The Veterinarian Suicide Crisis

8 common causes for suicidal ideation in vets  Plus 7 Ways Pet Owners Can Help

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uncovered a disturbing trend in the veterinary profession.

An analysis of 11,620 veterinarians' death records had revealed that 398 were the result of suicide.

Compared to the general population, male veterinarians in the U.S are 2.2. times more likely to die by suicide. The risk jumps to 3.5 in female vets.

A 2014 survey of 11,627 American vets found that 31% had had depressive episodes

1 in 6

had contemplated suicide

Even more disturbing was the fact that

(1.4%) of those vets had actually already attempted suicide


In some parts of the world, veterinarians are up to 4 times more at risk for suicide.

This problem isn't exclusive to the U.S.

A 2020 survey of 3,118 veterinarians in Germany classified


of vets to be at increased risk of suicide

The animals of Australia tragically lose

one veterinarian

to suicide


every 12 weeks

Why would people who "get to play with animals every day for a job" want to kill themselves?

Keep reading for 8 of the most common reasons.

1. Difficult client interactions

– Accusations of not caring and "only being in it for the money"

– Getting blamed for not being able to save pets when owners delay and refuse care

2. Online personal attacks

Scathing, one-sided reviews and social media hate campaigns against individual vets inciting mass public attacks and death threats 

Constantly dealing with the suffering and distress of patients and clients results in Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder which mimics PTSD 

3. Compassion fatigue

4. Depression and anxiety

– Perceiving the inability to save all patients as a personal failing

Fear of angering clients, negative reviews, and online attacks

5. Overwhelming student debt

– The average veterinary student debt is $200K, with some over $500K

– Veterinarians don't qualify for student loan forgiveness programs 

6. Covid-19 pandemic

– Pet ownership surged 70% in 2020, creating a critical vet shortage

– Staffing shortages and safety protocols increase wait times and anger clients

7. Overwork and burnout

Staff shortages mean skipping breaks and working overtime every day, creating poor work-life balance 

8. Access to euthanasia drugs

In moments of mental distress, euthanasia can feel like a logical way to end their own suffering 

So, what can we do to help our vets?

Continue reading for 7 really easy ways in which you can help your vet.

1. Be Patient

Pets don't always cooperate with treatment or an emergency may have come in. Plan for wait times when making your appointment.

2. Take financial responsibility

Never accuse a vet of being in it for the money or take your frustrations out on staff whose job it is to take your payment.

2. Don't wait till it's an emergency

Call the vet's office as soon as you notice something's wrong. Don't wait till it it's too late or becomes a more costly emergency.

3. Get pet health insurance or an emergency plan

Look into pet insurance or emergency plans ASAP to avoid a situation where you won't be able to pay for your pet's care.

5. Say "thank you"

Don't forget to thank everyone who made it possible for your pet to get care—from the receptionists to the assistants to the vet.

6. Be kind

If a mistake has been made, remember it's never intentional. Vets are human—just like you. They feel bad enough without you shaming or berating them.

7. Speak to management

If you have a problem with your visit or bill, ask to speak to the manager privately. Posting a negative review is hurtful to those who worked hard to care for your pet.

Vet staff everywhere are quitting and 4 out of 10 vets are considering leaving the profession due to its impacts on their mental health.

And those are the lucky ones.

Due to the shortage of vets and staff, sick and injured pets are waiting 6-10 hours to be seen by an emergency vet.

Being kind costs you nothing, but failing to do so could very well cost our pets their lives. So, please remember this at your next vet visit and be kind to your vet.

Thanks for reading!