If you have pets, you know they’re like family members. They bring us joy, they comfort us when we’re sad, and they’re always there to hang out whenever you need a positive influence. One local lady making sure our furry friends stay healthy and happy is Kim Covert, a high school valedictorian who works at Family VetCare in Mesa. When she’s not treating patients, she’s hanging out with two pooches of her own. Read on for where her love for animals comes from, and to listen to five reasons the 29-year-old Arizona native and Tempe resident still loves calling the Valley her home.
What brought you to Arizona?
I am an Arizona native and have always loved it here. While growing up, my family made the most of all the fun activities Arizona has to offer. We waterskied, camped, and hiked all over the state. I did spend four years for veterinary school in Washington, but decided to come back to Arizona to practice. I have a wonderful family that lives here and have had the chance to start my career here, as well.
When did you first think you wanted to be a veterinarian?
The long process of becoming a veterinarian started as in interest in medicine in general. I looked into human medicine, nursing, physical therapy, and veterinary medicine. I had the opportunity to work at a veterinary clinic while I was in college. That experience helped me realize my passion for animals, as well as people. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the animals and getting to learn about medicine at the same time.
Why do you have a passion for animals?
My passion has always been to help people. Working with animals has been a great way to realize that passion as a career. Often, my clients’ animals are part of the family. They are their owners’ children. Animals cannot talk to us, and so as a veterinarian, it is my job to solve the puzzle of what is wrong.
There is no greater feeling than being able to successfully treat a helpless being. I have the great joy of helping people and animals every day. The human animal bond has been studied extensively and is very beneficial to both people and pets. I love being able to use my career to further that bond, and promote the well-being of both people and pets.
Why are pets important in society?
Pets have been a part of humanity for a very long time. We even have scientific studies that show owning pets can be emotionally and physically beneficial to people. They provide companionship and unconditional love, as well as assist their human companions with everyday tasks.
Working dogs have saved lives through alerting owners about impending seizures, safely guiding the blind, and providing comfort to hospitalized people. Even untrained pets have been known to alert help when their owners are injured. Owning a pet can be a truly enriching experience for both the owner and the pet.
What should people consider before they get a pet?
Owning a pet is a big responsibility. They require energy and attention, as well as good medical care. Each pet is different, but regardless of species, a pet is likely to need preventative care, as well as the occasional sick visit to a veterinarian. It is a good idea to have a saving fund for your pet to help cover the cost of unexpected medical needs. An emergency can happen at any time and put an owner in a bind financially.
Cost is not the only consideration, though. Lifestyle should be taken into account before choosing a pet. Ask yourself how much time can you devote to attention, training, and exercise. Some species require less time devoted to training and exercise then others. Some breeds are high-energy and need lost of exercise, while others are mellower. Exotic pets may have special habitat needs and require more effort on husbandry. Talking to your veterinarian about what may be required for a new pet can help you get a better idea of the responsibility and commitment needed.
What would you recommend as a good starter pet?
Each person or family is going to be different for what may be a good starter pet. Puppies in general require a good amount of time and training starting out, but all the effort at the beginning will pay off with a well-behaved dog.
Cats in general do not require a lot of training and tend to be more independent than dogs. For a person who works long hours and doesn’t have the time for upfront training, a cat may be better then a dog for a first pet. Exotics can also be good pets, but check with your exotic veterinarian to get information on husbandry, diet and medical needs.
What are the biggest trends/issues surrounding pets you’re seeing right now?
Some of the biggest trends we are seeing parallel issues in human medicine. There is an increasing cost of care, and with the downturn in the economy, that has placed an additional burden on our pet owners and our veterinarians. It is increasingly important to find a veterinarian that you trust to make the best recommendations for your pets, and help you care for them within your budget.
Veterinary medicine has advanced greatly in the last several decades, but many owners do not take advantage or do not know about insurance for pets and cost of veterinary care. As veterinarians, we go through the same medical training as human physicians. Consider that a hysterectomy in a human hospital can cost up to $90,000. A spay (which is the same procedure) costs about $300-$400. Comparing costs excluding human insurance can shed light on why some veterinary services seem quite expensive.
Specialty services such as neurosurgery, cardio-thoracic surgery, oncology, and others are widely available for pets. Again, without insurance, cost can be a concern, but we want owners to know their options and be able to make the best choice for their pet and their budget.
As a general practitioner, I also have a wide variety of advanced equipment to offer the best treatment plans for my patients. Often, I hear concerns about cost from clients. Many times, we are working together to find the best plan but also have to fit that plan into a budget for owners. Not only is this a burden for owners, but also for their veterinarians.
Imagine knowing you can save a pet’s life, but because of cost you are not able to do your best. Most of us did not get into this profession for the money, and it is very distressing to have so much of the care tied to financial concerns. But, in the end, we have to charge for our services to keep our doors open and pay for our schooling to continue to provide care for our patients.
The important thing is to find a veterinarian whom you trust and with whom you feel comfortable discussing cost. A good veterinarian will explain a diagnosis and all the options, making the best recommendation for the health of your pet.
What is your favorite animal, and why?
My favorite animal is a classic, the dog. I have a wonderful basset hound that really has been my best friend. She is such a loving girl, and has a knack for always making me feel better when I need it most. Dogs make great companions, and if trained well, can go almost anywhere with their owners. My dog has been rock climbing, camping, snowshoeing — and, of course, to dog-friendly breweries.
Do you have any tips for teaching your pet tricks?
The best way to teach a trick is to be persistent. It doesn’t matter if you are using training treats, which have less calories for more stubborn pets, or a clicker — time and persistence will yield the best results. For example, dogs that are food-motivated are generally easy to train with simple treats as rewards for obeying. In general, negative reinforcement does not work. If you are having trouble with training, ask your veterinarian for a referral for a trainer or behaviorist.
What makes a good vet, and what makes you a good vet?
The difference between a good veterinarian and a great veterinarian is communication. We all have the training and tools to provide quality care. A great veterinarian will be willing to talk to you about all your pet’s needs honestly, guide your through treatments, and answer any of your questions.
I always strive to have compassion and understanding not just for my patients, but for owners, as well. When I discuss a diagnosis, I want owners to know all of their options. If something is not feasible, then we discuss what can be done and how to best meet the needs of the owners and their companions. We are a team, and as a vet, I want to empower my clients to make decisions with me for their pets.
As a veterinarian, I take great pride in being a servant leader. I am made this my career because I wanted to help people and their pets. I take that attitude with me into every exam room, and most of the time, people and their pets bless me for more than they could ever know.