Dogs, due to the time commitment required, aren’t a good idea for medical school. You’ll need to spend a lot of time on the wards during your rotations and residency years, meaning that walking them and giving them the attention they deserve is likely to become problematic.
Personally I know a couple of students who have dogs while studying with me on the International program out in Bulgaria. And although they seem to love them, I do see the difficulties they go through care-wise when they want to leave the country for a while and visit their families back home.
Having always grown up with dogs though (check out the photo on my about page), I completely get it. Med school can be an isolating and challenging time. So having a dog can certainly brighten things up and help keep you going.
Still, it is a question worth examining. And, like all things, there are some key exceptions.
When is a Dog a Good Idea for Med School?
Generally, dogs are considered a good idea in the following circumstances:
- You live at home with family or a significant other who are able to look after and care for a dog while you complete your studies
- You have enough money to pay for dogwalkers, dogsitters etc that can take on some of the care duties for you while you’re involved in med school
- You go to a med school where time commitments are low and you’re able to spend a good amount of time at home (very rare)
- You live close to your place of work or study and are able to get back regularly to check in on your furry friend (not recommended)
Most med students, especially the younger ones, probably don’t have the luxury of having any of those options available to them. They might not also understand the particular challenges involved in getting a dog in the first place (more on this later).
So while getting a dog in med school might appear like a great idea, and be a nice distraction to all the heavy studying, it pays to think very carefully about your situation first.
One final thing to consider is your living arrangements too. Do you have enough space in your house/apartment to keep an animal as active as a dog? Do you live close enough to an outside park or green space that can be enjoyed by the both of you?
These are important practical questions.
What are the Problems Involved with Caring for a Dog During Med School?
The main problems involved in caring for a dog are strongly linked to your average med student’s primary concerns. These can include the following:
Cost – Dogs aren’t a cheap pet to look after. You’ll need insurance and be able to cover vet bills. Not to mention enough cash to cover buying dog food and all the accessories that go with owning a dog (leash, bowls, flea spray etc). Most med students, due to the expense of their degree, are already stretched thinly in this regard. So it’s definitely something to think about.
Time – It’s not fair to own a dog and go large periods of time without seeing it. Dogs are complicated creatures and need time, care and affection. They also need to be walked and exercised regularly too. Not to mention the time it’ll take to properly train them too!
Given a med students busy schedule this presents quite the challenge. Especially if classes/lectures are mandatory.
Space – Being a student just starting out in healthcare you’re unlikely to be in the fortunate position of being able to live in a large house with a roomy yard. At least in the beginning. Which is a problem because most dogs, especially the larger breeds, require space to move, run around and go the toilet etc.
If you’re a single student hellbent on getting a dog? Maybe it’s possible in the first two years of study. When you can do the bulk of pre-clinical stuff at home.
But after that – especially when you move into residency and are an expected presence in the hospital – things will get a whole lot trickier.
What Pets are Good for Medical School?
The benefits of owning a dog are numerous. They make great company, are fun to be around and, according to this study, even promote endorphin-release when we pet them.
But the disadvantages of med school, at least as I see it, mean they aren’t really feasible as good pets.
So that begs the question; are there any suitable pets you can keep while at med school? Here are my recommendations:
Cats – Cats are often more independent than dogs while also being great companions for you during your time in med school. They’re possibly cheaper to care for too, given their size, dietary needs and insurance costs.
Smaller Pets – Animals like guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters can be fun pets. They’re also well suited to owners with busy schedules, meaning you can leave them alone for long periods of time without causing them distress. .
Reptiles – Reptiles, although sometimes more expensive to keep (heaters, tanks, bedding etc) than smaller pets, can be interesting animals to look after. They’re also a massively varied species too. Popular favorites include bearded dragons and ball pythons.
Fish – Possibly the pets that require the least amount of time and care. But hardly as exciting or loving as a warm dog. You can’t cuddle them either.
Dogs, unless you have the support, time and finances, aren’t well-suited as a pet during your time in med school. But if you’re absolutely dedicated on making it work, and have worked out a solid plan, then here’s one last suggestion. Why not consider getting a rescue dog instead of a brand new puppy?
These little guys need caring for too.