The class of 2023 at Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Dentistry, is helping shape new trends for the demographics of American dental school classes. Dr. Toby Cheramie, our dean of admissions, reported that the class has broken the glass ceiling, with 46 women and 30 men. We’re also the youngest class in the history of LSU, with an average age of 22.5. In addition, over 25% of our class are the proud dog parents! Everyone agrees that having a dog in dental school is beyond rewarding, but there are a few things you need to know before you decide to adopt.
1. Time management. Your most important (and sometimes rare!) resource is time. Taking care of your dog will require some of your limited free time, but many at LSU cite that the care often feels more like stress relief than a chore. This includes going on walks, cleaning up any accidents, playing at the park, baths and any grooming/veterinary visits. Some students who live near the school go home during lunch to walk their dog, too, so proximity to the school is another factor to consider. Living nearby helps if your class schedule requires you to be at school all day or you have lab work to catch up on after hours.
2. Finances. Maintaining a budget with a pet is important. The average cost of owning a dog is around $500 per year, which includes food and treats, toys and grooming. While unlikely, you may want to keep some money set aside in the event of a medical emergency. Maintaining the finances for a dog is definitely doable while in dental school, but be sure to plan accordingly and build a budget at the beginning of each semester.
3. The dog. Yes, the type of dog you adopt also is a big factor. Virtually all of my classmates’ dogs were house-trained before we began classes (this is the biggest hurdle when training a dog).
Other factors to consider are the breed and age of the dog. Older dogs may need to go to the vet more frequently, but there are pet insurance options available. Also, certain breeds and younger dogs might require more attention. For example, I have a 10-year-old black Labrador, Stella, and my roommate has a 10-month-old Blue Heeler, Winnie. They get along well, but Stella is much less hyperactive and tends to take more naps.
4. The benefits. While there are challenges to having a dog in dental school, the benefits outweigh them. Your dog is always going to be one of your biggest cheerleaders and a constant source of joy. School can be rigorous, but taking your dog for a walk or playing fetch for a few minutes is a good study break and serves as a reminder that everything is going to be great. Staying healthy and active is just as important as studying. When you have a dog, you always have a friend!
~Marco Gargano, Louisiana ’23