Doctor Paul Sedlacek of Animal Clinic of Morris Plains, NJ, with a Japanese Chin Dog patient.
A veterinarian faces multiple and varied challenges every day. From major surgery to well check-ups, there isn’t much a vet can’t do, and a good deal of it is dealt with on a regular basis. While there is no typical day in the life of a veterinarian, with so many different types of animals with different needs to attend to, the days do follow some general patterns. So whether you’re interested in becoming a vet or just want a glimpse into the life of the person who cares for your beloved pets, here’s a general outline of what a vet at our hospital goes through each day.
The first thing a vet generally does upon arriving at work in the morning is to attend to the current hospital whether medical or surgical. All of the new arrivals have to be examined to determine whether they should be admitted, and blood work needs to be performed in many cases to aid in that determination. Animals that will have surgery that day also need pre-anesthesia medication and blood-work to make sure there are no potential complications that need to be addressed.
Once these immediate cases have been attended to, pre-scheduled patient appointments can begin. These could involve anything from a new patient check-up to a directed exam to determine why a normally healthy pet isn’t themselves. Other reasons for routine vet appointments include vaccinations and well-exams, post-surgical check-ups, suture removal, and many more. The types of animals a vet may see also includes a long and diverse list of options, from dogs and cats to birds, snakes, and hamsters.
The type of animal being seen dictates to a certain extent some details of a routine exam. But most exams will still follow the same general guidelines and hit on the same types of points. The vet will usually start things off by asking the owner some questions about the pet’s recent behavior, activity level, eating and drinking habits, the type of food they’re eating, and whether or not they’re taking any type of supplements. The vet may also ask about other specific issues related to the age of the pet, and anything else the owner may have noticed recently or be concerned about.
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The exam will also include a thorough set of vital signs including heart rate, temperature, and respiration rate, and the vet will usually listen to the animal’s heart and lung sounds as well. They also use both their eyes and hands to check the animal’s entire body, often including the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and teeth as well to search for signs of developing problems that may not have caused noticeable symptoms yet. Finally, the vet may conclude the visit by ensuring the animal is up to date with all recommended vaccinations and suggesting any diagnostic screening tests they feel would be appropriate. Possible tests include x-rays, a urinalysis, blood tests, a heart worm test, or a fecal parasite test.
Depending on the number of surgeries and appointments scheduled for the day, our vets may begin operating in the late morning to early afternoon. Vets perform all types of surgeries on many different types of animals, but some of the most common procedures include spaying and neutering, tooth extractions, the removal of masses, both benign and malignant, and surgeries to repair ligaments and tendons in joints. Animals may also require surgeries to address issues such as bladder stones, or to deal with bite wounds and other types of trauma. The list is exhaustive.
Once all surgeries for the day have been completed, the vet may take some time to catch up on paperwork or other administrative tasks, such as updating owners on the state of their hospitalized or post-surgery pet. They may also take on some last minute or emergency appointments depending on the situation. Any given day for a vet can bring a variety of challenges and a diverse set of experiences, but one thing is for certain – it is never dull.