Danville Express

Living - April 20, 2007

The Pet Vet says ... So you wanna be a vet

by Dr. Heidi Strand

Q. My 12-year old daughter really loves animals and thinks she wants to be a veterinarian. Are there places she can volunteer, and will this help her get into vet school? I've heard it's very difficult to get in.

A. Last year UC Davis had 966 applicants to its School of Veterinary Medicine. It accepted only 139 of those applicants. So, yes, it's hard to get in.

In addition to grade point averages and GRE scores, the school considers veterinary experience when selecting applicants. To apply to UC Davis you are required to have 180 hours of veterinary experience. But applicants who are accepted have an average of 3,550 hours of hands-on experience in the field. You can work in a veterinary clinic, shelter, kennel, farm, ranch, aquarium, zoo, laboratory or wildlife museum. It can be volunteer or paid work. They just want you to have a real idea of what the veterinary profession is about.

At 12 years old, your daughter should be able to do volunteer work at one of these facilities with your assistance. You will have to attend training and will probably be asked to make a weekly commitment. This will give her good exposure to the ups and downs of animal care. You may also consider becoming a foster family for a local animal shelter.

As she enters high school, getting good grades should be a priority, particularly in science. If her volunteer position has been successful she may be promoted to a part-time position. Or she may find part-time or summer work at a veterinary clinic, kennel, shelter or farm. You can also investigate summer enrichment programs in the sciences.

During undergraduate years, she will need to satisfy all the prerequisite courses for her desired veterinary school, as well as take the GRE or MCAT. In the meantime, start saving. The four-year veterinary school at UC Davis will set you back about $160,000.

Q. I just rescued a 4-year-old shih tzu and we just found out she likes to eat snails. How can I stop her from eating snails?

A. Lots of dogs like to eat snails, but you should definitely keep your dog away from them. If she eats a snail that has ingested snail bait, it can be poisonous for her. I would recommend that you accompany her whenever she goes into the back yard and tell her "no" firmly when she tries to eat them. Distract her by offering a toy such as a ball to chase. She can be trained not to eat them if you are persistent.

Make sure you do not put out bait for the snails, as this could be potentially deadly for her. Check your garden center for non-toxic alternatives to cut down on the snail population in your yard.

--Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to hstrand@eastbayspca.org. Her column runs every other week.


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