Questions to ask while shadowing and questions about textbooks

  • Livestream AMA: Join SDN as we welcome Dr. John Ligon, a Pediatric Oncologist with the National Cancer Institute on May 11th at 8:00 PM Eastern. Register now!


Penn Vet V'14
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Nov 9, 2008
Philadelphia, PA
Status (Visible)
  1. Veterinary Student
Hi guys,

I was wondering what kind of advice you could give me about good questions to ask while shadowing and maybe about textbooks as well.

I'm currently shadowing an exotics vet. I shadow him twice a week, one day for surgeries, another for appointments and we typically see a lot of rabbits, lizards, and birds.

For the most part, I think I do alright asking questions, I've discussed with him why he went into veterinary medicine, how his residencies and internships were structured, his views on animal imprinting, wing clipping etc. And of course, when we have a case, we discuss blood work, xrays, and treatments.

But I admit, I always feel like I just don't know enough to be able to ask GOOD questions. Sometimes I'll be caught off guard when he will say something about bloodwork and I'm not sure what that indicates. Often I will ask him to explain what he means but I would love for him to be able to say in a recommendation that I ask GOOD questions. Not just "what does that mean?".

I do take notes and I'm definitely learning a lot, but I was wondering if people recommend looking at veterinary textbooks to gain a deeper understanding of some of the more basic parts of veterinary medicine. Do you think it would be useful to grab an anatomy textbook for example so I am more enlightened about the different animals we see? Would it be beneficial to read articles about treatment of different cases?
He has given me a few articles that he has written on different subjects for me to read, but I would just love to have a more engaging conversation with him and show that I'm serious and have been learning on my own as well.

Is this a good idea? and does anyone have any recommendations for books or questions to ask on a daily basis?


10+ Year Member
Dec 3, 2008
Status (Visible)
  1. Pre-Veterinary
In all honesty, you are pre-veterinary so much of the academic language and veterinary lingo will be just slightly out of reach (try looking into books such as the Merck Vet Manual to pick up on some terms). You could take a medical terminology class if your local college offers it.

Also, try reading a book called "Tell me where it hurts" By Dr. Nick Trout. It's a great read and you can really pick up some good information.

But, keep in mind, "Why" is one of the greatest questions ever formed. If we could all stay three years old forever, we'd have an unlimited amount of information in our noggins :p. Asking "Why" and "what does that mean" prove you are really interested and is much better than just standing there and watching over his/her shoulder.

Hope that helps :D

No Imagination

10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Sep 19, 2008
Status (Visible)
  1. Veterinarian
I agree about the Merk Vet Manual... Used to love reading that during down time at the hospital I worked at.

Also, I don't know why, but Zoonotic Disease text books were really helpful for me. They seemed to be written with both Vet and Human med in mind. The one I read, which I loved, was quite old, but very helpful.

Last, since you are working with exotics, drug interactions, or rather, 'exclusions' lead to a lot of fun facts. Like, aspirin ok for dogs, but not cats, while arsenic is tolerated very well by cats, but not... well, anything else (DON'T TRUST ME ON THAT, just what I seem to recall).

Chocolate for dogs = bad (why? - Whats different about the dogs physiology then humans? - what's the difference in the biochem pathway?) Why not cats? (think it is just as bad, but cats don't go for sweets). Classic, the A.A. Taurine for cats. What gives there? Why cant they make it themselves?

Those fun facts often lead to specific knowledge about the immune and physiological differences about animals, and with exotics, I am sure there are many many more.
About the Ads


2 weeks and counting
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Oct 10, 2006
Western Australia
Status (Visible)
  1. Veterinary Student
There's no real 'good' or 'bad' questions. One of the things that people who write recommendations want to see is that you ask questions at all. If you are just starting out you are more than expected to keep on asking "what does that mean" type questions. As you go on and see stuff start to repeat, that's where you will build on your knowledge base and start to ask deeper questions. So don't think you are too out of the loop... you have to start somewhere.

Personally... I'd skip the Merck Manual as a 'casual reader' because you really need to have a basis for understanding physiology before some of the things make sense. With that said, I would also skip the anatomy textbooks for the time being. Try looking for the Textbook of Veterinary Physiology by Cunningham. It's a good book and as long as you have a general bio background, it shouldn't be too difficult of a read and it is one of the texts that is used in vet schools. Having a general grasp of physiology will help you immensely, then you can move on to specific diseases and such eg Merck Manual (which you can access online mostly as well).

Also, if you haven't done so already you can register for (veterinary support personnel network -- a VIN partner site for non-vets). There is some good info to be read on there, it is free, and is also a place for networking with other non-veterinary staff, all you have to do is work at a vet clinic :)


The-OSU CVM c/o 2013
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Aug 20, 2007
Status (Visible)
  1. Resident [Any Field]
Ive always found "How can you tell that" to be a good question.

We shoot rads and the doc says the dog has a pneumothorax, so I would ask them what lead them to that conclusion.(gap between heart and sternum in lateral, and the displaced bronchiol pattern on the VD)

Holding an animal so the doc can cysto a urine sample and they say there is a stone there, so I ask how they know(Didnt actually see the stone, but could tell from the shadowing it caused).

And if its a disorder I dont know much about, simply going home and reading about it. Addisons case? go home and read about it.
About the Ads
This thread is more than 12 years old.

Your message may be considered spam for the following reasons:

  1. Your new thread title is very short, and likely is unhelpful.
  2. Your reply is very short and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  3. Your reply is very long and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  4. It is very likely that it does not need any further discussion and thus bumping it serves no purpose.
  5. Your message is mostly quotes or spoilers.
  6. Your reply has occurred very quickly after a previous reply and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  7. This thread is locked.