Young Veterinarian Vs. Old Veterinarian: Which is Best For Your Pet?

Dr. Patty Khuly

Older Veterinarians vs. Younger Vets
Predictably, perhaps, the answer to the age-old question posed by the title of this post isn’t so straightforward:

The most seasoned veterinarians out there have seen it all and they’ve learned from their experiences. They bring a lot to the exam room table each time they see your pet. Young whippersnappers shouldn’t be underestimated, however, as this group has the exuberance of youth and what I call the “fresh computer factor.”

To help illustrate the differences, I’ve prepared an example sourced from the dog world. Consider my twelve month-old Belgian Malinois, Violet, and my sister’s twelve year-old Malamute-Rottie mix, Morgan:

Both dogs are equally intelligent, but when offered the same exact puzzle toy (one of those fun, food-hiding Nina Ottosson numbers), Violet figured it out within five or ten minutes. Morgan took longer –– perhaps twenty or thirty. But speed isn’t everything, as we all know.

Violet learned to get all the kibbles out of her toy (the goal) by using every bull-in-a-China-shop trick she could manage. She almost attacked the toy with her adolescent enthusiasm and managed to break one of the many bone-shaped pegs in the process. Morgan, however, stood back and considered it carefully. He puzzled it out methodically and effectively, breaking nothing, savoring every last treat.

It was almost like watching a teenager and a baby boomer learn how to use a new smart phone app: The teenager’s brain is wired to use every mental and manual tool available –– and quickly! –– while the older generation’s uses a solidly-built set of skills to make it happen –– often more effectively in the end.

While it’s true that when you only have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, older thinkers aren’t without the ability to learn the new tools. They simply a) tend to have less of a drive to do so, and b) typically must employ skills they already have to learn new ones instead of devising fundamentally novel approaches. Makes sense, right?

Note: These are generalizations that don’t necessarily hold true, of course, but they do, however, jibe with my general findings within the veterinary industry.

So what does that mean for your choice of veterinarians? Should you go for older, wiser and more experienced? Or should you go for the drive, energy and speed of youth?

Clearly, there are pros and cons to each, and much of your decision-making in this regard may be irrelevant. After all, you may find that your veterinarian of choice has nothing to do with their age, rather with the degree of trust you’ve developed over the years or, indeed, even after just one visit.

Nonetheless, I do find that, as someone who works in a practice with two members of the so called “old guard,” I’ve had cause to witness that many veterinary clients appear to have a clear preference for one generation of veterinarian over the other.

And while, in general, I’ve observed that veterinary clients tend to gravitate towards veterinarians of their own generation, it’s nonetheless worth noting that many of my older clients are pleasantly surprised when they deal with a younger veterinarian for the first time –– and vice versa!

In fact, I’ve come to believe that both kinds of veterinarians (if they must be divided into “young” or “old”) offer such potentially different benefits and perspectives that veterinary clients are probably best served by a combination of the two. In other words, frequenting practices where younger veterinarians can confer with older veterinarians gets my vote for offering the best of both worlds.

But then, I’m biased, working as I do with my “older dudes.” What’s your perspective on this? Do you have a preference? 

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