First-year veterinary student Keegan King. Submitted photo.

Allergies didn’t deter Alberta student from animal health future

Veterinary student Keegan King has always loved being around animals. Even a childhood allergy to horses and cats didn’t deter him from caring for the family dogs or spending time on his grandma’s and uncle’s farms near Viking, Alta.

By Lynne Gunville

“I got lots of hands-on experience with cattle,” says King, who began his first year at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in August 2021. “I would go between the two places working with the cattle and watching how the cattle were raised. There were always horses around the farm too, and when my relatives would go riding, I would tag along.”

Since King really liked working with the animals, he was intrigued by the responsibilities of the local veterinarian who came out to the farms. He was particularly attracted to the idea that a veterinary career would enable him to continue doing work that he really enjoyed.

By the time King had graduated from high school, he’d made up his mind that he wanted to be a veterinarian. In addition to enrolling in the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture program at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, he began spending his summers and holidays working at the Camrose Veterinary Hospital.

The busy full-service animal hospital provided him with the opportunity to gain valuable experience while learning about the veterinary profession and the prerequisites he needed to be accepted into veterinary school.

King appreciated the mentorship of Drs. Taryn Ng and Eddie Rasmussen — both WCVM graduates — who willingly explained and demonstrated procedures and gave him the chance to practise skills such as hoof trimming, pregnancy testing cattle and administering medications. He enjoyed all of the work, but he particularly liked running the large animal handling facilities.

“I got to run the squeezes, the tip table, the sorting pens and all the other stuff that goes along with large animals,” says King. “Going on farm calls to help was also fun. I got to interact with the clients, see all the different cattle operations that were in the area and gain important out-of-clinic experience.”

King spent his three years of undergraduate classes focused on gaining the skills and knowledge he needed to be accepted into veterinary school, but he also took time out to play. At USask he was involved in recreational hockey and slo-pitch ball, and when he was at home taking online classes, he volunteered for the Camrose Minor Hockey Association.  

As a WCVM student, King particularly enjoys classes such as animal welfare and behaviour that offer the opportunity for him to take a break from the books and get hands-on time with the animals.

While King has outgrown many of his problems with allergies, he’s never outgrown his love for working with large animals. Since he also loves the rural lifestyle in which he grew up, his future plans involve working in a rural mixed practice around his home town of Camrose, Alta.

“Large animal veterinarians are needed in rural practices, and I would like to supply this need,” says King. “Being able to help an animal that provides someone’s livelihood is also appealing to me, and there’s a challenge associated with doctoring a 1,500-pound animal that draws me into large animals and wanting to work with them.”