prefer gifts that have nothing to do with my profession.  I typically ask for action figures, cool geeky t-shirts, books, DVDs, and so on.  The gifts I want generally revolve around my non-veterinary interests because by the time I get home I want to be Chris, not Dr. Bern.  But that's just me.

Personally I wouldn't recommend getting a practical piece of equipment.  First of all, you may break your budget.  A high-quality stethoscope will cost $100-200.  Otoscopes and and other instruments can go higher than that.  If you have that money and want to spend it on her, great.  But just be aware of the costs involved.  Since she owns her own practice she probably already has those things, and if she needs more it becomes a business expense for her and therefore a tax deduction.  It would also be tough for you as a non-vet to pick just the right thing that she wants, as there are many technical issues and preferences that you wouldn't be easily aware of.

Lastly, and forgive me if I'm being a "guy" here or sexist as it's not intended, you're talking about practical gifts.  In my experience a woman really doesn't want gifts like that for gifts and birthdays, despite what the commercials make you think.  Would you give her a new, fancy vacuum cleaner?  What about a set of kitchen utensils?  Probably not.  I know that my wife certainly wouldn't want those as gifts since it's not really "special" and just has to do with day-to-day household tasks.  A stethoscope would be the veterinary equivalent of a vacuum.  It's something you need and a good one does a much better job than a cheap one, but in the end it's a tool and not an object to cherish.  Now if the object was specific to her interests, that would be a different story.  For example, if the kitchen utensils had Mickey Mouse or Tinker Bell my wife would be very interested in them.

So what to get her?

Start with her likes and dislikes.  Depending on what she wears and uses in work you can find medical-related gifts that may show those interests.  For example, I have a scrub top that has "Starfleet Medical Academy" and the logo printed on it (from Star Trek for you non-geeks).  That kind of thing would be a great gift for someone like me!  You can find scrub tops and cloth surgical caps with all kinds of prints and patterns, such as sports teams, animals, cartoon characters, and so on.  There are stethoscopes and stethoscope covers that you can also find with different prints.  Those stethoscopes are an acrylic mold and have a bell on one side, so she may not like that style.

Does she have a favorite breed of dog?  You should be able to find a business card holder that has that breed on it.  Or you can find a desk set with a theme that she likes.  My wife has a Tinker Bell desk set that includes a business card holder, stapler, tape dispenser, paper clip holder, and so on.  I have a similar kind of set that is a Pirates of the Caribbean theme.  As a practice owner I'm sure she has a desk, so that is something that is practical for her to use daily yet can show some fun and personality.

If you want to get her something to use in her practice, get sneaky and question her staff.  They will know her day-to-day pattern and usage better than anyone else.  Her assistants will know if she loves or hates her stethoscope, or if she has dreamed of a fancy electronic one (very pricey but very cool!).  The staff will know if she has a favorite kind of coffee or snack.  They'll know what equipment she's always talking about or what is breaking down in the place.  If they've worked for her for long they'll also know a lot about her personality as a vet.  All of that can help you figure out the gift.

But in the end remember that she's a woman and a person before she's a vet.  She has interests outside of veterinary medicine and may have more passion in those areas than in her job.  Don't limit yourself to a gift related to her profession if she really might like something else.

So what about all of you veterinarians and vet students who read this blog?  Am I on the right track or are there vet-specific gifts you're dying to have?  If this was your boyfriend, would you want him to get you a veterinary gift or something else?  I'd love to hear your comments!

Seth, this is a GREAT topic, and I'm really glad you wrote it!


  1. I totally agree with your sentiments on women in regards to 'sensible' gifts. However, as a student myself i am always in great want of things to cut the cost of education, and so frequently add textbooks to my wish lists. I'm at the point in my life where I'd rather have something useful. I should also point out I'm very passionate when it comes to education and learning new skills, so my husband often gives me gifts to account for that. Last Christmas I received an anatomy for artists book, which combined my love of veterinary medicine, and art that in itself was a sentimental gift in knowing how i love learning.

    In general I think it depends on the person. Maybe donating money to a charity they support in their name, or sponsering/adopting an animal in their name?

    On a side note, thank you for your wonderful blog. I thoroughly enjoy reading about your opinions and experiences as it helps me as a student, to broaden my mind to other incites. I also am quite geeky too and own a rat called Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica :)

  2. I did ask for Pasquini's Equine anatomy book for Christmas, but mostly because I've heard the next term's anatomy book is useless.
    But I am a poor student, and I usually ask for practical gifts, because in general what i need or want most is money to help pay the bills and I feel awkward telling my family I want cash for Christmas. Asking for books is kind of a midway around that. At the same time, I don't expect my boyfriend to get me that book, I asked my mom.

    However once I get set up as a practicing vet with student loan payments under control and a job that lets me afford to live easily I will probably stop asking for textbooks and apartment things.

  3. Chris - I hear you loud clear. This is just one of many gifts that my girlfriend will be getting this year and the rest are all non work (or cleaning) related. Since we both love to spend time together in the kitchen, some of those may be cooking themed. What I was looking for was something that was really nice for her work life that she might not necessarily buy for herself. On the other hand, she will probably use it every day so it may cause her to have happy thoughts when she sees it. For example, she recently bought me a new MacBook Air which I love but would have never bought for myself. Asking her staff is a great idea and I have done that but what I was really looking for was another doctor's opinion. She did, for example, recently mention the Littman Cardio 3 stethoscope (with latex free ear pieces) because she also sees exotics and and has to have the "neonate bell". Can you really have too many stethoscopes ... one for the house one for the car ..... So, knowing that I have already bought her several other non-work related items (many completely impractical), I would love to hear about other gadgets and books might be of interest to your readers.

  4. My Amazon wish list is full of awesome vet med related (read: expensive) books I'd love to have but just can't quite justify spending the money on for myself. Can you ever really have too many books?

    That being said, I still have (and use) the stethoscope my boyfriend bought me for Christmas 7 years ago. If she's dropped the hint already, that sounds like something she'd appreciate.

  5. My girlfriend is a vet. I may have to get her some of these for Christmas soon. Even though its cold in Edmonton, I have to remember that she would hate me if I got her a fur coat. That would be quite rude.

  6. I wouldn't really like to receive veterinary equipment as a present for Christmas or a birthday. As a vet in the Army, though, all most of my equipment needs are taken care of for me! That said, I do put veterinary and animal-related books on my wishlists that I wouldn't otherwise buy for myself.

  7. Get the stethoscope. With her name engraved on it - Littman does that if I remember correctly.

  8. One of my favorite birthday presents from my husband was a Littman Cardiology III stethoscope with my name on it, but then again, that was the summer before I started vet school so vet school was about all I ever thought about! I graduated two years ago and one of my top items on my wishlist is still a veterinary textbook :) Maybe a few years down the line I wouldn't think so much about work, though. I still wouldn't mind a second stethoscope - mine is getting pretty haggard and it'd be nice to have one at work and one at home. I always haul mine back and forth just in case one of my own pets gets sick.

    I love those fabric bouffant caps like those sold on Not only are they better for the environment, but it also lets us women be a little more womanly in the workplace :)

    As much as I love practical presents, I think you should also consider doing something personal as well. If you've been together for a while, maybe consider a personalized calendar or photobook. Jewelry is nice, but I usually prefer necklaces or nondangly earrings for work (the dangle earrings are just asking for trouble with animal patients!).

    I am sure you'll pick out something perfect for her! Merry Christmas to all :)


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