Spotlight on vet health

High suicide and burnout rates among veterinarians should be investigated by a parliamentary inquiry, says a MP who worked as a vet before entering politics.

One Nation's Sarah Game said her early years in the animal care industry left her “disillusioned and depressed” as she battled long hours, high workloads and “dangerous exhaustion”.

National data shows rates of suicides among vets are four times higher than the Australian average and twice the rate among other health workers like doctors or dentists.

Ms Game will next week ask MPs in parliament to form a new committee to examine conditions in the industry.

She has the support of the parents of Sophie Putland, an Adelaide-born vet who took her life in 2021, at the age of 33.

Garry and Kate Putland have since launched Sophie's Legacy to lobby for better understanding of the pressures vets face and the impact of abuse by pet owners, especially over the cost of treatment for their animals.

Ms Game said Australians “need to get real about the cost of owning a pet”.

“We love our pets. It's time we start loving our vets and understanding the true cost of veterinary care,” she said.

Her proposed inquiry would also examine:

VET training, work hours and pay.

TRANSPARENCY in pricing.

PET insurance. COMPENSATION for vets who care for lost, stray or homeless animals and injured wildlife.

Ms Game has shared with The Advertiser some of the more stressful moments in her veterinary career, including performing gastric surgery on a “puppy that had eaten a sock” one Christmas Day.

“I went home and fell asleep in my bed in my soiled veterinary smock,” she said.

One night, while experiencing “dangerous exhaustion”, she drove “straight through a farmer's fence after doing a calving in the early hours of the morning”.

In another case, Ms Game said she was solely responsible for caring for a 60kg dog suffering haemorrhagic gastroenteritis over the course of a weekend.

“I just repeatedly lifted this dog in and out (and) ... cleaned the cage,” Ms Game said.

“I almost physically collapsed at the end of it.”

Ms Game said vets also had to deal with frequent, highly emotional scenarios and could become desensitised.

“I remember my first animal euthanasia so clearly, (but) after that it's a blur as I tuned out to save my soul from it,” she said.

“I couldn't tell you how many animals I've put down since.”

Sophie Putland, an Adelaide-born vet who took her life in 2021, at the age of 33. Picture: Supplied by family

One Nation's Sarah Game.