Practicing veterinary medicine is in a lot of ways like practicing human medicine -- except your patients cannot speak words and usually are of other species. Both professions are alike in that they are not without their challenges. Being a vet can be downright dangerous both to your body and to your mindset.
Bites, Scratches and Other Injuries
Animals don't always make the most compliant patients. Veterinarians must deal with dogs and cats that bite and scratch, especially when they are agitated by a medical procedure, illness or injury Veterinarians dealing with hoofstock have to watch out for being kicked or, if they are in front of a horned animal, gored.
Infections and Illnesses
Like humans, animals carry diseases, and many of them can be transmitted across species lines to the veterinarian. Zoonotic infections, which are those that cross species from animals to humans, include rabies, toxoplasmosis, hookworm and roundworm. Even if you don't catch one, you could still end up with allergies or dermatitis from being exposed to pet hair and dander for at least eight hours a day.
Malpractice Suits and Licensing Actions
Just like human medical professionals, veterinarians are subject to the tort system. If you make a mistake that could be construed as malpractice, you may find yourself being sued by the animal's owners. While animal malpractice judgments are typically much lower than human malpractice cases, they are nevertheless a drain on your time. At the same time, you are also at risk of having the disgruntled owner report you to the state licensing board. This can put your license to practice veterinary medicine at risk.
Physical and Mental Stress
Even if none of these other dangers affects you, veterinary work is still challenging. You spend a great deal of time standing and working in positions that are less than ergonomically perfect, and this can lead to orthopedic injuries. Most vets work long hours, and most are in sole or small-group practices that present the challenges of running a small business and being subject to the ebbs and flows of the economy. The stress of these two factors can also take a toll on your psyche and health.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.