I recently “came out” as Josh Artmeier, the author of Pet Hates (The Shocking Truth About Pets and Vets), of which you can read reviews here. I decided that I should have the courage of my convictions. Now I have decided to blog specifically about this book. Why?
In the last few months four things have happened:
- I heard that yet another veterinary colleague had killed himself;
- I heard that another veterinary colleague’s marriage had broken down;
- The blog in which I mentioned the Dogue de Bordeaux has received hundreds of hits from people searching for that specific term, and
- I heard of another pedigree breeder whose love of profit exceeded her concern for animal welfare.
While I don’t know the full circumstances of (1) and (2), they reminded me of the fact that the veterinary profession has one of the highest rates of suicide and marriage breakdown. The third point reflects the public’s love of pedigree breeds, which are often highly inbred and lead short and painful lives, the Dogue de Bordeaux being no exception. (Most of Emma Milne’s excellent book is on this subject.) The fourth point relates to the motivation of some unscrupulous breeders of pedigree animals, the most notorious example being that of bulldog breeders, who think nothing of routine caesareans: the animals are so anatomically distorted that they struggle to give birth naturally, but the pups sell for so much money that the breeders can easily afford the caesareans!
Introduction to Pet Hates
This book offers a uniquely honest – sometimes funny, sometimes sad and disturbing – picture of the life of a vet in the twenty first century. Make no mistake, be you a pet owner, a practising veterinary surgeon, a prospective or current student of veterinary science or nursing, Pet Hates will dramatically change your perspective on the profession.
In 2005 the suicide rate amongst vets in the UK hit the headlines: four times that of the population average, and twice that of doctors and nurses. I myself have worked in two practices where previous members of staff had killed themselves (in one of these two of them in fact!) and I have witnessed and heard of many vets breaking down under the stress of the job, drugs and alcohol being two of the common routes. Even during my veterinary studies one of my classmates repeatedly attempted to kill himself.
New veterinary graduates can expect to be some £30,000 in debt but they cannot expect to immediately walk into a well-paid job. Yet so many people apparently want to be vets, and no one appears to understand or sympathise with those of us who, from time to time, find it a difficult way to earn a living. In fact, this is one of the main stress factors: there seems to be a near-universal belief that it is a wonderful and rewarding calling and that anyone who doesn’t find it so has something wrong with him or her and is undeserving of sympathy. It can be very difficult, then, to find anyone to talk to – hence the existence of the veterinary surgeons’ helplines: + 44 (0) 1926 315119 and + 44 (0) 7659 811118.
I believe that the media (the plethora of books and ‘reality’ TV programmes on vetting) have a lot to answer for. I hope this book will go some way towards correcting the balance, and ultimately, will save lives. With this as one of the book’s major aims, I make no apologies for possibly shattering the illusions of those who idealise the profession. I have seen too much suffering to feel guilty about this.
Who is this book for?
1. Pet Owners This will give you some idea of what may lie behind the seemingly cheerful, caring and patient manner of your vet. Alternatively, when she or he appears not to be in the best of form, you might appreciate why. Particularly, this book should make you aware of the wide variety of attitudes that people have towards their animals, although we all start off assuming that everyone is like us. If your vet sometimes gets the approach wrong you will understand that this perhaps was the manner and attitude that suited the last client. Most of us are trying to do our best, but they don’t teach mind-reading in vet school!
2. Those considering entering the profession
Training to be a vet is a major commitment. Depending on where you study, it will take up to six years of very hard work, and at the end of this most of you will be heavily in debt. It is very hard to get an accurate idea of what being a vet is really like from school work experience or the odd weekend seeing practice, as everything appears new and exciting and you will generally be shielded from the most stressful aspects of the job. It is as well that you know what you are letting yourself in for before it is too late!
If, after reading this book, you are still determined to be a vet then you will be very well equipped to handle the vet school interview. Your detailed knowledge of what the job is really like will certainly impress your interviewers, who will know the score only too well. After all, they almost certainly opted for a life in academia after experiencing the sharp end!
3. Those studying to be vets and veterinary nurses
If you have only just embarked on your studies you might consider switching to something else, although admittedly it is very hard to relinquish a long-cherished dream. Failing that, you might start to make plans to move to one of the less stressful specialist areas. If these options are not feasible you will at least be in a very good position to ask the right questions of potential employers (and, I suggest, their employees) and so avoid some of the worst jobs. This book could save you a great deal of unpleasantness!
4. Recent graduates No, the problem isn’t you! No, you are not alone! This book will be of great comfort if you are feeling isolated and depressed. It’s very common for the thrill of graduation to give way rapidly to disillusion and depression, and to think there is something wrong with you. Well, many of us have been there, as you will see from this book, and there is a funny side to it!
5. Long-established vets and veterinary nurses
You should be familiar with much of this, and I think it’ll raise a knowing chuckle or two. For some it may do you good to see the world through the eyes of a new graduate again. Bosses, this book might encourage you to treat your staff with more consideration!
Finally, readers should note that while there is an entry entitled Large Animal Work, this book concentrates on the small animal side of the profession. I have worked almost entirely as a small animal vet and, as farmers are increasingly struggling to make ends meet, large animal work is in decline and most graduates will spend most of their time dealing with pets.
Here’s a large image of the cover: