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Veterinarians are Facing a Mental Health Crisis, but Pet Owners Can Help

Practicing veterinary medicine is challenging in more ways than one, and recent studies have illuminated a growing mental health crisis within the profession.

Dr Treat
Veterinarians are Facing a Mental Health Crisis, but Pet Owners Can Help

Key takeaway

It’s important for pet owners to understand the causes behind this growing mental health crisis problem so they can be compassionate supporters of the dedicated veterinarians who play a critical role in the lives of their precious pets.

M
ost veterinarians have known they would go into the animal health profession since they were children.

Driven by their deep love for helping animals, they put in years of hard work in veterinary school, often taking out exorbitant student loans to cover the costly tuition, and now they find great fulfillment caring for animals each day.

#1: They care for your pets like they were their own

When your veterinarian says they care for your pet like they were their own, they mean it. They do everything in their power to give pets the best quality of life, and when their best isn’t enough to save an animal, it cuts them to the core. Sure, they put on a strong, professional face for you, but chances are, they’re wiping away tears the minute you walk out the door.

Compassion fatigue is a term used to describe the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others—often through experiences of stress or trauma—and it’s a common and serious affliction among veterinary professionals. Veterinarians are at high risk for mental illness, suicidal thoughts, and depression. As a pet parent, you see the professional side of your veterinarian, but beneath that Figs scrub is a fellow human being, with their own struggles, fears, insecurities, and worries.

What you can do:

Make a point during your pet’s appointment to acknowledge your veterinarian’s dedication to providing the best care for your pet, and offer a sincere thank you for their work. You’d be amazed at how much this small gesture means to them.

“Compassion fatigue is a common and serious affliction among veterinary professionals. ”

#2: Every day is an emotional roller coaster ride

The grief veterinarians feel when they see their animal patients suffer is just one contributor to the mental health crisis. The daily emotional roller coaster is physically and mentally draining. The ability to grieve and console families as they say goodbye to their beloved family pet, and then hold it together to go into their next appointment, which could be a new puppy check, is necessary, but it’s not easy for any veterinarian.

#3: Their daily schedule is jam-packed

It’s natural to feel frustrated when you’re sitting in the exam room with your pet, and your veterinarian is running late, but rest assured they aren’t in the staff lounge sipping a latte. They could have been called into an emergency situation and are desperately trying to save a pet who means as much to another family as your pet does to you. Perhaps they’re consoling someone who just lost their pet. Or, maybe they’re explaining to a pet parent that the cloudy area on their pet’s X-ray is cancer that has spread.

Veterinary medicine is about being there for the pet parent as much as their pet, and it’s not always easy—or possible—to stay exactly on schedule when dealing with human needs and emotions. Not to mention the many hats that veterinarians wear: pediatrician, radiologist, cardiologist, surgeon, dentist, counselor—or that nearly every veterinary clinic across the country is woefully understaffed.

What you can do:

The next time you’re waiting a few or extra minutes for your pet to be seen, cut your veterinarian some slack, and allow your frustration to transform into gratitude that your pet is not the one on the emergency room table.

Despite the enormous challenges facing veterinary professionals, most still can’t picture doing anything else. As a pet owner, your pet’s well-being is your number one priority. But don’t forget that your veterinarian cares about your pet, too, and that’s why they continue to show up every day, do their best, and help animals—just like they dreamed of as a kid.

Final Notes

At Dr. Treat care providers too are empowered to be their best, in a healthy environment that nurtures, encourages and uplifts them. Personalized medicine demands a narrow and hyper-detailed focus, and each of our clinics offer a limited number of memberships for this same reason. It helps us to maintain the highest customized care standards while also helping our veterinary team maintain their own well-being.

Written by:

Dr Treat

A veterinary practice that is reimagining the approach to the health and wellbeing of companion animals.

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