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Celebrity vet offers work insights

By Ren Xiaojin | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-16 07:32
A veterinary assistant puts eye drops in a cat's eyes at a hospital in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. [Photo by Chen Wencai/For China Daily]

Many people love animals. But while working with them, especially sick ones, can be rewarding, it can also be exhausting, stressful and fraught with misunderstanding.

Type any pet clinic's name into a Chinese online search engine and the most frequently related topics that appear are "Is it a trap?", "Does it overcharge?" or "Is the vet reliable?"

Zhang Xu, a celebrity vet with more than 1 million followers on social media who operates his own clinic in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, offered some insights into the life of a vet.

"I mainly deal with complicated cases. Apart from answering questions people send me online, I usually see seven to eight pet patients every day, and three or four of them will need operations," he said.

In response to complaints about fees, he said many factors affected costs.

"The medical equipment used for pets is not used frequently enough," he said.

"For example, an X-ray machine in a hospital can be used more than 100 times a day, and the fees charged for using it can cover the purchase cost in about three to four years," Zhang said. However, the computed tomography scanning machine Zhang bought for his clinic, which cost 2 million yuan ($290,969), is only used about 15 times on a busy day.

Zhang said that while the salary for a vet was not bad, a high salary also meant a heavy workload.

"Treating an animal also involves more labor costs," he said. "For a type-B ultrasonic examination, it requires at least three members of staff to hold the pet in place, shave it, comfort it and control it. Even on our busiest day, no more than 20 pets will be examined. While in a hospital, one type-B ultrasonic room can host over 120 patients."

The cost of medical equipment, low frequency of usage, lower volume of visits and labor intensity all contribute to the high cost of treatment, Zhang said.

He said misunderstandings and dealing with unhappy pet owners were also part of the job. Once he was asked to treat a turtle that had cost 20 yuan. Believing that every life is equal, Zhang, a nurse and an anesthetist operated on the animal.

"We worked for a whole afternoon on the turtle and the bill came to 2,000 yuan. A 2,000 yuan operation for a 20 yuan turtle, for the pet owner, it seemed that we were overcharging," he said. "But for us, the basic bill was 2,000 yuan, plus labor costs for three people for a whole afternoon, such a business is hardly profitable."

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