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Lifestyle

What they don’t tell you about becoming a veterinarian

How to prepare for this unpredictable (and rewarding) career.

“The Black Stallion” is one of the initial reasons I am a practicing veterinarian today. The movie focuses on a boy and a horse who survived a shipwreck together and developed a special bond. I was only 7 years old when I first saw the film, but I was in awe and knew I wanted to help save animals. 

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Dr. Kwane Stewart (also known as “The Street Vet”) — I’ve been a practicing veterinarian for over 25 years and am currently a member of Fetch by The Dodo’s Veterinary Advisory Board. 

Being a veterinarian comes with its high and low moments, but it’s very fulfilling. So, for all of you future vets, I’m here to share what I’ve learned about the veterinary profession to help you navigate this path. 

What are some qualities that make a great veterinarian? 

Compassion is key when it comes to being a veterinarian. But, after so many years in this profession, I've realized that it's also good to have patience, grace and the ability to separate yourself from work.

How to become a veterinarian

Students who choose to study veterinary medicine usually get an undergraduate degree and then attend veterinary school, which usually takes around 8 years in total. 

And don't be surprised if you have to make sacrifices along the way. So many nights, my friends were out socializing, and I was studying under the light of a desk lamp. But those are the things you give up to succeed, and it was worth it in the end for me. 

RELATED: Here’s what you need to know about your pet’s first vet visit

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Are there additional certifications that veterinarians should have?

Not necessarily. Your experience in veterinary school is so thorough that you'll likely be set up for success when you graduate. However, if you're interested in more schooling, veterinarians can pursue a specialty in any discipline, like dermatology, surgery or internal medicine. 

What does a day in the life of a veterinarian look like? 

There isn't a typical day for veterinarians, and I love how this makes the profession dynamic and exciting. Some moments are mundane and slow, but that can change within seconds. 

What is the hardest part about being a veterinarian? 

Veterinary work is unpredictable, and many veterinarians experience something called "compassion fatigue," usually because of losing or euthanizing patients. Doing things you enjoy can help ease the hard times. For example, I enjoy exercising or spending time with kids (including my own pets!). 

Personally, being a veterinarian has been fulfilling. The profession is so diverse in the different areas you can pursue and continue learning, growing and having fun. 

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by Dr. Kwane Stewart

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