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To own a pet or not while in nursing school...

kroyce kroyce (New) New


I was just recently accepted to an accelerated BSN program for January 2011. I'm moving about 5.5 hours away from my immediate and extended family, which is heartbreaking because we're all so close, but I am more than excited for my life to start AND to be on my own. I should be making a deal with a landlord, sometime in the next few weeks, on an apartment that allows dogs and cats. I was thinking that I would adopt a small to medium sized older dog from a shelter that has been housebroken and up to date on his/her shots. I know that I will have long hours during the day, (so I'd have to make sure I come home during lunch or put the dog in daycare), but I'd like a companion to have around. Are there nursing students or current nurses who have or have had a dog while in nursing school? How did it work out for you?

Thank you!

nurse2033, MSN, RN

Specializes in ER, ICU.

God don't do it! You will be away too much. I have a tarantula, they can go two weeks without water, perfect!

As tempting as it may be, DON'T DO IT!!!! Nursing school is going to be very demanding and dogs require a lot of time & work (even if they are house trained). You are going to spend most of your time in class, clinic & studying. It would be unfair to the dog to be left alone during all that time. It's like having a kid except you are legally able to crate them when you leave without getting in trouble. :lol2:

You will also need to think of the added expense of dog food, tick & flea medication, and heartworm medication. And that's just if the dog is healthy. My dog is a rescue and we later discovered she had pancreatic issues and food allergies. Long story short, you do not need the added responsibility of a dog, trust me! Wait until you finish school.

If you already had a pet, I would not say that you should get rid of it to attend nursing school, but I would definitely not recommend getting a new pet in that circumstance. School is going to take up a lot more of your time than you can imagine before you're actually in it. As others have noted, it's hardly fair to the dog and the dog will also generate a lot more expenses than you expect during a time you will be looking to cut every corner ($$$-wise) that you can.

If you really must, I would suggest getting a cat rather than a dog -- they are much more self-sufficient.


Specializes in ED. Has 10 years experience.

I totally agree with Elk. I have an 11 year old dog and I know I am not giving her the time I usually am able to give her and I'm not in an accelerated program.

I don't think it would be fair to an animal to be left alone that much. Even if you are home, you won't have time to devote to it like it needs.

I was a responsible breeder for a few years and I have also adopted my share of dogs from various shelters. If you were to apply to get a pet from me, I would definitely decline your application based on the amount of time that you wouldn't be home to care for the pet. I really hope that doesn't sound harsh - that is not my intent.

Let's say you do have a dog and you are gone 8 hours a day and are then spending another 4 hours a day studying and getting ready for classes. That really doesn't leave much time for a dog so the dog pees and poops in the house because you can't take him out much or because he does that for attention or to assert his dominance. As owners, we get resentful of that and we aren't as loving to the pet and we tend to express our frustrations on our pets with our words and sometimes actions.

There is just so much more involved than just owning a pet that I just don't think an accelerated nursing student can handle on her own, especially in an apartment.

Get a fish or hamster and good luck with school!


QuarterLife88, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in Neuroscience. Has 7 years experience.

I'm not a nursing student yet, but I've had both dogs and cats, and if you're going to get a pet, get a cat, perhaps two so they can have company. You can leave a cat alone all day with food, water, and a litter box, and they'll be all right. Dogs tend to suffer from separation anxiety issues when owners are away too long and of course they need to be taken out or they will go in the house. Plus they also need to be walked which takes up more time, daily/weekly. So yeah, dogs are like small children, whereas cats are more independent but just as loving. Go cats!

That Guy, BSN, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Emergency/Cath Lab. Has 6 years experience.

Nothing is better than a study break in the backyard playing fetch with your dog. Or going on a run with them. They are great pets, but like they have said, I would avoid against getting a new dog. The only reason I got one is that my gf is home when Im not to take care of the dog.

And dont get cats. Cats are the spawn of satan.


Specializes in ortho, hospice volunteer, psych,. Has 20 years experience.

get a pair of cats because they'll keep each other company while you're away. i had 2 cats while i was a student and they were great company for me when i was home and kept each other amused when i wasn't.

get a pair of cats (middle-aged or older kitties are good) from a shelter and they'll already be spayed or neutered and up-to-date on their shots. kittens are precious and adorable, but need constant attention, which you won't be able to provide right now. cats are happy never going outside, except in a carrier for vet visits.

dogs also make wonderful furkids too, but to quote our vet, "puppies, dogs, and kittens need love, attention, current immunizations, good food, fresh water, lots of love, and fulltime social directors."

you just don't have that much time right now and good social directors for dogs and kittens are hard

to find!

check out the pets section on allnurses central. any of us there are just waiting to give you more advice than you ever thought you wanted or needed about your fur or fin or scaly kid.

mama to a spoiled doggie


10 equally spoiled rescued kitty kids

Thank you, everyone for your responses! I truly appreciate it!

Lennonninja, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in MICU - CCRN, IR, Vascular Surgery. Has 9 years experience.

If you're going to get a pet big enough to live outside of a cage (instead of a hamster/guinea pig/fish/ferret etc) cats are the best! Even though mine like to try to sit on my books when I'm studying and stuff, I couldn't imagine my life without them :)

Trust me, I understand your situation!!! I'm a HUGE dog person and I moved 2,500 miles away from home. I left my golden retriever with my Mom because I knew I wasn't going to have enough time for her and it wouldn't be fair to her. It was THE HARDEST THING I've ever had to do.

So, I moved far away and realized that I've lived with an animal since the day I was born and I just cannot live without one. I knew I couldn't have a dog, so I decided to volunteer at a ladies house who rescued cats. I worked there for a couple months and fell completely in love with a 1 1/2 year old cat that I was going to "take in" while they were looking for a permanent. To make a longer story short... I ended up keeping him and it's worked out perfectly. He's so sweet, he was already potty trained and he loves the smaller feel of the apartment. He keeps me company while I do my homework and study... while not being overly needy or bothersome. :) He's a great little cat and he even plays fetch!! :)

I'd absolutely go with a cat, but stick with adopting a cat over a 1 1/2 so it doesn't need to be watched constantly. I also agree that you might want to look into getting 2. Mine doesn't like other cats too much anymore (after living with old, mean ones), so that's not an option for me.

GOOD LUCK! Enjoy nursing school and being on your own!! :)

dudette10, MSN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, Academics. Has 9 years experience.

And dont get cats. Cats are the spawn of satan.


In all seriousness, two cats from a shelter (and make sure they get along) would be ideal. They are much more independent--or the spawns of satan--depending on your POV. ;)

Spikey9001, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case Manager. Has 4 years experience.

You could always buy two birds... They're much easier to take care of than dogs and cats combined.

Just make sure to give it fresh water everyday and a bowl of seeds for the week and you'll do fine.

I have to agree that a new (young) animal probably isn't the best choice for now. I, personally, would never own a cat so an older dog could work for you.

I adopted a lab puppy in May at 6 weeks, she's now 6 months. I started nursing school in August, but spent the entire summer with her- no work or school. I had time to train her and lots of playtime. I often find myself taking breaks from studying to play with her when she decides to sit in my lap or bring me toys. =D

I moved away from all my friends to go to school so this little pup is literally my best friend. Lame, but true.

When clinicals starts for me in a couple of weeks, I'll definitely have guilt issues, I'm sure.

Another piece of advice, if you do decide to get a dog, it would be better to get it either before you move or well after you are settled. If before, it would have time to adjust to you and your normal schedule. Getting a dog while in the process of moving/unpacking is just insanity for you/the animal and isn't fair to either of you.

I think it's a no brainer, if you want to adopt a dog then please do. A life with you no matter how little time you can spend with it beats a cage all day long or being put down. Dogs understand more than you think and they do wait patiently for you to return from your responsibilities. All you'd need is a dog walker if you're going to be gone over 10 hours. The dog will be company for you as well as a loyal companion and you will have saved a life.

Go for it!

I'm in nursing school now and have a large dog. I've had his since he was a puppy, and he's now three. I go to school 5 days a week and work 15-20 hours also. I don't find it so bad, you just have to find the time for it. I come home on Tuesdays and Thursdays between classes to walk him and the other days I'm home within 8 hours of leaving so it's okay. But when I am home, I make sure he gets LONG walks and I usually take him to the dog park once a day so he can burn off all his energy and get the exercise and socialization he needs. Tuesdays and Thursdays are really the only bad days for him since I'm gone from 7:30am to 9:30pm, other than that period where I come home between classes. I always leave the radio on for him because apparently the voices make him feel less lonely. But it's not so bad really... I mean as long as you can make the time to walk him often enough to do his business, give him the exercise he needs, and keep him company when you ARE there, I think it's fine. He hasn't shown any changes at all since I started school and when I'm home all day like on Sundays, all he does is sleep anyway, other than when I take him out so I'm sure that's all he does when I'm gone too. You'll be fine, really. Especially if you get an older dog. Either way, good luck! :D


Has 1 years experience.

As I am typing this right now, I am staring at my little baby girl Lola a French Bulldog, and could NEVER imagine how my life would be without her in it. I got her right when I lost my job and started my nursing education. She has gotten me through so much with her companionship and loyalty. She is family pet for my husband and I and when his son comes to visit. The only concern I have is there health. Just this past Saturday, my Lola had a seizure and she had one Sunday, so today my husband took her and had bloodwork done and should know the results by Wednesday. So I am just hoping that all goes well and she is ok, because I lack the time and excessive thousands to pay the vet bills. That would be my only main concern. Good Luck!!

Kitesurfing bum

Specializes in ICU. Has 3 years experience.

Ha, my wife and I got a french bulldog a couple weeks before I started an absn program. He was house trained and everything. He's awesome, get a dog. it will make you take study breaks and chill with him.