Oi Vietnam speaks to Dr. Thuy, from Animal Doctors International Vietnam, about the challenges and rewards of being a veterinarian in Saigon

What inspired you to become a vet?

I’ve loved animals since I was a tiny kid, especially my pets. They’re not only pets, which are used for watching or hunting, they’re also members of my family. At that time, it was a hard time for me and my family so taking care of our pets’ health was impossible, when they got sick there was no one who knew how to treat them and sadly I had to see them die because I was not able to do anything, so I thought about being a veterinarian to save them, then a couple of years later I am finally a veterinarian.

Being a vet isn’t a popular profession in Vietnam, why do you think that is? 

Firstly, there aren’t many universities in Vietnam that specializes in this subject. Second, most Vietnamese are not concerned about animal health care, only a part of the population in big cities with higher living standards are conscious of this. Thirdly, the number of pet hospitals in Vietnam is still small, therefor students can’t see the opportunities in this job.

How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be a vet?

Most Vietnamese parents always want their children to be doctors, teachers, engineers, or some kind of popular jobs, and my parents were the same, they wanted me to be a doctor. Frankly, they were not happy when I told them I wanted to be a vet, but they are also animal lovers, they love our pets so they were easily convinced to let me become what I wanted to be. And they are happy so far.

There’s a general belief that Vietnamese vets are trained and educated in the same schools as farm husbandry (pigs and cows), that there are no actual veterinary schools? Is this true? Can you explain?

In my opinion, it is not true. I graduated as a veterinarian, not an animal husbandry engineer, that means there are actual universities that educate in veterinary in Vietnam, although not as popular as the other specialized schools.

Consuming dog and cat meat is part of Vietnamese culture, your thoughts on that as a Vietnamese person and as a vet?

As a Vietnamese person and a veterinarian, I strongly disagree with this action. I think the number of people who has the same thinking as me is not just a small number, but increasing day by day. Now that the living standard is improving, dogs and cats are becoming a part of the human family, and the number of people who eat dog or cat meat is decreasing. I believe that in the near future, there will be no one in Vietnam using dogs and cats for food.

What is the most challenging part of being a vet in Vietnam?

Veterinary is extremely hard work, especially in Vietnam, I have a lot of challenges and I often get stressed by them. The most challenging is handling a stressed pet owner. The pet owners you see at the pet clinic are not always at their best. It’s the same as parents when they take their really sick children to the hospital, they can be a frazzled mass of nerves, consumed with worry. On occasion, their stress may spur them to offer inappropriate advice in taking care of their pet, and they may even show misplaced anger towards you. My job is to stay calm, exercise tact and show compassion.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing the animal getting better after fighting their sickness.

What advice can you give to new pet owners?

First, you have to make sure before you have pets that you truly want to have them and are able to raise and treat them as members of your family, never give them up even when they are sick or become old and ugly. Consider fostering and adopting, as there are so many strayed dogs and cats out there in need of new forever home, so why don’t you adopt one instead of buying a puppy in the pet shop, which was born by the puppy mill industry.

Do you have any pets?

I’ve two dogs and nine cats, they all live with my parents, I love them very much. The cats are not so friendly to strangers but they are the most loyal cats I know. They are cheeky sometimes, always meowing around me when they want food or my attention. The dogs are very calm, they always recognize me, they can even hear my bike coming. They’re very friendly to people, honestly I don’t want them to be that friendly, they should be alert to strangers as they somehow can take them away and hurt them. Anyway, I love them so much, I always wish they can live long and healthy with my family.

IMAGE BY NGOC TRAN