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Does Gender Matter at the Veterinarian

veterinarian gender
photo courtesy Deposit Photo

My dog tends to make a “high pitched” squeeeeeeeeee sound when he meets new men. Since my dog, Dexter, is mostly around women, I surmise that the soprano notes he hits are a warning alarm of sorts. “Who are you, what are you,” sort of thing.  However, his veterinarian, orthopedic surgeon, and dog groomer are all men. And he never lets out a “squee” sound around them. Does gender matter to you when it comes to your dog’s veterinarian?

Yeah, Science!

The National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME) administers the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. According to JustVetData.com, “The proportion of female DVM recipients documented in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) has been over 50% for more than 20 years, and now stands at almost 90%.”

Women are dominating the veterinary medicine field. Why, but more important, does it matter to you whether your dog’s regular veterinarian is a man or a woman?

Hard Facts

In the United States, there has yet to be a female president and women make up less than 15 percent of Fortune 500 company executive officers. Veterinary medicine breaks the gender barrier, with a shift from male majority to female majority. The rate is growing so rapidly that The Center for Health Workforce Studies projects seven out of 10 veterinarians will be women by the year 2030.

In a study reported by VeterinaryTeamBrief.com, a group of 50 companion animal practitioners were videotaped interacting with clients and patients.

Results revealed that female vets conducted more relationship-centered appointments, provided more positive rapport-building statements, talked more to the patient, and were perceived as less hurried or rushed compared with male veterinarians. Clients were more likely to provide lifestyle or social information to female veterinarians.

dog_veterinarian
“Can I have a cookie for being a good boy at the vet?”

Chromosome Preference

Results of APPA’s latest National Pet Owners Survey report 79.7 million pet owning households in the United States, representing a 50 percent gain over the past two decades.

And these pets are viewed, rightly so, as family members. If a human doctor is rude or condescending to you, chances are you don’t return to that doctor again. Or you go on Yelp or some other website, blog, or review process to let others know that Dr. Blah Blah has zero bedside manner.

We expect care, compassion, and proper “bedside” manners for our pets, too.

In an article for Embrace Pet Insurance, Dr. Patty Khuly writes, “A veterinarian’s emotional quality is a big factor in his or her so-called “bedside manner.” Men are at a disadvantage here because research convincingly demonstrates they have a tougher time understanding non-verbal emotional cues. Meanwhile, women are more facile at intuiting the emotional subtext of an interaction.”

Do you agree with that assessment? Are women more understanding and able to discern non-verbal reactions in veterinary medicine?

Personal Mixed Bag

For me, it’s a mixed bag. As a dog mom, there are specific attributes a veterinarian must have in order for me to consider allowing him or her to treat my dog. You can read the whole list of how to find a good veterinarian here.

Bottom Line: Skills, compassion, interaction with my dog, and bedside manner coupled with feedback from other clients.

I have dropped veterinarians who had zero bedside manner and lacked compassion: Both men and women. It’s hard for me to find a good veterinarian in my area who has both the skill set, updated technology, and caring attitude in dealing with clients that most of us want for our pets.

Gender doesn’t matter to me, as long as the veterinarian possesses the above attributes and keeps up with technology. Additionally, he or she must be open minded in talking to me about second opinions, holistic medicine, and not being offended if I ask questions.

After all, my dog’s life is in their hands, quite literally and figuratively.

cocker_veterinarian

Pet Preference

Dogs can be choosy. Some dogs prefer one gender over another. For my dog, I want him to be comfortable around both genders. Our veterinarian is a male but his assistants are female so at any time, Dexter will be with both men and women in the room. I don’t want him to feel threatened by either gender.

Some dogs do warm up more to a certain gender,  this is true.

For me, personally, there has to be a level of “bedside manners” that put me at ease. I’ve seen my dog’s vet get down on all fours to be put my dog at ease. My dog’s vet has called me on weekends if I was in a state of panic when my last Cocker was nearing the end of her life. He is special and I know this.

At The Harrowing Time

If the time comes that your dog needs assistance in their final moments of life and crossing to the other side, you want a very special relationship with the veterinarian. He or she will be remembered in your heart with those final moments. I know I broke down into an unimaginable state of grief and deep shock when my first Cocker Spaniel was euthanized at the veterinarian’s office. She lost quality of life and I did not want her to suffer. I am certain my dog’s vet did not expect my reaction but neither did I.

Your dog’s well being is in the hands of his veterinarian, so it is up to you, the dog’s parent, to feel comfortable in speaking about facets of the dog’s care including an open line of communication.

It Matters That Much

I travel 90 minutes or so each way to see my dog’s veterinarian. We do have access to an emergency clinic in my area, but I choose to travel 90 minutes (or more) each way to see Dr. Steve. He was originally only a half-hour’s drive away when I was hunting for a vet that offered laser treatments for my last dog’s cancer. Over the years, I followed him from clinic to clinic and now to his own practice.

Gender does not matter but beside manner and taking the time to build a relationship do for me.

In our continuing series of “Medicine Versus Mom,” pet blogger Rachel Sheppard of the My Kid Has Paws blog shares her vet tech side of things.

medicine versus mom

Does gender matter to you when choosing a veterinarian? Do you have a preference?

Want more articles like this? Check out other posts in the Medicine Vs Mom series here:

How to Find a Good Veterinarian

How to Say No to the Veterinarian

Does My Dog Really Need Vaccines

Comments

  1. Amanda says

    This is so incredibly interesting. I’ve been taking all my animals to the same veterinarian for years. He is absolutely extraordinary. Not only does he truly have the best interest of my kids at heart, but he cares about me and what I have to say as well. When my cat broke his leg in 2011, he did x-rays for free and casted his leg at no cost. He’s in it for his love of animals, and he helps people in the process. Wynston tends to be more weary around women, since his abuser was a woman. It’s not surprising that women are now dominated this field – we are just generally more loving and nurturing so it makes sense.

  2. JeanneP of bichonpawz says

    My dogs are mostly around women. My vets are all women. My groomers are all women! MUCH better bedside manner…I have personally had better luck with women…they definitely spend more time and seem more nurturing!

  3. Pawesome Cats says

    Gender doesn’t matter to us, but experience and willingness to listen to the pet parent does. This was especially important when Charlie was having a hard time with IBD, and I needed someone to provide a vet-educated opinion on my independent research. Interestingly, most of the vets were not in favour of a raw diet – but this is the one thing that has made a real difference.

  4. Jodi Jarvis-Therrian says

    Great read! I do believe that both men and women can make great vets. .Not to be discriminative but women do have better bedside manners for the most part. In my case having a scaredy cat dog a woman veterinarian is definitely the way to go when we are lucky enough to have one we adore!

  5. Fur Everywhere says

    Fantastic post, Carol! As you know, I just went through something traumatic with my vet, and now I’m searching for a new one. My kitties are my babies, and I want the veterinarian I see to be able to understand that and treat them like they are his/her babies, too, because he/she knows how important the kitties are to me. Your post really hit the nail on the head for me; bedside manner is essential. So is being able to talk openly with your veterinarian and ask him/her questions without him/her becoming offended or defensive. Thank you for writing this!

  6. Julia says

    I have definitely meet great vets and not so great vets of both sexes, but I have had more female vets that I “clicked” with than men. They do seem typically be warmer, ask more questions, and be willing to consider my input.

    When I was in HS, my sister had a Newf with a number health issues. Her male vet, Dr. Collins was so fabulous with Harlie, laying on the floor with him, letting Harlie wash his face with big sloppy Newf kisses. When he moved from the vet office 5 minutes away to his own practice 30 minutes away, my sister and Harlie happily followed him. He was there when Harlie had to be put down at the young age of 5 1/2.

    As an adult, I had a wonderful male orthopedic vet for my first Boxer bitch, he was compassionate, clear, and reassuring to this worried newbie owner. When we started using another very for our general needs, the practice owner was a fairly stiff, matter of fact woman who I didn’t much like, but the vets she hired were great. Dr. Barnes was there for Xena’s very last moments and was visibly broken up over the loss of my sweet girl.

    The vet practice I use in my current location is 30 minutes away, even though there are many closer to me. My youngest, Delta, is fine with either gender. Dash can have either sex, but he gets what I jokingly call “man crushes” & tends to have a harder time behaving for men because he’s over excited. Our current practice has a mix of men and women – my order of preference is two the females, one of the males (who’s approach is fine but he tends to talk your ear off). My least favorite is a woman with a gruff manner who tried to argue with me about the timing of spaying my bitch by using outdated scare tactics. I avoid her as much as possible. Thanks to the size of the practice, I haven’t seen her since that conversation.

  7. Robin says

    For me, gender doesn’t matter as much as factors like personality, knowledge, experience, etc. I tend to get a long better with men in general, but that wouldn’t hold me back from seeing a female veterinarian.

  8. Cathy Armato says

    Gender in a Vet definitely doesn’t matter to me. Along with education, the most important things are their skills, compassion, and bedside manner as well as how they interact with me in terms of explaining things and making recommendations. I’ve had mostly male Vets, but one female Vet I had was very pushy and seemed more interested in racking up fees than treating my pets so I ditched her, but I’m thinking she was an anomaly. it’s great to see that more women are becoming Veterinarians, what better field to dominate than the noble field of caring for animals? (-: Great post!

  9. Amy Shojai, CABC says

    Magic and Karma just had their wellness checks this morning. Our vet practice has both male and female vets and techs, and my pets don’t seem to have a preference. That said, Sere-kitty does seem to prefer the lady vet…either that, or she was just feeling so bad at that time, she didn’t have energy to be her usual “hissy” self.

  10. Mayor's mama says

    Great read as usual!
    In our case, we had an awful experience with a female vet and a good experience with a team of male vet. However, I didn’t choose the vet team that we have now based on gender at all. It is a pure coincidence that they are predominately male. Just like the article mentioned, I chose the vet based on rational criteria not based on gender only.

  11. Jen says

    I never realize the difference was that’s a huge gap, very interesting stuff. I’ve never used gender when deciding on a veterinarian, luckily my pets haven’t seemed to have gender preferences themselves. Now that I think about it I’d say about 90% of the vets I’ve seen have been female – though our regular vet that I love is male. (and gladly he’s only 10 minutes away)

  12. DZ Dogs says

    Great article!
    Gender doesn’t matter to me, when we lived in our apartment and had only cats, after I adopted Belle as a kitten we took her to our vets clinic but the male vet we normally saw wasn’t in so they put us with the female vet. She was aweful! Scared me to death when I turned down a vaccine for my indoor-only cat, guilted me and attempted to bully me into a decision! After we left I called in to the office and told them to reschedule with the male vet we used for my other kitty, and told them to never put us with that lady again!
    After we moved and adopted dogs it was too long of a drive to go to our old vet, we ended up researching clinics and found where we are now.
    Our main vet is a male, love him! I was a bit put off by him at first – he seemed tentative around my Dante which made Dante nervous (I was worried he might have issues with bully breeds). We gave him a second chance and have loved him ever since.
    Recently we needed an appt and he was out of town so we tried one of the female vets there at the clinic, ended up loving her too! I think the dogs are easier around her, she is very confident.
    But I am lucky that both vets take plenty of time, don’t rush us through appointments, don’t make us wait to long, and take the time to talk to me, answer questions, etc. 🙂

  13. Sadie says

    Very interesting! We have seen two different vets at our clinic; one male, one female. The pack is indifferent to the vet and react more based on what is happening during their consultations.

  14. Jana Rade says

    No, gender isn’t on a list of our criteria. Our guys don’t really care much either, though JD has harder time warming up to males. When he does get to know one, though, he’s good.

  15. Tharice Opalewski says

    Gosh I really never thought about this but I do know my dogs are more sensitive to certain people. My vet (male) gets on his knees his associate sits on the floor lets the kids lick and sniff him out before an exam starts. In my case I have never been to a female vet and right now am truly satisfied with whom I have for many of the reason’s noted in your article. Things that make me say hummmm

  16. Emma says

    The most important thing is a vet that knows what is going on and is good with us pets. Male or female doesn’t matter, but we tend to see mostly females as there are simply more female vets around.

  17. It's Dog or Nothing says

    This is really interesting as I’ve never considered gender as a factor when choosing my vet. Our clinic also has significantly more male vets than female. One of my top priorities is ensuring the vet has knowledge of the Great Pyrenees breed or is willing to learn. It’s also very important that the vet isn’t rushed and takes the time to chat with me and really understand what’s going on. I have yet to find that perfect vet, but I have a few that all balance each other out.

  18. Kendall | Lucky Dog says

    Interesting read. I have had the same veterinarian for all of my family’s pets, and compassion and knowledge are definitely first for me. In saying that, my dog doesn’t have a problem with men or women specifically, so I haven’t come across that issue yet.

  19. Val says

    I am comfortable with female or male vets who take the time to listen to me, are kind, and know above all else what they are doing when it comes to taking care of my furry family members.

  20. Rascal and Rocco says

    No, gender doesn’t matter, I agree with you that they have to have the skills, knowledge, and bedside manner. And myself and my animals need to feel comfortable with him or her.

  21. MattieDog says

    So far all of our vets (including our oncologist, optometrist, and cardiologist) have been women – only one man, and that was our little Spikey’s neurologist. What we found is it came down to tone and bedside manner, and the vet’s desire to connect with us. Just like any human/doctor experience!

  22. MyDogLikes says

    Carol-We are with you! We drive 30 minutes even though there are much closer options. We feel that we have found the perfect veterinarian for us, after years of searching. Though there are much fancier offices, the knowledge base of our little practice is unbelievable. I prefer the female doctors here because they have that bedside manner. They spend time just talking to my dogs and always sit on the floor and love on them! The seek to understand and don’t just talk to hear themselves. You couldn’t convince me to leave the practice!

  23. Elaine says

    Very interesting post. I had to choose between a male vet with slightly limited skills but a great bedside manner and who Haley loved, and another male vet with more advanced skills, a more clinical attitude and who Haley was more nervous around.

    Both are important, but I would choose skills over bedside manner every time. My old vet misdiagnosed and failed to treat a cancerous bump on Haley’s foot. My new vet may have saved her life by having a more advanced clinic and skill level. It was hard leaving my old vet because I really liked him, but my dog’s health comes first, even if she’s not as relaxed at the new clinic.

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