Dr Melissa Charles has joined the Pet Health Care team for all our medical related inquiries and we wanted to share with you more about the lady behind the blue coat. Join us every Monday on the PetHealthCare Facebook page for free veterinary advice.
Tell us Dr Melissa, why did you choose to become a vet?
I was fortunate to grow up with pets as well as horses so I was always surrounded by them. It was a natural progression from early childhood that I knew I would work with animals. It also helped that we lived next door to the vet so I was always there helping where I could.
What would you say, from an educational point of view, is important if someone wants to become a Veterinarian?
I would say that one has to work very hard at school to get the marks to go to any university to study what they have chosen. Veterinary is no different than any other course, the only thing is you have to want to do it and sacrifice the time to study. You have to be passionate about it. Maths, Science, Biology are all important subject choices when at school. You also need to be quite practical.
Have you worked outside of South Africa as a Veterinarian?
I have worked in the United Kingdom and Dubai as well as volunteered in sterilisation campaigns in Greece.
What is a typical day at the office for you?
That’s the lovely thing about being a vet, no one day is ever the same which keeps it interesting. Animals always surprise us!
Is there sometimes a misconception about what vets do?
I think people think that because you are a vet, you love animals which we do and often pet owners dotn expect how expensive it is to treat animals. We have to use the same drugs and equipment that doctors use for people so often people don’t relate or equate the expense to their animal as to their child.
What is the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part of the job definitely is to put a beloved pet to sleep. The decision is never taken lightly and it affects us veterinarians a lot more than what people think especially if we have watched that dog/cat grow up over the years.
What's the best part about being a vet?
The best part of the job is treating a patient that responds well to treatment and you are able to send them home, especially after a complicated medical case or surgery. You know that you have saved that animal's life and that is very rewarding.
Have you ever had a case that you could giggle about?
The funniest case I had was after an owner gave their dog a rubber ball to chew and it got stuck in his teeth, for a whole day they thought he really liked the ball and wouldn’t drop it until they realised they couldn’t drop it and we had to surgically remove the ball from his mouth!
Do you have a special way you like to communicate with animals?
Animals are often stressed when they come into the vet, the best approach is always to be calm and talk to them whether they are on the consulting table, waking up from an anaesthetic or spending a few days in hospital. Touch is also very important; it reassures them that the hand that needs to inject them isn’t a negative thing. Cats especially need to be constantly reassured and loved in hospital.
Being a veterinarian can be very challenging, especially if you do it because you have such a deep passion for their health and wellbeing. What is the greatest challenge of being a vet?
The greatest challenge is trying to find a good work balance. The veterinary profession is often all consuming and we never seem to switch off. I still often wake up at night worrying about a case. It's difficult to switch off at times.
What is the biggest reward of being a veterinarian?
The biggest reward is when a rescue dog/cat finds a loving home. I have done a lot of welfare work over the years and am very committed to setting up my own welfare clinic next year. There are many wonderful people, not only veterinarians, who play an integral role in finding forever homes for dogs/cats. That feeling of helping an animal in distress will never go away.
Do you work with shelter or homeless animals ever?
Yes, I do a lot of volunteer work for various charities from veterinary work to sponsoring products from my Savvydog pet safety accessory range.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering becoming a veterinarian, what would it be?
You have to really WANT to be a vet. It’s not always about cute puppies and kittens, it can be very hard at times but also very rewarding.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
My goal is to expand my brand “Savvydog - be seen be safe” pet-safety range as well as to set up a community veterinary clinic in Struisbaai near my hometown, which will be used to treat and sterilise animals from the area , as well as provide educational tools to pet owners regarding responsible pet ownership. My dreams have just happily come true after recently marrying the farmer of my dreams so now I have the best of both worlds living on one of the most beautiful farms in the Overberg. I definitely am one lucky vet!
Do you have a question for Dr Melissa? Post your question on the PetHealthCare Facebook page and she will be happy to try and help you and your pets today.