Pros Expose What It’s Really Like Working with Animals


There might not be a commonly accepted term for an individual who loves animals, but you have plenty of ideas. Critter enthusiast, animal advocate, and pet promoter might come to mind. They’re all labels you would use when describing yourself.

Your passion for animals is so strong that you’ve even started thinking about how you could build a career out of it. There are plenty of options. Working with animals is an inherent part of the job for veterinarians, pet adoption counselors, zoologists, and many other professionals.

But what is it really like working with animals every day? We reached out to some experts to get the inside scoop. Keep reading to hear about the fun, messy, and otherwise memorable parts of their jobs.

What’s it like working with animals every day?

Working with animals sounds like a dream come true. But it’s not all fun and games. Get the inside scoop from those who do it day in and day out. Here are some words they use to describe their careers:

1. Exciting

People who work with animals rarely experience a dull day. This is especially true of pet sitters. They may see any number pets, even several species, over the course of a day. It doesn’t get much more exciting for an animal lover.

"It’s like we have 500 different pets that we get to see."

“It’s like we have 500 different pets that we get to see and spend time with, but don’t have to pay to keep,” explains Ben Doyle, cofounder of Pet Checkers.

Others get a thrill from learning new ways to treat and heal animals. Dr. Angie Krause of Boulder Holistic Vet had a breakthrough moment when she began expanding her alternative therapy repertoire.

“I started learning about Chinese medicine, and I was blown away by how much it helped me and how much it helped my patients,” she explains. It’s this type of excitement and innovation that keeps her on her toes and loving her job.

2. Unexpected

Working with other people offers some level of predictability. We speak the same language, so we’re able to communicate our needs and expectations. That’s not the way it goes when working with animals. You never know exactly what’s going to happen next.

Denise Fleck, pet care and pet safety instructor, has too many stories to count thanks to nearly 20 years of working with all types of creatures. One memorable incident occurred in front of an audience. “A rabbit ate a hole in the shoulder of my shirt while I was holding him on TV,” she says.

"A rabbit ate a hole in the shoulder of my shirt while I was holding him on TV."

Another standout experience? “It took four of us to carry a giant tortoise to the owner’s car after the tortoise escaped his fence and was found walking down a city street,” Fleck recalls.

Unanticipated scenarios can strike even when everything seems to be going to plan. Lazhar Ichir, founder of Breeding Business, says it’s possible for a breeder to wind up responsible for a puppy that was supposed to already have a home.

“Owners give their puppies back, because they underestimated the workload,” Ichir says.

3. Messy

It’s true that much of working with animals is unpredictable, but one thing you can expect is that you’re going to have to get your hands dirty every so often. Animals can create a mess in an instant.

Ichir says that he’s had plenty of experience with “leaving for few minutes and coming back to carnage.” One example he mentions is returning to a room where he left a dog only to discover the sofa was covered in shredded toilet paper.

Fleck has some messy memories of her own. She recalls bathing a dog in tomato juice after it was sprayed by a skunk. The soaked pup ran inside and promptly shook juice everywhere. The bottom line is if you’re afraid of a little mess, working with animals is not for you.

4. Exhausting

Animals, especially dogs, have a lot of energy. Since not every pet owner can get home throughout the day to help their canine companions get some fresh air, dog walkers are a huge help. And they cover more ground than you might expect.

“I regularly walk up to 15 miles a day.”

“Walking dogs all day can mean walking a lot of miles,” Doyle explains. “I regularly walk up to 15 miles a day.” While it can be beneficial for your health, don’t expect it to be a walk in the park.

5. Business-oriented

A career built around animals isn’t all strolls and snuggles. You need to make sure you’re running a professional, lucrative operation.

“Looking after someone’s pet is a huge responsibility,” Doyle says. “There’s also a lot of paperwork involved: contracts, service agreements, veterinary release forms, and more.”

Breeders need to be similarly business-minded. Ichir says a typical day involves a lot of careful planning and preparation. “Breeders spend little time playing or having true spontaneous fun with their dogs,” he notes.

6. Emotional

For veterinarians, working with happy animals during regular wellness checks is just one part of the job. They also encounter a lot of sick or injured animals. “There's a lot of sadness and suffering,” Dr. Krause admits.

"There's a lot of sadness and suffering."

There are plenty of joyous moments, too, though. Fleck has seen many animals meet their new owners during her time volunteering at a shelter. She still relishes the feeling.

“There is nothing like it, especially since I was lucky enough to volunteer at a shelter that gave animals all the time they needed for that soulmate human to show up,” she reflects.

7. Rewarding

Interacting with animals might be unpredictable and challenging, but many professionals agree it’s incredibly fulfilling work. Dr. Krause notes her role as a house-call vet gives her the opportunity to treat animals, especially cats, that feel stressed in a clinic setting.

“We might be able to do more for these cats that are fearful or aggressive, because we don't have to take them so far past their threshold,” Dr. Krause explains. She says this ability to take care of animals and work with pet owners in their own homes is extremely satisfying. “I get to make these relationships, and I just feel so privileged to be able to do that.”

“I get to make these relationships, and I just feel so privileged to be able to do that.”

It’s also rewarding to know you had a hand in saving an animal’s life. Fleck can certainly speak to that, given how many emergency care classes she’s taught. Former students have even reached out to thank her for enabling them to save a creature in need.

“Many of my students have had to perform CPR and have saved the life of someone's precious best friend,” Fleck says. “It’s amazing to know that I played a role in that!”

Unleash your passion for animals

Individuals who spend their days working with animals clearly have some eye-opening stories. Their days can be filled with unexpected situations and other memorable moments. For the right person, it’s an extremely enjoyable career option.

If animal health and well-being is your real area of interest, you might want to give a little more thought to a career in veterinary medicine. There’s a surprising amount of variety in the field. Veterinarians work with all sorts of animals in just about every setting you can imagine.

Learn more about what these professionals do by reading our article. “What Is a Veterinarian? Uncovering the Role of Animal Doctors.”

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