vet mental health is in crisis

How Pet Health Affects Vet Mental Health


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As pet parents, we want to do our best by our furry kids. To be the responsible pet parents that we aspire to be (like Supermum, but for four legged ones!) it’s important that we can make medical care decisions as easy as possible for ourselves, our pet and their health partner – their vet. And most of us will agree that while we focus heavily on our pet’s health, we don’t think of the vet’s health. Vet mental health, to be specific.

Did you know that, according to TEDX speaker and experienced veterinarian Dr Melanie Bowden, the US veterinary industry has the second highest suicide rate? There, veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than members of the general population.

It’s a similar situation in Australia, where vets are almost four times more likely to take their own life than the general adult population. 

There are many reasons why, and Dr Bowden’s TEDX video showcased below outlines them in stark detail.

Through this blog article we aim to raise awareness of the pressure placed on vets every day, and how pet parents can better help them manage the challenging situations they encounter day in, day out. One of those ways being pet insurance – which is out of the mouth of Dr Bowden herself.

Vet mental health: How pet owners can help

Despite what pet owners often think,  Dr Bowden says vets don’t go into the field for the money. They often earn a fraction of what they could in other professions, and deal with far longer hours – plus a range of emotional encounters throughout those hours. They choose to enter the profession out of a love for animals and for veterinary science.

Their work takes its toll mentally. As mentioned above, small animal veterinarians are one of the most at-risk professions for suicide.

Why is this? There’s the need to deal with euthanising pets or having them pass away while in their care. Then there’s the guilt of having to turn away owners who can’t afford treatment.

In addition, small animal vets have to juggle incredibly full days and long hours. They must also deal with distraught, rude or entitled pet owners on a daily basis, and often one after the other. Even the nicest of pet owners won’t mean to add to the load, but often do through circumstance.

“As hardworking individuals, we go in into the profession optimistic and hopeful about saving lives. What we didn’t factor in, was the fact we would get daily abuse for doing our job, because we need to charge for this service.”

– Small Animal Specialist Surgeon, Abbie Tipler

We all want our pets to live long, healthy, and happy lives. If we take a sick or injured animal to the vet, we often place immense pressure on our veterinarians to work miracles… To save the life of your cat that’s been hit by a car… To give your elderly dog one more good year with you… Or to provide low-cost treatment to a desperately ill, much-loved family pet.

The pressure to provide quality care no matter the pet’s circumstances or pet parent budget can be challenging for any vet. Regardless of their level of experience and professionalism.

Why pet insurance contributes to better vet mental health

Your vet wants nothing more than to be able to treat your pet quickly and efficiently. If a pet with a serious illness or injury comes into their practice, they want to put all their training to good use to help save a life. Whenever, however they can.

After years of studying, any vet wants to help pet parents make the best decision for their pet. Without having to consider the financial impact.

Dr Bowden says that ‘there is nothing more soul-crushing in life than having the skills and ability to help something helpless, and you can’t do it…because someone can’t afford treatment.’ This is where pet insurance can step in and alleviate the pressure on your vet.

As an insured pet parent you don’t need to weigh up a hefty bill with your (and your vet’s) desire to treat. Knowing there’s only a simple excess can go a long way to making the decision process quick and easy. A big positive for your pet’s health and for vet mental health.

Read about ways to celebrate World Vet Day and your vet.

What can you do to support vets?

A good dog insurance or cat insurance plan offers you a ‘soft landing’ in times of need. This allows your vet to provide the most appropriate treatment without worrying about the financial pressure on you. Dr Bowden says that she recommends pet insurance to every new owner she sees at the practice. This, she says, is responsible pet parenting.

Why? Because, as she details in her talk, every puppy or kitten will grow older and will eventually get sick or injured, and will one day pass on. Difficult decisions and conversations will need to be had. Around what you can afford in terms of treatment, whether you can make lifestyle changes to your and your pets’ lives, and what would be the most compassionate way to treat your pet.

That aside, it’s also very important to consider how you interact with your vet when you see them. Do your best not to lay blame on them if your pet can’t be saved or treated. Be mindful of how a comment you make in passing about a vet not caring or not doing enough to help your pet when you’re upset or frustrated might weigh heavily on them for years to come.

Be a proactive pet parent by partnering with your vet to manage your pet’s health. Take your pet for regular check-ups. Be grateful for the vet’s time, efforts, and sacrifices in helping give pets longer and healthier lives.

Pet insurance can alleviate the pressure

Taking out pet insurance means that everyone in the equation, from you, to your veterinarian and everyone in between, can focus on doing their job well. That job is always to provide the best available care or treatment for your pet so it’s happy and healthy.

Consider looking at our dog insurance plans and cat insurance plans to not only potentially save your pet’s life one day. It may also take pressure off your valued veterinary care provider.

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