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Oyen Interviews Dr Foo and Dr Tan: Thirteen years as pets' heroes

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Pet owners often worry about the health and well-being of their pets. They almost always seek a veterinarian’s assistance with their cutie’s medical complications. However, have they ever thought of the journey of those who help their pets? In all honesty, we never truly comprehend the experiences of our pets' heroes.

In today’s story, we are joined by Dr Foo (right) and Dr Tan (left) as they share their thirteen-year-long experiences and thoughts as veterinarians in Malaysia.

Dr Tan: I’m Dr Tan and I graduated from UPM in 2009. I joined small animal clinic when I finished school which means it has been thirteen years. 

Dr Foo: Hi, I’m Dr Foo but you can also call me Dr Sandra. I started working in a small animal clinic for the first two years of my career. I then moved to corporate for a few years, specifically small animal nutrition before I went back to join the small animal clinic. I’ve also been a vet for thirteen years.

Oyen: Can you perhaps talk about how your clinics were founded?

Dr Tan: Our first clinic was founded in 2011 so, Essential Clinics have been around for eleven years. As of now, we have nine clinics. We moved to a bigger premise last year, so we are able to do quite a lot. We changed the concept from a vet clinic to a veterinary centre. We are able to deal with more advanced cases like surgeries. It has been quite a fulfilling journey because we are able to see how the industry has allowed us to grow.

Oyen: What made you two decide to work together?

Dr Tan: You didn’t know? She’s actually my wife. I started KD Vet first and then we came to a stage whereby we needed more vets, that’s when she decided to join.

Oyen: I wasn’t aware! That’s really cool. Since both of you have been in this industry for over a decade, I'm really curious to know what being a vet means to you. Can you perhaps share a bit about that?

Dr Tan from Vet Essential Services

Dr Tan: I think for me it's pretty straightforward. I knew since I was thirteen that I wanted to become a vet. The journey to becoming a vet and doing what I'm doing now has always been clear to me. I'm simply doing what I feel like doing. I would say being a vet is fun, I enjoy it a lot but of course, it has some downsides just like any other profession or job.

Overall, I think the passion is still there. If you love what you are doing, if you love taking care of patients and seeing them recover, I think the years go by really quickly. So, when I told to you that I’ve been in this industry for thirteen years, I was also quite surprised. It’s been that many years but it doesn’t feel like it because I still feel really happy treating animals in need.

Oyen: Can you tell us an experience you’ve had as a vet that you find rewarding?

Dr Foo: I think the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a vet is divided into two parts. The first is being in a small animal practice. It’s rewarding when I see my patients recover and become healthy again because of the treatments I gave them. I also worked in a small animal nutrition company, I think that is a bit different but it was still rewarding for me because I was able to convey knowledge and raise awareness of nutrition for small animals, the knowledge is conveyed to vets and pet owners.  

Dr Tan: IN my case, I cannot pinpoint a single experience that I find rewarding but I would say that I find it fulfilling that I can share and show a lot of youngsters that being a vet is not entirely difficult, I can show the positive parts of being a vet. There are of course various inputs from various people in the industry. There were cases whereby students would come in to see me and say that they would like to do veterinary medicine but their families are against it. I would tell them to come again to gain experience. 

Some ended up speaking to their parents and they’d say that even if their parents don’t support them, they’d still want to stick to their decision. A lot of these younger potential vets got their inspiration to pursue their dreams. I think when we compare veterinary medicine with human medicine or other occupations, if you don’t have the heart for this industry, you can’t really see why one would want to become a vet. We don’t blame anyone because a lot of parents and family members won’t understand. The same goes for my parents back then, in the end, they supported me.

Oyen: How do you usually deal with distressed pet owners? 

Dr Foo/Sandra from Vet Essential Services

Dr Foo: In a small animal practice, we do get some angry customers, especially if their request is not fulfilled. I always try to understand and communicate properly. I would calm them down before providing options for their ill/injured pets. I don’t think there’s a point in getting worked up when you want to explain what’s wrong with their pets, it’s all about sympathy and putting yourself in their shoes. 

I don’t think I’ve rejected any clients before but there were times I had to tell pet owners that they were coming for treatments pretty late and the vet is closing. Instead, we would suggest that they go to other vets that are still operating. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever rejected clients because of their behaviour. I’m sure there is a reason why they get emotional. I’ll make sure to place myself in their position as a customer and figure out what I can do to work things out.

Dr Tan: It’s impossible to please everyone and find companies that have perfect online reviews. As long as you do a good job then you will be just fine. We mainly focus on doing what we do. We have our fair share of good and bad reviews; we don’t ask our customers to give us feedback and we don’t actually reply to them. The reason why is that when we receive negative reviews, we believe that we should respect people as they have the right to their opinions. We would never tell them to remove or edit their reviews, customers have every right to feel the way they feel. We just wouldn’t reply. Funnily enough, a lot of customers who have received treatments for their pets from us would defend us instead. 

Oyen: Since both of you have been in this industry for over ten years, is there an event you think left a lasting impact on you? 

Dr Foo: We’ve come across so many cases and experienced so many things as vets. It’s difficult to pick just one case but I think along the way, we do have a few cases that have caused more impact on our entire experience as vets. I can tell you that as a fresh graduate when I first started working, there was a puppy that had a fatal illness that came from a breeder. The poor puppy passed away due to the severity of the illness and that left a scar on me. From then on, I would try my absolute best to help every patient I get but sometimes things just don’t go the way we want. Certain illnesses and cases are just too fatal that we are left with no way out. 

Oyen: When it comes to vets, I take it as handling two customers. One is the actual patient and the other is the owner. As for the latter, it is as if you are their therapist. A lot of vets I’ve interviewed agreed with this statement, what about both of you? Do you perhaps agree or do you think otherwise? 

Dr Foo/Sandra from Vet Essential Services

Dr Foo: I think I agree with that because it seems like we deal with two patients rather than just one. You need to provide treatments to the patients and simultaneously provide comfort to pet owners. Pet owners may come in and tell you what they’ve observed and what they think is wrong with their pets but when you do the check-up, other things come to your attention.  

Dr Tan: I think as vets you’ll always have two patients to treat, especially with clients who are hard to get through. Despite all that, everything is usually solved with genuine and good conversation.

Oyen: I’m assuming that both of you have dealt with different types of owners throughout your years of experience as a vet. Do you have any messages or advice to give to pet owners or who wish to get a pet?

Dr Tan: Get insurance! Get it from Oyen. I do believe that financial restriction is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome as pet owners, but I really believe that getting insurance from you guys is necessary. Besides adopting pets, you are entitled to your freedom of choice, I’m not against purchasing pets and just adopting because as long as you know what you are doing and you’re a responsible owner, you'll be fine. Just be a responsible pet owner and get insurance.

Dr Foo: I think for me I’d say that one would have to become a responsible pet owner. Pets also deserve a quality life and I think with insurance it can financially assist pet owners. Additionally, I do want to remind pet owners that they should always seek medical assistance for their pets right after seeing the first sign. Illnesses can quickly deteriorate a pet’s health and it would eventually become difficult for vets to help.  If you are not ready for the responsibility of providing for your pet, perhaps delay that decision to get pets. I always think that pets can be a part of one's life and family but to a pet, you are their everything.

We would love to thank Dr Foo and Dr Tan from Vet Essential Services for spending their precious time chatting with us. If you enjoyed their stories and thoughts, reach out to us and let us know!

Read similar articles

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Most pet owners consider vets as heroes to their furry companions but how much do they know about the struggles and experience of these heroes? In today’s story, Oyen is joined by one of Malaysia’s most diligent vets, Dr Diana, to dive into her ten-year journey as a veterinarian. 

Dr Diana: My name is Nur Diana Hasan from Kajang, Selangor. I was born in 1988 and I graduated from UPM in 2012. This year marks my tenth year as a vet and it feels really good. I started working once I graduated and applied to a few companies. However my first job was as a research assistant. It was a good experience but it lasted me a good three to four months. Then I was offered a junior vet position in Langkawi and worked there for over two years. Afterwards, I continued my studies and later, started working at a small animal vet clinic for three to four years before I opened my vet clinic.

Oyen: How and when was your practice founded?

Oyen interviews Dr Diana from Pets Ville Animal Clinic

Dr Diana: Pets Ville Animal Clinic was founded in April 2018. Back then I was in the midst of changing careers and my husband was planning to set up a business and we decided to set up a small animal practice. We were looking at Klang Valley but we found out that Cyberjaya had no vets. We went to a commercial area in Cyberjaya to ask about pet shops and what not. The people there informed us that there was only one pet shop and they had zero vets.

Pet owners we met told us that they would travel quite far just to find a vet. Some went to vets in Putrajaya, Dengkil and even to Bangi which takes forty minutes without traffic jams. We knew that it was only right for us to open a practice in Cyberjaya and we did! We were the first vet in Cyberjaya. We never thought of competing with anybody, it was a matter of providing help to pet owners. We started very small but slowly, more people started coming to us.

Oyen: What does being a veterinarian mean to you?

Dr Diana: I think it’s all about giving the right diagnosis to patients and providing treatments that cater to their needs. Additionally, we’re not simply placing our focus on our patients but we also have to attend to pet owners. This means that a vet must be equipped with the skills that can allow them to manage both parties. We also try our best to educate pet owners on the principle of good pet ownership. Any medical complications that occur to pets, depend heavily on pet owners. We also cannot simply do as we wish to our patients because we need the consent of their owners.

Oyen: What do you consider the most rewarding experience you have had as a vet?

Dr Diana: I think my answer will be very cliché but, in all honesty, being able to see your patients heal and become healthy again will forever be rewarding to me. Besides that, seeing pet owners’ smile is another heart-warming achievement.

It may not seem too extravagant but to be able to save life or provide treatments for pets in need is what’s most rewarding to me.

Oyen: Can you share a stressful event you had to go through as a vet?

Dr Diana: As a small business owner, not being able to perform in full capacity is what stresses me. For example, if you have a team member who is off duty and you know that you’re going to be handling a lot of cases in a single day, it takes so much energy out of you because you become pressured. We are not a big clinic that has over forty staff, our team is small and it would only be right for everyone to be present so that the vet can function without any issues. Sometimes, due to the lack of available tools and/or facilities, it does become frustrating because we’re not able to give what should be given to patients. There is only so much a small vet practice like ours can dream of.

Oyen: Is there a particular event throughout your career that left a lasting impact on you?

Pets Ville Animal Clinic

Dr Diana: It took me quite a while to think about how to answer this question. My answer might not be vet-related but in the five years I’ve operated my practice, I lost two people who were very dear to me, my beloved uncle and grandmother. It hit me quite hard back then, it took a toll on me.

I learnt that money will never be able to buy time so don’t take people for granted. I finally came to realise the importance of work-life balance. It’s regrettable that I wasn’t able to be there during their passing but it made me appreciate the people around me.

Back then we operated daily because we were still new. We were the only vet there so the fear of people not knowing that we even existed was rather strong. My team and I were too hard on ourselves, we were overwhelming ourselves. Slowly, we figured that it needed to change. We wanted to have days of our lives outside of our profession which is why the operation hour beacme much shorter than before.

Oyen: How do you usually deal with distressed pet owners?

Dr Diana: Usually, when pet owners enter the vet and they’re already feeling upset, it is almost impossible to calm them down. So, we need to hear them out and see what they have to say. If I catch them saying things that are wrong or misleading, I simply correct them. If what we suggest does not seem enough to these pet owners, we sometimes have to agree to disagree. 

If you have dealt with many pet owners, you’ll know there are different categories. Some are very accepting, some are very hard on themselves and lastly, there are those who possess a lot of money but then vets are the ones who lack the capacity to help. When we deal with distressed owners, we just have to see what they have to say and see what they request from you. If it is something tolerable then go ahead and assist them but if their requests are nonsense then you just agree to disagree or just direct them to another vet. 

If I had to nitpick, I would say that some breeders paint themselves to be very knowledgeable. Of course, this does not apply to all breeders but we’ve had a few who were very demanding. They would request specific treatments and procedures. If their demands are reasonable, I can truly help them but there are breeders who would cross the line. Again, not all breeders are irresponsible but there are a few that are very persistent and strong headed, especially when it comes to what they want. There is no changing their mind or perspective.

We’ve met breeders who were against neutering and would breed cats multiple times a year for the sake of money. This really needs to come to an end, they have zero ethics and have insufficient knowledge of what breeding should be like. A lot of female cats would suffer uterus infections because of these breeders. I would say that it’s easy money for them. Breeding cats is more than just about money, you need to find the right mating partner and breeders need to have plans for the cats they breed. Certain cats cannot produce healthy offspring after four to five years and this type of knowledge is crucial. On a brighter note, I’ve also met responsible breeders who would take matters seriously and they are open to learning and accepting the opinions of vets.

Oyen: What message would you give pet owners in Malaysia?

Oyen Pet Insurance Interviews Dr Diana- Pets Ville Animal Clinic

Dr Diana: I just want to say that pets are family. They deserve your time, love, and attention. Your plans are their plans which means every decision you make for yourself; there should be space for them as well. We have to consider pets like they are our kids. I really believe that the best thing a pet and an owner can have is a close bond.

Our team at Oyen would like to thank Dr Diana for taking her precious time to speak with us. Her stories and thoughts as a decade-long veterinarian are truly eye-opening and inspiring. If you enjoyed Dr Diana’s heart-warming stories, reach out to us and let us know!

👫 Community
- read

Pet owners often worry about the health and well-being of their pets. They almost always seek a veterinarian’s assistance with their cutie’s medical complications. However, have they ever thought of the journey of those who help their pets? In all honesty, we never truly comprehend the experiences of our pets' heroes.

In today’s story, we are joined by Dr Foo (right) and Dr Tan (left) as they share their thirteen-year-long experiences and thoughts as veterinarians in Malaysia.

Dr Tan: I’m Dr Tan and I graduated from UPM in 2009. I joined small animal clinic when I finished school which means it has been thirteen years. 

Dr Foo: Hi, I’m Dr Foo but you can also call me Dr Sandra. I started working in a small animal clinic for the first two years of my career. I then moved to corporate for a few years, specifically small animal nutrition before I went back to join the small animal clinic. I’ve also been a vet for thirteen years.

Oyen: Can you perhaps talk about how your clinics were founded?

Dr Tan: Our first clinic was founded in 2011 so, Essential Clinics have been around for eleven years. As of now, we have nine clinics. We moved to a bigger premise last year, so we are able to do quite a lot. We changed the concept from a vet clinic to a veterinary centre. We are able to deal with more advanced cases like surgeries. It has been quite a fulfilling journey because we are able to see how the industry has allowed us to grow.

Oyen: What made you two decide to work together?

Dr Tan: You didn’t know? She’s actually my wife. I started KD Vet first and then we came to a stage whereby we needed more vets, that’s when she decided to join.

Oyen: I wasn’t aware! That’s really cool. Since both of you have been in this industry for over a decade, I'm really curious to know what being a vet means to you. Can you perhaps share a bit about that?

Dr Tan from Vet Essential Services

Dr Tan: I think for me it's pretty straightforward. I knew since I was thirteen that I wanted to become a vet. The journey to becoming a vet and doing what I'm doing now has always been clear to me. I'm simply doing what I feel like doing. I would say being a vet is fun, I enjoy it a lot but of course, it has some downsides just like any other profession or job.

Overall, I think the passion is still there. If you love what you are doing, if you love taking care of patients and seeing them recover, I think the years go by really quickly. So, when I told to you that I’ve been in this industry for thirteen years, I was also quite surprised. It’s been that many years but it doesn’t feel like it because I still feel really happy treating animals in need.

Oyen: Can you tell us an experience you’ve had as a vet that you find rewarding?

Dr Foo: I think the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a vet is divided into two parts. The first is being in a small animal practice. It’s rewarding when I see my patients recover and become healthy again because of the treatments I gave them. I also worked in a small animal nutrition company, I think that is a bit different but it was still rewarding for me because I was able to convey knowledge and raise awareness of nutrition for small animals, the knowledge is conveyed to vets and pet owners.  

Dr Tan: IN my case, I cannot pinpoint a single experience that I find rewarding but I would say that I find it fulfilling that I can share and show a lot of youngsters that being a vet is not entirely difficult, I can show the positive parts of being a vet. There are of course various inputs from various people in the industry. There were cases whereby students would come in to see me and say that they would like to do veterinary medicine but their families are against it. I would tell them to come again to gain experience. 

Some ended up speaking to their parents and they’d say that even if their parents don’t support them, they’d still want to stick to their decision. A lot of these younger potential vets got their inspiration to pursue their dreams. I think when we compare veterinary medicine with human medicine or other occupations, if you don’t have the heart for this industry, you can’t really see why one would want to become a vet. We don’t blame anyone because a lot of parents and family members won’t understand. The same goes for my parents back then, in the end, they supported me.

Oyen: How do you usually deal with distressed pet owners? 

Dr Foo/Sandra from Vet Essential Services

Dr Foo: In a small animal practice, we do get some angry customers, especially if their request is not fulfilled. I always try to understand and communicate properly. I would calm them down before providing options for their ill/injured pets. I don’t think there’s a point in getting worked up when you want to explain what’s wrong with their pets, it’s all about sympathy and putting yourself in their shoes. 

I don’t think I’ve rejected any clients before but there were times I had to tell pet owners that they were coming for treatments pretty late and the vet is closing. Instead, we would suggest that they go to other vets that are still operating. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever rejected clients because of their behaviour. I’m sure there is a reason why they get emotional. I’ll make sure to place myself in their position as a customer and figure out what I can do to work things out.

Dr Tan: It’s impossible to please everyone and find companies that have perfect online reviews. As long as you do a good job then you will be just fine. We mainly focus on doing what we do. We have our fair share of good and bad reviews; we don’t ask our customers to give us feedback and we don’t actually reply to them. The reason why is that when we receive negative reviews, we believe that we should respect people as they have the right to their opinions. We would never tell them to remove or edit their reviews, customers have every right to feel the way they feel. We just wouldn’t reply. Funnily enough, a lot of customers who have received treatments for their pets from us would defend us instead. 

Oyen: Since both of you have been in this industry for over ten years, is there an event you think left a lasting impact on you? 

Dr Foo: We’ve come across so many cases and experienced so many things as vets. It’s difficult to pick just one case but I think along the way, we do have a few cases that have caused more impact on our entire experience as vets. I can tell you that as a fresh graduate when I first started working, there was a puppy that had a fatal illness that came from a breeder. The poor puppy passed away due to the severity of the illness and that left a scar on me. From then on, I would try my absolute best to help every patient I get but sometimes things just don’t go the way we want. Certain illnesses and cases are just too fatal that we are left with no way out. 

Oyen: When it comes to vets, I take it as handling two customers. One is the actual patient and the other is the owner. As for the latter, it is as if you are their therapist. A lot of vets I’ve interviewed agreed with this statement, what about both of you? Do you perhaps agree or do you think otherwise? 

Dr Foo/Sandra from Vet Essential Services

Dr Foo: I think I agree with that because it seems like we deal with two patients rather than just one. You need to provide treatments to the patients and simultaneously provide comfort to pet owners. Pet owners may come in and tell you what they’ve observed and what they think is wrong with their pets but when you do the check-up, other things come to your attention.  

Dr Tan: I think as vets you’ll always have two patients to treat, especially with clients who are hard to get through. Despite all that, everything is usually solved with genuine and good conversation.

Oyen: I’m assuming that both of you have dealt with different types of owners throughout your years of experience as a vet. Do you have any messages or advice to give to pet owners or who wish to get a pet?

Dr Tan: Get insurance! Get it from Oyen. I do believe that financial restriction is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome as pet owners, but I really believe that getting insurance from you guys is necessary. Besides adopting pets, you are entitled to your freedom of choice, I’m not against purchasing pets and just adopting because as long as you know what you are doing and you’re a responsible owner, you'll be fine. Just be a responsible pet owner and get insurance.

Dr Foo: I think for me I’d say that one would have to become a responsible pet owner. Pets also deserve a quality life and I think with insurance it can financially assist pet owners. Additionally, I do want to remind pet owners that they should always seek medical assistance for their pets right after seeing the first sign. Illnesses can quickly deteriorate a pet’s health and it would eventually become difficult for vets to help.  If you are not ready for the responsibility of providing for your pet, perhaps delay that decision to get pets. I always think that pets can be a part of one's life and family but to a pet, you are their everything.

We would love to thank Dr Foo and Dr Tan from Vet Essential Services for spending their precious time chatting with us. If you enjoyed their stories and thoughts, reach out to us and let us know!

👫 Community
- read

In Part 1 of Oyen’s interview with Dr Calvin, we were enlightened by his honest narrative about the veterinary industry. In today’s story, Dr Calvin will take us on another thrilling ride as he dishes out unjust treatments vets received during the outbreak of Covid-19, followed by a story of the passing of his sixteen-year-old daughter.

Dr Calvin: I recall a time I was revising for the microbiology exam that I had to sit for the next day. I studied until midnight and woke up again at 2 a.m. to revise. My partner was already sleeping and I remember bawling my eyes out due to immense stress. My head was tepu with information but I couldn’t sleep because I felt as if I hadn’t done enough.

I remember when I was in form six, my teacher told me that university life will be like a vacation, she said that it’d be very laid back but that was far from the truth.

Oyen interviews Dr Calvin: VPAC Kuchai Lama

Oyen: I feel like it's really sad that vets are not given enough attention, recognition or even the opportunity to talk about their experiences and hardships.

Dr Calvin: It's not just the lack of given opportunity to speak about our hardships, even during the outbreak of Covid-19, those who work in the medical field such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists were considered front liners and were able to receive their vaccinations early. Unfortunately, that didn’t apply to veterinarians, no veterinarian in Malaysia received their shots early but we were forced to open our clinics as front liners during MCO.

It feels as if we are just a group of forgotten people. Not just by society but by the government as well. We were so upset because they expected vets to open just like any other medical centres but our well-being and safety were neglected.

If you go through the Google review for my clinic, you will see those who complain about having to wait outside. One of my clients told me that she was surprised to see us receive bad reviews after the outbreak. We usually only receive positive and happy feedback from clients. Those who left negative remarks were mostly upset owners that had to wait outside where it was bound to be hot. We were blamed for looking after people’s well-being and for not allowing them all to sit in an air-conditioned waiting area.

People rarely complain when they have to line up outside a bank but when they have to wait five minutes for a consultation at the vet, they get overly furious and blame us. We had clients who would get angry at us for making them wait five minutes and they would say, “What’s the point of making an appointment if we have to wait for five minutes?” They forget that we can only estimate the timing for every consultation. It depends on the type of patients we’re dealing with; some might be in critical condition and need extra attention.

Oyen: Is there a particular event throughout your thirteen years that you think left a huge or lasting impact on you?

Dr Calvin: It would be when my dog passed away. I sent my dog for cremation and had to leave for the clinic straight away, acting as if I was emotionally stable. I was supposed to feel lifted and happy when clients brought their cute puppies in for treatments but I just felt so numb. My dog just left me. The dog I took care of for sixteen long and beautiful years, left me forever. I was with her for the entire second half of my life. I kept reminding myself that I was okay and that it is now my responsibility to spread the love I have for her to other dogs.

The pain is extreme. Every time I speak of her, I cannot control my tears. When my dog passed away, she was all alone at home.  I was busy at the clinic, treating other pets so they could survive, she took her last breath alone. I believe that this is why whenever clients tell me that I haven’t done my best, it pains me.  

Oyen interviews Dr Calvin: VPAC Solaris Mont Kiara

Oyen: Are you okay, Dr Calvin?

Dr Calvin: No but luckily the camera is not turned on!

Oyen: Oh no! I’m glad you’re still able to laugh but I hope you’re okay, Dr Calvin!

Dr Calvin: No worries! There is definitely a scar. A scar that reminds me that I should keep on loving other animals even if my own daughter is no longer with me. I think age has a lot to do with how I cope with pain, I am able to control extreme emotions from taking over my focus. Plus, my daughter left me to a much better place and maybe one day, I will meet her again.

Oyen: I'm really sorry for your loss and I am sure that your daughter is in a really beautiful place now. I do want to say that how someone reacts to a moment of vulnerability really says a lot about them as a person. You are so beyond strong and I am glad that you’re able to think of her fondly.

Dr Calvin: Well, I do want to say that veterinarians are somewhat trained to switch emotions fast. We sometimes deal with clients back-to-back and every consultation brings about different waves of emotions. I feel like vets could make decent actors and actresses!

Oyen: I have to agree with that! Since we are at the end of this interview, could you perhaps say a few words to pet owners who might be seeing/reading this.

Dr Calvin: The most important thing is for people to not consider vets as mere vets. I do wish that people would respect those who involve themselves in this industry and it's not because we think that we deserve it. Being understanding is rather important which means that there would be no good reason for us to not help you when we can help you. However, when there comes a time we cannot assist you, it is not because we don’t want to. It’s due to certain limitations that cannot simply be resolved. Instead of expressing emotions negatively, it’s best to figure out what we can do with what we have.

Respect is just so much more than what it is made to be. As human beings, we need to figure out our emotions instead of avoiding them. Humans are born to feel, there is no fault in any of our emotions. We just need to learn how to navigate our emotions towards a beneficial outcome.

Our interview with Dr Calvin was beyond wonderful and most definitely informative. We here at Oyen would like to thank Dr Calvin for sparing his precious time to speak with us even after a long day at work! If you enjoyed reading Dr Calvin's thoughts and experiences as a veterinarian, contact us and let us know!

👫 Community
- read

Today’s vet story is different from what you have read thus far. Dr Calvin came prepared with stories that will change your perspective of people in the veterinary industry. A two-part interview that will leave you at the edge of your seats; a raw and honest narrative of a Malaysian vet of 13 years.

Dr Calvin: I'm Dr Calvin, a veterinarian by profession who graduated from UPM in 2009. I worked at a small animal clinic for ten months before joining a corporate and leading the veterinary department for over three years. Then, I joined Royal Canin as a marketing manager before I was promoted to corporate affairs manager, leading the corporate affairs team in Royal Canin. I also own veterinary clinics which are Vet for Pets Animal Clinic (VPAC) in Kuchai Lama and Solaris Mont Kiara.

Oyen: You mentioned that you graduated in 2009, that would make this year your thirteenth year as a veterinarian?

Dr Calvin:  Yes, it has been quite some time!

VPAC Kuchai Lama

Oyen: Can you tell us a bit about how your clinics were founded?

Dr Calvin: The first clinic I founded was the branch in Kuchai Lama in 2012. I remember thinking to myself that I was trained to be a vet but for the past three years I hadn’t done much of hands-on clinical cases. I started to realise that I couldn’t remember the names of medications I utilised when I was practising as a vet.

I contacted my colleague who is my current business partner and suggested that we do a partnership. In 2017, I left Royal Canin and we founded our branch in Solaris Mont Kiara together with Dr Robyn.

Oyen: I’ve interviewed multiple vets before and a question I always ask is what does being a veterinarian mean to you or how has it affected your life?

Dr Calvin: I’m sure that most vets would agree to this. How you see us as vets and what we experience as vets are totally different. Those who are not in this field may assume that we have an easy and breezy life since we deal with cute animals every day. Honestly, I thought of the same thing when I entered vet school but it was just too good to be true. After I graduated, I realised how difficult it was working as a small animal veterinarian.

The time that we spend treating ill or injured animals and the amount of energy used does not reflect how much we earn. There are days we'd feel happy when we see pets we once treated come back and appear healthier.

Oyen: What about a rewarding experience? Can you perhaps talk a bit about that?

Dr Calvin: I think it would be the trust that some pet owners have in me to treat their ill or wounded babies. After the outbreak of Covid-19, all vets were operating on appointment-basis schedules. Some clients would be persistent in getting an appointment with me even though I’d be fully booked. There are those who would even wait a whole week to have consultations with me even when I suggested going to another vet.

This kind of trust and bond motivates me. It makes me feel beyond grateful to have pet owners who willingly believe in me.

I always believe that you’ll be rewarded for the genuine deeds you have done. As vets, we have to put ourselves in pet owners’ shoes. There are of course instances where we feel exhausted and people still come to get their pets treated. We try our best to sympathise and understand these owners because if my pet was in the same situation, I’d feel just as restless.

We try to let our junior vets understand that the desire they have to go home half an hour early shouldn’t be the reason animals have to suffer another night. That is something we try to remind them always.

Oyen: I do agree because being a vet is not merely about saving an animal. You have to be compassionate to help people and their pets.

Dr Calvin: Another important thing to remember is respect. Both pet owners and vets have to be on the same page and understand each other. A common consumer mindset is that if I pay you then you are responsible to provide me with my needs. I'm so sorry to tell these people that as vets, we also have a choice of wanting to provide medical assistance or not depending on how you choose to treat us.

I also think that it is important for a pet owner to put themselves in other pet owners’ shoes. Imagine having booked an appointment two weeks earlier and comes in a lady who uses the word ‘emergency’ to justify cutting lines.

Our clinic actually created a list of other vets that pet owners may go to when we are fully booked or have no free slots for walk-in consultations. We  provide them with the names, addresses and phone numbers of other vets. We would even print them out to pass to these pet owners. What is rather odd is when you look at our Google review, some would say that we are money minded and that we refuse to treat their pets which makes no sense. If I am money minded, I would accept everyone that walks in and give them all a five-minute consultation just to charge them consultation fee.

Oyen: Previous vets I interviewed informed me that negative Google reviews affect their mental health. It becomes an issue because when pet owners cannot get what they want during a consultation, they’d get upset and leave negative feedbacks so others would feel reluctant to visit the vet.

Dr Calvin: What you say is true, we are mentally affected. The main reason for that is when we have given our absolute best to help, but some will still think that we haven’t exhausted our options and efforts. I’ve had an owner tell me, “You should do better next time.” I remember going back to my practice on my day off to make sure the client’s pet was well. In the end, the pet didn’t survive and the owner told me that I should do better. For them, it might just be a statement, but it affected us a lot as we had tried our very best to help. No one seems to appreciate our effort.

I always tell my team that if hari kiamat was to happen and God asks us if we’ve done our best, we should be able to say that we have because we have done our absolute best to help every animal that crosses our front door. It does feel as if there’s a black hole that draws every bit of our energy which is why this industry has one of the highest death rates by suicide. The veterinary industry is so niche that not everyone can fully fathom the stress that we experience.

Oyen: How do you usually tell pet owners about their pets’ illnesses?

Dr Calvin: We have to be transparent. Transparency is something that pet owners look for. Do not give them a false hope on the outcome of their pets, especially if the pet has very low chance of surviving. Then again, this can be a two-way knife. If we tell them there is no hope and the pet ends up surviving then these owners would question us. If we tell them that their pet will survive and it ends up dying, they would also blame us.

That's why it is sad to realise that vets, specifically younger vets in their thirties who have children, they would not encourage them to enter this path. I have a few friends who would call me saying that their daughters and sons are interested in this field. They would ask me for advice. My advice would always be, if you can handle extreme stress then go ahead. If you can’t handle much stress then please stop yourself before it’s too late. The stress begins when you enter vet school.  

I would tell those who are looking to become a vet that if I were given a second chance to do this all over again, I wouldn't have the guts to. Five years in vet school, I dare to say it was like hell.

A heart-wrenching story has yet to come. Part 2 of our interview with Dr Calvin will take you on a roller coaster of emotions as he shares a personal struggle about the passing of his beloved 16-year-old dog he calls daughter. Spending a long day treating and saving animals at the clinic and coming home to a lifeless anatomy.

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Pet owners often consider their FurBabies’ vets heroes, but what do they know about these heroes they speak of?

In today’s story, Oyen had the opportunity to speak with one of Malaysia’s passionate vets, Dr Yee, to talk about her personal experience and stories as a veterinarian who has been working in this field for a decade.

Yee Veterinary Clinic- Dr Yee

Dr Yee: My name is Dr Yee, I graduated from UPM in 2013 and have been a veterinarian for ten years, August marked my tenth year. I worked in a private clinic for five years then decided to set up my own practice in 2018.

Oyen: You’ve been in this field for a decade?

Dr Yee: Yes, and honestly, I still can’t believe that it has been that long!

Oyen: You opened your own practice four years ago; can you perhaps tell us how Yee Veterinary Clinic was founded?

Dr Yee: I’ve actually always wanted to become a vet. I think since I was seven years old. I went to vet school and worked in a small animal clinic for about five years. At the time, there were two options available to me, either I further my studies or open my own practice. I decided to go for the latter and my practice is fairly close to where I live, in PJ. It’s about ten minutes from my house. 

I had always wanted to have my own clinic where I can do things according to what is palatable for me. It’s going to be four years soon and I believe it has been quite an experience. Most importantly, I’m just beyond happy with where I stand today. 

Oyen: I would assume that working as a veterinarian for a decade must have been a long and difficult journey for you. Can you talk about what this occupation means to you and maybe how it has affected your life?

Dr Yee: I would say that this job is one of the most important things in my life, I have never regretted being a vet. As I’ve mentioned earlier, this is a dream of mine and I’ve always cherished my encounters with animals like birds, stray cats and dogs. I remember thinking to myself that I want to do this for a long time, I want to help animals.

If I look back at my journey, I believe that if I didn’t become a vet, I wouldn’t be doing anything as great. I really don’t know what I would be doing. This purpose that I have as a vet gives a significant meaning in my life. At times I would tell myself that if I were given a chance to do this all over again, without a doubt, I would take every opportunity that comes my way. I am grateful to know that I am contributing to society as well as to animals and that means a lot to me.

Oyen: I think a huge part of it comes from love and compassion for animals. When you were younger, was there an event or something that inspired you to go on this path?

Dr Yee:  When I was younger, I encountered a lot of pigeons that were hunted down and injured by cats or hit by vehicles. There were around seven to eight pigeons and I remember trying to treat them but obviously, some didn’t survive. I felt very upset and every time I found an injured pigeon, I would ask my parents if we could take it to a clinic. There was actually a nearby clinic but my parents said that we didn't have enough money.

One pigeon that I treated ended up surviving and I felt ecstatic when it was time to release it. It felt really good but seeing how some were unable to survive in front of me, I felt helpless. So, at that point, I was convinced that I wanted to become a vet. 

When I told my parents about this dream of mine, they were not very keen because they considered it to be somewhat of a dirty and difficult job since I would be handling animals. It was in the early 2000s and that was when the industry was not as relevant as it is today. My mother suggested becoming a dentist or human doctor because people look up to those in such fields. I told her that she could send me to medical school but I would drop out in the end or in the process since I had zero interest. In the end, I think my mother saw that my passion for veterinary medicine was bigger than she could have imagined and she ended up supporting my dream. My dad, on the other hand, was already rooting for me. 

Oyen: What would you consider the most rewarding experience for you throughout your ten-year journey as a vet?

Dr Yee: I’ve had many patients come in to receive treatments from me and when I think about heavy cases, some pets couldn’t make it after a treatment. Pets that do get better, when I see them again for a different treatment, I realise that they’ve grown so much. There are a few patients like this that stay in my mind and to be able to see their growth, I feel accomplished because I was able to give them another chance at life. It just feels so rewarding. 

Oyen: I assume that you still keep in touch with previous pet owners?

Dr Yee: Yes. There are a few patients that I've seen from when they were babies to adults. Some of them were previously extremely ill and to see that they’ve grown to be much healthier puts my heart at such ease. Now they live a happier life, especially those I thought wouldn’t make it through. I want them to enjoy their lives with their owners. 

Yee Veterinary Clinis- Dr Yee's stressful experience

Oyen: Is there any stressful event/experience that stays with you until today?

Dr Yee: Not particularly but I find it stressful when pet owners take their pets for treatment when they are already extremely ill. If the pets were brought earlier, so much could’ve been done and they’d have higher chances of surviving. Since this is not the case, my team and I would have to push our limits and inform the owners that this is what they can expect. It’s not right to scold the owners even if you think they could’ve prevented the illness from worsening and it’s also not the best way to get information across. So, I often just try to let them know the necessary procedures and what they can expect.

The second stress would be financial constraint. I think this is where insurance becomes necessary. Treatments can get very expensive for some patients. It depends on their illness and/or injury. We’ve had pet owners who cannot afford to pay for their pet's treatments. We look at the amount that they have and see what is the best treatment we can give to the pet. This is just another stressful thing vets often experience. We know that if we have the right resources, the outcome would be different.  

Oyen: For the past ten years as a vet, is there a specific incident or event that left a huge impact on you?

Dr Yee: Around two to three years ago, an old man came into my practice with his ill dog. The only money he had was for his lunch and he wanted to use that for his dog’s treatment. He told me that he would not be able to pay in full but he was desperate. I suggested he seek assistance from another vet that could treat his dog for cheaper but then again because his dog suffered from late-stage kidney disease, the dog’s future didn’t seem too bright.

He became angry and started yelling at me, right next to my ear. I had to walk away due to how angry he progressively got but he kept following me around. I believe that he thought I was looking down on him for his financial constraint but that was not the case at all. After being yelled at for some time, I made up my mind and told him that my decision to refuse to provide treatment was not because he didn’t have enough money. At the time, no matter how much money he had, his sweetheart wouldn’t have survived. It was rather apparent that the dog was too ill to even make it out alive. 

The old man took a step back when he heard what I said and it seemed as if he was lost. I told him again that it wasn’t because he didn’t have enough money but no amount of money would be able to save the dog. After he cooled down, he started apologizing, “I’m sorry… I suffer from anger management issues and I couldn’t control my emotions.” He proceeded to pick his dog up and walked out of the vet and I think that he wanted to spend his dog’s last moments together. It might have been a form of closure for him.

Oyen: That’s very heartbreaking.

Dr Yee: It really was but I was in a position where I either had to use his lunch money for his dog’s treatments or let him save the money for his meal. I didn’t want to take his money and let him go home with nothing, literally nothing. He didn’t seem like he had any relatives. This incident has been stuck in my head ever since and it’s a constant reminder that this is just how life is sometimes. 

As vets, we always have to be realistic and decent at managing expectations. We have to let pet owners know the pros and cons of a decision that is made by us because we also don’t want their pets to suffer even more by letting their owners hold onto them for longer. This is specific to extremely ill pets.

I understand that one’s emotions are important and I’ve realised that being in this field, you’re bound to always receive negative responses from upset owners. However, our job as vets is to focus on the well-being of pets by giving them the best treatment. To some people, their pets might be the only thing that is keeping them sane and alive, their only purpose in life. Some pets might even be a memory of one’s partner or spouse, a memory of a late family member and this means that losing their pet would equate to breaking this connection and memory they have of someone.

Sometimes, I feel very sad on pet owners’ behalf but I always remind them that what we do at the vet is only ten per cent of the work and ninety per cent depends on how they care for and manage their pets at home.

Oyen: These days, pets are considered a baby to families, they are also important members of a family. This means that the responsibility of pet owners isn’t to merely care about one aspect but they have to be fully attentive and responsible in all aspects.

As we are reaching the end of the interview, do you perhaps have any message to convey to pet owners out there?

Dr Yee: I really do wish that people would do some research about a pet they wish to adopt or take in. It is a whole life commitment and it cannot be taken lightly. I also strongly recommend adopting as there are still countless cats and dogs looking for their forever home and we should adopt them instead of purchasing them. Other than that, I hope that people would stop taking in pets only for the sake of wanting to feel less lonely. Pets are family. They deserve just as much love as you do and they do not deserve to be loved only when you have time to spare. Having a pet means that there are things you have to sacrifice such as your time. 

I remind myself that as humans we have multiple things that keep us busy. Humans have more than just one responsibility but for pets, their owners are their only reason.

Oyen would like to thank Dr Yee for spending her precious time with us to share her decade-long journey as a veterinarian. If you enjoyed Dr Yee’s heart-warming stories, reach out to us and let us know!

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“Believe me when I tell you time and time again, I believe wholeheartedly that God has chosen me to help animals in this lifetime.”

In Part 1 of Oyen’s interview with Dr Thiba, we were told multiple heartwarming experiences from what inspired her to become a veterinarian, how Ministre’ of Pets was founded to one of the most rewarding experiences throughout her 17-year long journey. In Part 2 of Oyen’s interview with Dr Thiba, she discusses nerve-wrecking moments during a stressful event, ways to positively overcome negativity, and useful advice/ tips for pet owners and animal lovers who wish to adopt!

Oyen: Has there been a more recent event/incident you faced that you believe to be stressful? 

Dr Thiba: I wouldn't say recently, but an owner had brought her little doggy for a routine procedure, spaying. I have lost count of how many pets I’ve spayed; I am confident that I can even do the procedure with my eyes closed! The owner was very nervous, his pet was a cute silky terrier. I assured him that I had done the procedure many times. I was fairly confident but something beyond my control happened. 

I always feel as if God is teaching me lessons, humbling me in the process. So, we went in to do surgery on this little 11-month-old girl and she never survived the surgery.

It was a very simple procedure but she had an anaesthetic reaction which means that she reacted to the anaesthetic that was given and went into seizures. We couldn't revive her. We tried, and tried and tried.

I was dumbfounded, I couldn't believe it happened. Why did this have to happen to me? What did this little girl do to deserve this? I was shattered. Passionate vets want to save every ill or injured animal, trust me. But when an animal goes for surgery, even humans, there are just things beyond our control. 

I’m utterly thankful to God that the owners were understanding, but it was so painful to watch because the owner was a friend of another vet I know. It was very heartbreaking. It really made me question what went wrong. How could have I done differently? I was constantly beating myself up. I found myself feeling lost and depressed for two weeks because I didn't expect to lose a life from a routine treatment.

Usually, if it’s a very critical surgery, I’d tell a pet owner that I would try my best or I would tell them to prepare themselves for the worst outcome. If I was given an option to say the same thing to the owner of that 11-month-old girl, I wouldn’t have felt as if what happened to her was entirely my fault. I went with the treatment feeling confident but we lost her. It really broke me. I know that I am good at what I do but God reminded me to always be humble even if the procedure is what I consider simple.

The owners were kind enough to understand what happened but their friends decided to react differently. They left very bad comments and reviews online and even asked for compensation. I don't think it is right to demand compensation unless there is negligence on my side. There was no negligence on our part. Everything was done correctly. From that point on, I made it mandatory to do pre anaesthetic blood work. 

After that incident, words hovered that there was a case against me, someone made a police report. They sent the dog for post-mortem and even pointed their fingers at us saying we didn’t follow the SOP. To me it’s very simple, a post-mortem result cannot determine whether or not you followed the SOP because your SOP is different from mine. In the end, the post-mortem report stated no significant finding. This means that they didn’t know why it happened, it just happened.

 

Dr Thiba's live changing moment

I have stopped going online to read reviews because like anyone else, I am human and those types of negativity affects me and my work. People fancy judging others even when they don't personally know that person. They don't know the lengths I’ve gone to save animals. Cyberbullying is insane. I would always tell my vets to not give it any energy. Just let them talk because God knows what we have done, truth will always prevail. No matter how many times I felt like quitting, there were and are countless kind-hearted clients who would let me know how great of a vet I am . I keep on moving forward with their encouragement. I am a good vet, I'm a very passionate person. I will continue to stay in this fight till my last breath. 

Dr Thiba talks about cyberbullying of vets

Oyen: Besides what you’ve mentioned regarding letting pet owners know if you can predict the outcome of their pets after treatments/surgeries, how do you deal with distressed pet owners?

Dr Thiba: Based on 17 years of experience, I would tell them that there is a divine being called God who determines everything. There were multiple instances where I would tell pet owners that their pets wouldn’t survive after observing the condition of their pets and I would suggest putting them down. I assess every patient’s condition meticulously and look at all the facts in front of me. Some owners were very reluctant and insisted on spending their pets’ last moment together. Miracles, some pets that were brought home recovered and survived.

In my practice, we have a room called the grieving room. We’ve prepared it for pet owners to comfortably express their sadness and emotions. Most would not want to weep in front of strangers. I bring forward every inch of sympathy and kindness I possess because love is free. I would tell them that they have been good parents, that they have done everything in their power but it’s time to let go. We let pet owners spend whatever little time they have left before asking if they wish to put down their pets or if they wish to just take them home and spend time together. 

I always give them space to make their own decision, it is their choice and I never force them. Some would ask me if I think their pets could survive and I tell them that I am not God but I’ve witnessed miracles. For me, when I’m faced with situations like this, I put aside any judgement and try my best to comfort pet owners. Some I hugged but don’t get me wrong, I give them their space and only hug huggable ones! I never rush them with decision-making. Pets nowadays are considered family, they are babies. Who am I to be persistent that their pets would a hundred per cent die? Where would my compassion lie?

Tips for pet owners (Dr Thiba)

Oyen: I completely agree. I realised that the relationship between a vet and a pet owner is much more important than it seems. It’s all about trust and communication.

Dr Thiba: Communication is key. How you approach your client is very important. I have pet owners who are willing to travel far just to let me treat their pets. I have clients who would look for me when I’m on holiday, asking me when I’d be coming back and that to me is amazing. The thing is, I really love and need my holidays! I would often have to plan my holidays months prior and inform my clients that I won’t be around. 

Oyen: The connection between a vet and a pet owner is indeed important! I admire the connection you've built with your clients. Since we are reaching the end of your interview, could you perhaps give a message or tips to our fellow animal lovers, most importantly pet owners!

Dr Thiba: I am somebody who strongly advocates prevention. Prevention is often better than cure. 

  1. Do your homework before getting a pet! To be informed about your pet is an extremely crucial first step.
  2. Take your pet to the vet for a medical/health check-up! Vets will be more than happy to explain to you what needs to be done (about vaccinations, worm, heartworm prevention and so on).
  3. Ensure that your pet’s nutritional demands are met! Negligence often occurs in multi-pet households. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if your pet is ill unless you see them very inactive and weak. 
  4. If you have more than one pet, make sure to feed them in separate bowls so you can monitor which pet is eating and which is not.
  5. Spend time with your pets. Pet owners who spend more time with their babies can easily detect if their pets are sick.
  6. Take your pets to the vet as soon as you sense that they are ill/injured. Do not wait for them to be in clear pain for you to seek medical treatment. It will cost you less when you detect early signs of discomfort. 

I'm a vet who doesn't sell medications over the counter. I believe that every ill or injured pet deserves to be seen and observed by the vet. This is because from one pet to another, symptoms are almost always different. Additionally, if you want to save money and want your pet to live a long and healthy life, seek medical assistance as soon as you see signs of discomfort, I cannot stress this enough.

Preventive care is always better than cure and Google is not the answer for everything! I have clients who come in with a small wound on their pet and they mention cancer. I would say, “No, this is just a fungal infection!”

Our vets have gone through different depths of peaks and valleys to help animals in need. As human beings, we often forget that veterinarians are also individuals with emotions just like any of us. Treating them with respect and a sense of compassion does not not cost a single penny! We should be able to acknowledge that we have not given enough recognition to the contributions of our vets and their teams when treating our FurKids.

We here at Oyen would love to thank Dr Thiba for her time, consideration, and beautiful and heart-wrenching stories during our interview with her. If you enjoyed reading Dr Thiba’s stories and experiences as a veterinarian, contact us and let us know! 

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