June 27, 2017
Categories: Shelter Medicine

The next generation of veterinarians wants to care for shelter pets.

In a recent market analysis published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), private practice held onto its traditional top spot for career interest among current veterinary students. Shelter medicine, however, clocked in at number two.

This represents a profound change from attitudes toward shelter practice as recently as the late 1990s, when there were no shelter medicine courses in veterinary colleges, and shelter work was still not well-respected by veterinarians.

Today, shelter medicine is a boarded specialty of veterinary medicine, and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians has over 750 members and 22 student chapters. Animal shelters now have experts at the universities they can turn to for help in preventing and responding to disease outbreaks, housing design, enrichment and giving each pet the best chance at a happy outcome.

All those changes have brought shelter medicine to the forefront of veterinary practice, with the current veterinary college class of 2020 poised to support the lifesaving work of shelters and rescue groups.

Another topic that’s been of increasing concern in both sheltering and veterinary practice is also examined in the report: compassion fatigue and severe stress related to the care of animals. Interestingly, one of the most significant factors correlated with lower stress and greater job satisfaction was a feeling that the veterinarian’s education had adequately prepared her for the work.

This suggests that the growing focus on shelter medicine education in veterinary colleges, along with shelter medicine and sheltering education and training for lay staff, may be a powerful tool in combating compassion fatigue and burnout in the field.

And that adds up to great news for tomorrow’s shelter vets.

The 2017 AVMA Report on Veterinary Markets is available for free download by AVMA members, and the report series is available for purchase by others.