It has been a tough time for everyone over the past year or so, not least those working in veterinary practice, so Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month in May is a welcome opportunity to celebrate the efforts of the nation’s hardworking vet nurses. To mark the occasion, event sponsor Petplan asked its vet partner support team – many of whom are registered veterinary nurses themselves – about the highs and lows that everyone in the profession will recognise.

  1. You’ve explained the difference between a lump and a nipple countless time

“We often have people bringing in male dogs, asking us to check out lumps on their bellies – and they’re quite surprised to find that male dogs have nipples,” says former veterinary nurse and Petplan Territory Manager for the Midlands, Kayla Neville. “I’ve found myself thinking, ‘Does your husband not have nipples?’.”

  1. You’ve been scratched or bitten at the most inconvenient time

Being bitten and scratched is, of course, an occupational hazard for a veterinary nurse. “Put any of us out in the sun, and you’d probably see scars everywhere,” says registered veterinary nurse and Petplan’s northwest representative, Pauline Wellbelove.

Sometimes that can be particularly inconvenient, as Kayla notes. “I was bridesmaid for a friend who’s also a vet nurse. The day before the wedding, a dog jumped up and bit my cheek and I had the biggest bruise and cut across my cheek, and I had to ring her and tell her!”

Holding onto a fractious animal while it’s lashing out, no matter what, is just one reason every vet nurse is a hero in our book.

  1. You’ve washed your hair in dog shampoo

We’re not judging. We all know it works better.

  1. You haven’t had your lunch yet, and what the cat threw up seems oddly appealing

You’re so used to being around (or covered with) animal pee, poo and other noxious substances, you can pretty much ignore it. Sometimes their vomit even makes you peckish. “I was working on Christmas Eve once and we had a sick dog come in who’d eaten a load of mince pies. The smell of it made me hungry,” laughs Kayla.

“I’ve had that with chocolate orange,” admits Pauline. “Going out to the shop later to get the thing they’ve sicked up because it smelled so nice is something most nurses can relate to!”

  1. You’re used to looking after vets as well as animals

“We can’t read their handwriting and they’re always walking off with our pens,” laughs Petplan Territory Manager and registered veterinary nurse, Tegan Barnard, who’s based in South Wales. Then, she adds, there’s all the work you do to help them find things, because they were looking for them with ‘vet eyes’. “‘Where’s the lab book?’ ‘In the consult room next to the computer.’ ‘No, it’s not.’ ‘Yes it is!’”

  1. Chances are, you’ve tried dog food at some point

And you probably know better than to accept food from a fellow vet nurse in a mischievous mood. Pauline says, “There was a new dog food out that was like a pâté. We took it out of the tin and put it in a plastic container. We asked our colleague to try this new pâté and she put it on her toast, ate it and loved it!”

  1. You take your work home (sometimes permanently)

There’s no bigger animal lover than a veterinary nurse. Many people might be surprised at the number of creatures, from birds to hedgehogs, that get taken home for intensive care over the weekend. And some of them end up staying for good.

Pauline has rehomed cats, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs – and one very special patient. “I had a beautiful dog who came in with parvovirus,” she says. “At one point we thought she wouldn’t make it through the night.” As sometimes happens, in the end the owner decided they couldn’t pay the bill, so they left her. “I took her home and I had her for nine years,” she continues. “She was the most amazing dog.”

  1. You’ve slept in a kennel

You’ve probably spent the night at work to look after a patient, haven’t you? This dedication really warms our heart. “I’ve slept in a kennel multiple times on a night shift because I didn’t want to leave my patient, but I needed to get some kip!” says Tegan.

  1. You’ve really gone the extra mile over the past year

From adapting to ever-changing restrictions to treating pets in the car park, you’ve done your bit to care for the nation’s animals in the most challenging circumstances.

Pauline, for one, is looking on the bright side. “At least, with the Covid-19 restrictions, I don’t get dogs’ anal glands hitting me in the face – it goes on the visor instead!”

  1. You’ve made someone’s day, week or year

As a vet nurse, there are many patients you’ll never forget, and owners you’ve saved from a broken heart. “We had a puppy that had been run over and broken her leg in four different places – due to the nature of her injuries, we didn’t know if she’d survive,” says Tegan. Fortunately, the puppy was saved: “As we discharged her after surgery all his owner could say was, ‘My baby, my baby!’”.

You’ve probably pulled out all the stops to save someone’s furry family member more times than you can count. “I had a cat that got stuck in a van engine, and we had to lie underneath the car and sedate the cat before trying to remove him,” recalls Pauline. “The owner was considering having him put down because of his injuries, but we persuaded her not to. She didn’t have enough money to send him to the out-of-hours vet, so I took the cat home, gave him all his injections, and brought him back the next day. He lost his tail and part of one foot, but he made a full recovery, and lived to the ripe old age of 16.”

Actions like these have made many an owner’s year – changing people’s, as well as pet’s, lives for the better. We’re in awe of how, despite the many challenges being a vet nurse can bring, they continue to be the beating heart of the industry, helping customers, vets and animals.

Petplan salutes all the veterinary nurses out there during Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month, and all year round! Whether you’re already a vet partner of Petplan, or would like your practice to be, visit to find out more about how we support our amazing vets and veterinary nurses. And follow @PetplanUK on Facebook and Twitter or @Petplan_UK on Instagram to join our community of animal lovers.