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A Day in the Life of a Vet

06 September 2021

A Day in the Life of a Vet: Saving Animals and Promoting Pet Welfare

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Veterinary medicine is something of a dream career for animal lovers. 

It’s a job that can encompass everything from relieving animals of pain and suffering to bringing new creatures into the world and advocating for pet welfare. 

But is it as idyllic as it sounds? 

We reached out to Dr Michael Lazaris, a small animal vet working in London, to find out what being a vet is really like. 

Dr Lazaris has worked as a veterinary surgeon at several animal hospitals and practises, most recently at the RSPCA in London. In his work, he treats all kinds of creatures, from British wildlife to stray cats and dogs. 

His love of animals has led him to volunteer at animal rescue centres around the world, including in South Africa and Thailand, where he helped treat rhinos, giraffes and Asian elephants. He has also written for Take a Break: Pets magazine and made a number of TV appearances, working on Jo Brand’s Kitten Rescue and The Dog Rescuers. 

Michael’s passion for what he does is infectious. It is perhaps most evident on his veterinary Instagram account, where he showcases all the amazing things vets do and raises awareness about pet health. 

If you’re considering a career in veterinary medicine and looking to be inspired, you’ve come to the right place… 

Interested in gaining a unique, 360-degree experience of veterinary medicine? Take a look at InvestIN's Vet Programmes; each is jam-packed with immersive career simulations, exclusive site visits and personalised career coaching, all designed to give you a more hands-on experience of the industry.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What does a typical day in your working life look like?

The great thing about being a vet is that a ‘typical day’ doesn’t really exist! 

You never know what patient will walk through your doors or which disease or injury you’ll be faced with. This definitely keeps you on your toes!

I work in central London at various busy practices, treating dogs, cats, small furries, birds, reptiles and even British wildlife. Hours can vary but are usually quite long (around 9am to 7pm). 

Some practices have night vets too if they offer 24hr vet cover. Depending on the practice, you might spend all of your day consulting or operating, or do a bit of both.

What first inspired you to consider veterinary medicine as a career?

When I was growing up in South Africa, I was obsessed with animals and science. I also had a huge array of pets...much to my parents' dismay! 

This fascination stayed with me throughout high school, so becoming a vet was the obvious choice for me. 

As a vet, you’ll achieve something great every day, whether it’s a tricky operation that went well, or an uncommon disease you were able to diagnose.

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What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with animals, obviously! 

But also [how varied] the working day is, and all the different skills you learn. 

As a first opinion vet, you are a GP, surgeon, medic, radiographer, ultrasonographer, pathologist, microbiologist, behaviourist, nutritionist...the list goes on!

What’s the hardest thing?

Many people don’t realise that being a vet means spending a lot of time with stressed, anxious or angry owners. 

Luckily we learn great communication skills to help us cope with everything that’s thrown at us. 

Equally, euthanasia is always difficult, no matter how many times you have to do it. But you do find peace in the knowledge that it’s in the animal’s best interest and will end its suffering. 

What has been your biggest achievement since starting your career in veterinary medicine?

As a vet, you’ll achieve something great every day, whether it’s a tricky operation that went well, or an uncommon disease you were able to diagnose. 

For me, it would be performing a general anaesthetic on a small duckling and operating into its neck to remove a fish hook!

What are the perks/incentives, financial and otherwise, for a graduate looking to become a vet?

When you graduate from vet school, your main objective is to find a practice that will train and support you. 

At vet school, you will learn core skills but the first few years after graduating is when you build on these skills and become a confident veterinarian. 

Make this your priority rather than going for the job with the highest starting salary (or better, find one [that can offer] both!). 

Once you’re at vet school, buckle up because it’s going to be a spectacular ride!

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Are there different pathways or specialisms aspiring vets can choose, and if so, what are they?

At vet school, you’ll learn all about the different pathways a vet can take (small animal, farm, equine, poultry, research, pathology etc). 

After graduating, you can choose the direction you want to head in, but you can change any time you want! 

If vets want to specialise further, this usually happens a few years after graduating, and involves doing certificates, internships and residencies. 

Did you do anything to improve your employability whilst still at school? 

This is a must if you want to get into vet school! 

You’ll need a range of work experience: from volunteering with local charities or getting a bit of farm experience, to spending time in a vet clinic (or anywhere that looks after animals, dog kennels or groomers, for instance). 

You’ll also have to show that you get involved in school activities outside the classroom like sports, music or other clubs. 

All vet schools vary slightly in what experience they want prospective students to have, so best to look this up before you apply. 

What did you do at university? 

Veterinary medicine at the University of Edinburgh. 

I also intercalated in my 4th year to get a second degree in Zoology. 

Intercalating is something optional vets and medics can do, whereby you take one year out from your degree to do the final year of another science degree. After finishing this year, you go back to vet school to finish what you started. 

Check out our guide to medical school interview questions. It's packed with tips and examples to help your prepare.

What was your first job? 

My first job was an internship at a big vet practice in Bristol. 

This was a great learning experience as I got to practice being a vet, but had loads of support and training throughout the 15 months. At the end of the internship, I came out feeling very confident in my skills. 

How did you find your first 12 months in the field?

It was hard work! 

My internship involved long hours, weekends, night shifts etc., but it was all worth it in the end. 

There were 4 interns and we had rotating weeks of first opinion consults, inpatients and emergencies, night shifts, out of hours emergency work and working alongside the referral team. 

Graduates don’t have to go straight into an internship, but will need to find a good practice that supports and teaches their new grads. 

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Luckily, I live in London so there’s always something fun to do! 

I enjoy socialising with my friends, travelling, keeping fit and running my vet Instagram account (@drlazaris_vet). 

As a vet, it is so important to de-stress after work and forget about the day you’ve had. The profession can be difficult at times, leaving you tired or anxious, so you need to make the most of your time outside of work.

Do you have any advice for young people thinking about pursuing a career in veterinary medicine?

If you’re considering becoming a vet, do as much research, work experience and preparation as possible. 

That’s why courses like The Young Vet at InvestIN are great! It’ll give you a much better idea about what being a vet is really like, and if it’s the right direction for you. 

And once you’re at vet school, buckle up because it’s going to be a spectacular ride!

To find out more about Michael and his work, take a look at his vet Instagram account.

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