This is not meant to be a post that will delve into the many, many reasons why veterinary experience is important (and often required) to have before applying to veterinary school. Surely there are obvious reasons; for instance, you will gain a better understanding of the field of veterinary medicine. With even the slightest amount of experience in a vet clinic, you will realize that it’s not all puppies and kittens; there is a lot of urine, feces, anal glands, blood, and otherwise gross (no pun intended) pathology that often presents on a daily basis in a veterinary clinic. (Okay, okay, pun intended!)
Sure there are many veterinary students and pre-vets that have some obscure fascination with abscesses, but I have yet to meet a person who has enjoyed expressing anal glands. It’s not fun, it smells bad, but it needs to be done.
More than anything else, I have found during my summer as an extern at the San Francisco SPCA that having veterinary experience prior to vet school is extremely helpful for one general reason: you have working background knowledge of what things are before you learn all the gritty details.
Now most applicants have working knowledge because it is required by many veterinary schools, but I was one of the applicants that had very little working knowledge of veterinary medicine. I had never brought a dog or a cat to a vet prior to vet school and had never worked in private practice so I didn’t even know the basics of what a routine veterinary appointment entailed.
Needless to say, in my first year of vet school, terminology got thrown around that I was completely unfamiliar with and I honestly felt a little behind. Having as much exposure to the field as possible prior to beginning veterinary school will go a long way (and your vocabulary will not need to increase as dramatically as mine has had to).
During my externship I saw veterinary medicine in a new light with my new vocabulary. I was seeing cases that I had only heard terminology thrown around for, but had never seen in person and I was able to use terminology to describe my findings when I ran blood work or examined a blood smear. It was so satisfying to start being able to put the pieces of the puzzle together! I can only imagine how satisfying it will feel during 4th year clinics!