My job: Veterinarian, Cedarbrae Veterinary Clinic

Joanna Wong

I’ve always liked animals, science and medicine. In my third year of human physiology, we did a laboratory on rabbits and surgery as well as a physiological practice, and from there I decided I wanted to work with animals – human medicine wasn’t for me.

I went to the University of Toronto for a bachelor’s degree in physiology, then the University of Guelph for my master’s degree in animal science and the University of Melbourne in Australia for veterinary school.

The basic physiology that I learned at U of T really helped prepare me for vet school. My master’s degree taught me to initiate my own research and manage my time. At veterinary school we had to do placements, and I did one of my small animal placements in exotics, which includes small mammals. Now I enjoy working with bunnies, hamsters, guinea pigs, something I didn’t anticipate. I was more thinking of dogs and cats at the beginning.

Everyone knows you have to bring dogs and cats in for vaccines, but bunnies are still a relatively new and growing branch of practice. They are very fragile, and a lot of pet owners don’t know anything about them. When I was a kid I didn’t know a lot about my pet rabbit either. As a veterinarian, I like to educate patients: yes, rabbits can get dental disease you need to feed them the right way because they can bloat very easily.

At my previous job, I dealt with a lot of shelter animals, and my best experience on the job was saving kittens. A lot of them had upper respiratory issues or diarrhea, and I gave the shelter a talk about hygiene. It’s those rewarding moments that are the perks of the job – when you save an animal.

The best vets are clear-minded and easygoing. The job requires good communication with clients. A lot of people go into veterinary science thinking we don’t have to deal with people, but client communication is key. If an owner doesn’t understand what you’re doing or how to care for the patient, the problem is going to recur, even if you can fix it now.

You have to be compassionate to animals. It’s almost like an investigation: what can I do to pinpoint what’s going on? There is a line to draw when you think, “Is this animal suffering to the point where the quality of life is poor and it might be better to let it go?” Where do we draw that line?

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