What do you do for a living? iStock_000004407350XSmall.jpg

I treat sick animals and I put up with people.

How would you describe what you do?

In veterinary medicine you’ve got to do two things: you treat the animal, and then you’ve got to use psychology on the owner. Everyday I put up with people like that. And I make the joke that one end of the leash is easy to deal with. The other end of the leash is very difficult to deal with. If a person can’t deal with these individuals that are very demanding, that read the Internet too much, that think they know everything, if you can’t look past those people, and, bite your tongue at times, you won’t get very far.

Quick Facts!
How much do veterinarians make per year?
According to payscale.com veterinarians make between $50,000 and $90,000 per year.

How to become a veterinarian?You will need a high school education, a college degree typically in a field of animal studies or biology, and 4 years of veterinary school. Read on to see how this veterinarian got his start and what he said about the requirements need to become a veterinarian.

But, you know, we’re really treating people psychologically, and we’re treating the animal in their health needs; whether it’s cosmetic surgery or whether it’s sick animals’ treatment, routine health care, or disease prevention. It’s a broad spectrum of needs that the animals have. And then you add the mix of the people into it, and that’s what we do here everyday. Everyday. And some days, if the moon is full, we the wackos¦You think I’m lying, but they come in that front door one after another. The ones that you just say, Oh, God, you know, they’re coming in again?

What does your work entail?

I come in at 7:30 and I begin treatment of sick animals, and I have my practice a lot different than others. I believe that the animal is in better care at home than it is sitting back here all night without anybody around it.

When you save an animal’s life or some little old lady comes in here and gives you a hug because you have saved her animal’s life. That’s what it’s all about. Some people don’t think it is. Some people think it’s money. The most rewarding thing to me is what I do for the animal.

So, all my sick animals come in between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning, the ones I’m treating on a daily basis. I get through that, answer telephone calls, and then spend two hours doing surgery. Most are routine surgeries: spays and neuters and ear trims and tail docks, de-claws, whatever anybody wants done to their animals. And then you have your emergency surgeries¦you’ve got things that are more of a medical need rather than the routine stuff.

And then after lunch, I spend from 1:00 until 5:00 doing routine health care for animals. That’s when I have my clinics. And I used to spend”when I did large animals”from 6:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night, full tilt. Now, I’m here about eight hours a day, and I try to put everything I can do into eight hours, and that’s Monday through Friday, with emergencies at night, and a few Saturdays from eight to twelve doing routine stuff. I try not to do any of my surgeries on weekends. And then Sunday, hopefully, you sit down and you don’t have anything to do.

How did you get started as veterinarian?

I grew up on a farm and I enjoyed working with the animals there. And we had an old time veterinarian there that was pretty rough around the edges. I worked farm animals, I worked for people, I did routine healthcare for sheep and cattle and things, and I just kind of migrated that way.

At some point I finally decided that was what I wanted to do for my life’s work. I knew it when I was fourteen or fifteen years old, but it’s something that takes many people a while to figure out. There’s some place along the way that the light finally comes on and says, This is what I want to do. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s what most people in veterinary medicine do.

What do you like about what you do?

I like the challenge of diagnostics. I like the satisfaction of saving an animal’s life. I like the things that we do to make animals live longer, live more productive lives, spaying and neutering, and all healthcare. Now our cats are living to seventeen or eighteen years of age, and our dogs are fifteen and sixteen, and when I started practice, if you had a fourteen-year old cat, it was old. And then once in a while, it’s rewarding when somebody comes up and thanks you for what you’ve done for (Fifi) or (Foofoo). If money was in it, I wouldn’t have done large animal. Because large animal[care] was rewarding; delivering calves and treating sick animals, and the fire engine calls were lots of fun, but there was no money in it. There never is any money.

The animal has very little ability to tell you where it hurts; whether they’re feeling better or whether you’re doing the right thing…Diagnosing sick animals is the most challenging part of it all…

Now, the equine specialists, they get lots of money. But it takes a person that can really bullshit to be an equine specialist. And it takes a certain person to be any kind of a specialist. You’ve got to kind of bullshit your way through it.

What do you dislike?

Probably the biggest thing I dislike about it is having to put up with the general public. I don’t mind the hours working. Some people do, not me. But, people griping, complaining about a bill or, you know, it just kind of¦you can be having a great day, and somebody come in and complain about their bill, and it just ruins your whole day. That’s the thing that I hate about it. I really do.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

Disease prevention, vaccinations, routine healthcare is probably where most of the income is generated. Surgery can be a source of income. The sale of healthcare products: flea products, heartworm preventions, even prescription dog foods is another source of income. Probably the thing that you get least for your time is in diagnostic and treating sick animals, as far as your percentage of time you spend with an animal, compared to what you do with the routine things: the vaccinations and healthcare¦But, those are your areas where you make money.

How much money do you make as a veterinarian?

You know, in a single-man practice like mine that’s established, grossing a half a million dollars, is probably going to take home $100,000…..These multi-million dollar practices, multi-practice, some of them are making $250,000. But that takes a long time to get that and you have a lot of people working for you.

Are there any perks to this career?

I enjoy most of the animals and I enjoy a certain part of my clientele. It’s something to come in here and be able to know that you’ve got a group of people that think a lot of you and you think a lot of them, and the friendships that you make over the years. A lot of my large animals clients, I still have a great friendship with.

But I think probably the biggest perk is the true friendships that you develop with the people because what you’ve done for their animals or have done for them¦That is probably the biggest thing that I think I can, right off the top of my head. You know, compared with all this other stuff the money is nothing. Hopefully, a few of them will show up at my funeral. That’s the goal. And also the respect. Most of the time, people respect you.

Is there anything you find exciting about this career?

When I was doing large animal; obstetrics, delivering calves, doing that was the most exciting part of the practice. Because every one was different. The exciting part of what I enjoy doing more than anything in this practice is surgery, whether it’s general surgery or whether it’s emergency. I enjoy it because it’s just me and the dog in there, and one other person. I think it’s probably the most rewarding part of this thing is the surgery that you do: the saving the lives, the making lives better. I just enjoy the hell out of surgery.

What education or skills are needed to do be a veterinarian?

Well, of course, you have to have four years of college. With the right classes, the right grade point average, having an advisor that gets you down the right path, being in a state that has a veterinary school has a lot of advantages. This state does not have a veterinary school, so they have to rely on contracts with other surrounding states to take so many veterinarians a year. Some people even if they don’t get into a veterinary school on their first application, they have to continue on with maybe a masters in some field, or just continue on with some more education. And then there is four years of veterinary school. There is no internship unless you want to specialize in something, and go and have an internship with a qualified veterinarian that is a specialist in his field. And that’s it on education. That’s it. You know, really, if you get in and go out and practice, it takes eight years.

A person should like sciences, they should like math, they should like to work hard, have as high a grade point average as you can have, and most of them have to work for a veterinarian, either during summer during their four years before they get into school. You have to have some degree of intelligence. You have to apply yourself and be able to make a four point grade average or as high as you can get to a four point average. Sciences and math are so important, you have to have a desire and ability¦And some people just can’t get science. Some people can’t get math. And you’ve got to have skills in both of those areas in order to make your way in college and toward the prerequisites that you have to have for veterinary school.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Diagnostics. The animal has very little ability to tell you where it hurts; whether they’re feeling better or whether you’re doing the right thing. You have to rely on the owner, you have to rely on the sixth sense. Diagnosing sick animals is the most challenging part of it all¦Diagnosing and being able to have a working relationship with that animal to know whether it is doing better, and taking history from the fifteen to twenty minutes you spend with a person in there¦I can’t have somebody come in with a sick dog, and drop it off and say, Here, fix it. Because I’ve got to have a whole lot more information than that. Diagnosing sick animals is probably the most difficult and challenging of all the things that we do.

What is most rewarding about being a veterinarian?

When you save an animal’s life. When you save an animal’s life or some little old lady comes in here and gives you a hug because you have saved her animal’s life. That’s what it’s all about. Some people don’t think it is. Some people think it’s money. The most rewarding thing to me is what I do for the animal.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Be damn sure this is what you want to do. It’s a long ways through veterinary school. The first year is probably the most grueling part of the whole thing. The gross anatomy where you’ve got all these species of animals to learn about. You have to have dedication, and have patience, and you need to have a work ethic.

It ain’t an 8-5 job, there are many times you have to put in longer hours. I’d say that most veterinary students come away from school with about $150,000 in debt, and that takes a lot out of your income to start with. It’s a difficult road the first five years out of school. You just don’t come out of veterinary school and say, Here I am. I’m a veterinarian, you know, ¦and you’re going to get this big salary, and life is going to be great. It’s not. The person needs to have patience, and want, and have a desire. There has to be that desire to be a veterinarian. Just because it looks like it might be monetarily rewarding, it won’t be for a while.

How much time off do you get/take?

Personally, all I take off is one week a year. And I’m not the normal. Most veterinarians today that go into a group practice, they will get probably a month off a year. I would say that’s going to be pretty well normal. But not for somebody that’s a single-man practice. You don’t get to take off a week here, a week there, you know. People get tired of you not being around and go someplace else, because it’s very easy for them to just go across the street or down the road. Here in this town we have seven or eight clinics.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

That we make lots of money. That is the most common misconception. We are probably the lowest paid of all the professionals. If you talk about lawyers and dentists and even chiropractors. You could even put chiropractors in there. You know, we’re probably one of the lowest paid professional group that there is. That’s the biggest misconception. That we are filthy rich, and we ain’t. We just¦we’re just about like anybody that has a business. Just making it¦

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

It’s to be able to slow down in five years and to work part-time. I don’t ever foresee completely retiring unless I am unable to perform. This has been my life work, so I’m not going to give it up that easily. I don’t want to give it up that easily.