Shadowing a Vet: How to Get Kids Involved at an Early Age

Getting your child involved at an early age helps them gain the knowledge, confidence, and understanding to thrive in a career as a veterinary professional.


Children love animals. It’s just a fact of life. Go to an elementary school and ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, and a huge percentage of kids will say “veterinarian.”

However, few parents know how to direct their child’s passion for animals into a career in veterinary medicine. Some adopt a family pet. Others sign their child up for a day camp at the local animal shelter. 

While these are certainly good ideas, they don’t necessarily provide the comprehensive “how-to” that it takes to jumpstart a career in the profession.

That is where veterinary shadowing comes in.

In this article, we will explore how getting your child involved with a shadowing program at an early age helps them gain the knowledge, skills, confidence, and understanding to thrive in a career as a veterinary professional.

Veterinary Shadowing: A Firsthand Introduction to the World of Veterinary Medicine

One of the frustrating aspects for most students of pursuing a career in veterinary medicine is the lack of interaction with animals. They became interested in the field because they love animals, yet much of their early training involves reading text, watching videos, and taking tests, making it feel the same as other more “boring” professions.

One of the appeals of veterinary shadowing programs is that they let young people get right into the heat of the action and observe trained professionals at work. As the students gain more experience and establish trust with the veterinarian, they can even become entrusted with some small responsibilities, such as holding the animals, giving them treats, and soothing them following a procedure.

By being a part of a shadowing program, children gain firsthand experience of a clinic operating in action. This can give them the information and insight necessary to develop their passion for animals and get a head start on their careers. 

At the same time, it can also help young people decide if they aren’t as interested in the profession as they initially thought, helping them direct their interest at a young age rather than after investing in a couple of semesters of expensive vet school.

Gain a Deeper Understanding of Animal Care

There is no substitute for experience in the professional world.

No matter how much you read or study something, it is just not the same as the “real thing.”

Through veterinary shadowing, children can get a real-time understanding of important veterinary procedures. From basic office exams to more in-depth surgical procedures, children can see the terminology, techniques, and demeanors of veterinary professionals in action. This can give them a major leg up on aspiring students who have only examined the profession from a theoretical perspective.

One other key consideration: the average accepted veterinary student has over 1,500 veterinary volunteer hours on their resume. A shadowing program is a great way to eat into this total while gaining impactful knowledge at the same time. 

Improve Confidence and Communication Skills

Young people have a remarkable ability to emulate their elders. Even when you think they aren’t watching, they are absorbing even the smallest details.

As such, observing the communication and demeanor of veterinary professionals is one of the most underrated benefits of veterinary shadowing.

Some young people may erroneously believe that a career in animals exempts them from having to interact with people.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Most pet owners love their animals like their own children and are just as meticulous about care and communication with their veterinarian as they are with a medical doctor. 

By seeing how a veterinarian communicates with pet owners prior to a big surgery, discusses follow-up care instructions, and soothes families who may have received bad news about their pet, children are developing the critical “soft” skills that separate outstanding veterinarians from the pack. 

Observe a Veterinary Clinic From All Angles

Yet another benefit of getting children into a veterinary shadowing program is so that they can see the totality of what it takes to run an animal clinic.

Sure, care for animals is the reason the clinic exists.

But there are so many other aspects that must be in place to make this care possible.

Just a few of the complementary tasks students will observe as part of a shadowing program include:

  • Office tasks and front desk responsibilities
  • Computer software and how the clinic uses technology to improve operations
  • Clean up and sanitation following procedures and at the end of the day
  • How to schedule and staff employees and volunteers
  • Interaction with vendors and delivery professionals

By observing the veterinary clinic from all angles, students gain a unique perspective on everything necessary it will take to get a practice up and running once they become licensed.

Explore Your Child’s Interest in Veterinary Medicine Today

By involving your child in a veterinary shadowing program, you help your young person grow their interest in a career in veterinary medicine, fostering a new generation of animal care professionals. If you want more information on veterinary shadowing and animal care in general, explore the resources at Petsies for ideas and inspiration today!