The Top 8 Vet Shows and 5 Things I Learned by Watching Them

I do a lot of channel surfing and streaming of TV shows – it’s part of my job to be a heavy consumer of media, TV included. How can I recommend a media type or buy a program for an advertiser that I haven’t personally watched? In the past, when hiring new media or channel planners or buyers, one of the questions I would always ask job candidates is what do they like to watch on TV?  I typically wouldn’t hire someone who said, “I don’t watch TV that much, maybe a little PBS.” (I always thought they were being politically correct, and how could they have a job in media if they didn’t “consume” media?) I loved the candidates that would rattle off several shows, cable networks, etc., and show some excitement about media in general.  

So last summer I was checking out National Geographic Wild which I had never watched before (some habits never die), checking it off my list so to speak. The name “National Geographic” sort of gives the stamp of approval of the programming it runs, but I wanted to check it out anyway.  The afternoon I turned it on, they were running a marathon of “The Incredible Dr. Pol.” I was hooked – and started watching a few other veterinarian shows on NatGeoWild and Animal Planet, as well as streaming old episodes on NetFlix and Disney Plus.

During this time of social distancing, being quarantined, and working from home, I’ve been streaming even more older episodes and if you don’t watch them already, I’d recommend you check out some of these Vet shows – they are heart-warming, funny, very dramatic, and are a great diversion from the news, from reruns, from Zoom meetings and more.

Five Things I Learned:
But first, here are the top five things I’ve learned about watching these shows:

  1. How come the animal patients get their lab work back immediately and in my doctor’s office, it takes at least 24 hours to get mine?
  2. They do pregnancy checks on dairy farms. They line them up, then the Vet sticks his or her hand into their you know where! (They wear these very long plastic gloves.)
  3. Regardless of it’s a dog, cat, cow, horse, reindeer or moose, it’s so endearing and beautiful how the mommies immediately start washing their babies, nursing and taking care of them.
  4. Dogs get themselves in so many predicaments: from eating things they shouldn’t (rocks, electrical cords, socks, their own toys to name a few), to having close encounters with porcupines.
  5. There are a lot of three-legged cats in this world. Given the saying that “curiosity killed the cat” I’ve seen numerous episodes where the veterinarian has had to amputate the leg (up to the shoulder) of a cat. The curious feline either got stuck someplace (like under the hood of a car) and broke it beyond repair, got its paw and leg mangled in a trap, etc. But they bounce right back quickly and are no worse than the wear. In fact, on “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” one of the stars of the show is “Tater,” a 3-legged black cat who was adopted by the clinic after they saved its life.

Rankings of The Best Shows
So here are my top favorite shows (there are a lot more if you dig deeper on NetFlix or Disney Plus).  There’s eight of them, couldn’t get to ten, because these are the ones I like the best. Again, these are rankings for the veterinarian shows, there are many other animal shows on TV all over the place!  And there are many British veterinarian shows which I didn’t include if you care to check those out.

Dr. Oakley#1 Dr. Oakley – Yukon Vet
(NatGeoWild and Disney Plus)
She’s a Wonder Woman! She makes house calls in the far reaches of Northern Canada where the houses may be separated by hundreds of miles. In addition to running an animal clinic out of her home in Haines Junction, Yukon — where she lives with husband Shane and their three daughters — Dr. Oakley also operates a satellite clinic 150 miles away and is the on-call vet for the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, which is about 100 miles from Haines Junction. While her patients are cats and dogs, cattle and horses, she handles all types of animals and probably treats more unusual animals versus the other shows – reindeer, bison, elk, eagles, muskox and more. I love it when the episode shows some interaction with her family as she juggles being a full-time Vet, wife and mom, and does so with a sense of humor, devotion and empathy.

#2 –
The Incredible Dr. Pol (NatGeoWild and Disney Plus)
At 77, Dr. Jan Pol has more stamina and energy than most. Originally from the Netherlands, he started out as a Vet for large livestock, but eventually opened a clinic for all animals as people began asking him to treat their pets as well. On the air since late 2011, and in its 16th season, the show is one of NatGeoWild’s top hits. His no-nonsense, old school approach isn’t for everyone, and he has his critics about using older technology and approaches. His office isn’t new or glamorous, but it’s a big practice with lots of caring help, other smart Vets and his wife and son Charles who help keep the clinic running with him. 

Pol 2
He refuses to reject any patient and has a sincere and passionate belief that he has a duty to provide care at a price his patients can afford (he’s in rural Michigan). He can come across as gruff, but he’s a softy at heart and loves to joke with kids and talk to the animals while he’s treating them. It’s fun to watch the family dynamics of this show, and his son Charles is a particularly interesting character. Warning, this show can get quite graphic. NatGeoWild often does marathons of this show, so you can find yourself rolling into one episode after the other and not notice that three hours have passed.

#3 – Heartland Docs, DVM (NatGeoWild)
This show just premiered this past January and features a husband and wife veterinary team, Drs. Ben and Erin Schroeder. You’ll get to see the Schroeders at work as they practice in Hartington, Nebraska at their clinic, Cedar County Veterinary Services. It offers a sharp contrast to “The Incredible Dr. Pol.” While both are rural mixed practices of companion and large animals, everything is up to date with the Heartland Docs. They have a large, state-of-the-art facility with slick exam and surgery rooms, and all the latest equipment that they use when making house calls.

HeartlandErin is especially engaging and loves all animals, and you’ll love the flirty dynamics between her and her husband Ben. Along with their two sons, Charlie and Chase, the doctors are always on the go as their veterinary practice cares for the region’s myriad of animals in need, including cows, pot-bellied pigs, llamas, deer and possum. But they are especially tender and caring with dogs and cats. As a result, the first season of eight episodes received widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike. While a new season hasn’t been announced yet, it is highly likely that it will be renewed. Interesting sidebar – the Schroeders were approached for a show by HGTV before NatGeoWild. But the couple politely declined the offer that revolved around their home-restoring business, since they’re primarily veterinarians.

The Vet Life#4 – The Vet Life
(Animal Planet and Amazon Prime)

Diarra Blue, Aubrey Ross and Michael Lavigne developed a strong friendship while attending Tuskegee University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. After years of paying their dues, which included honing their surgery skills in Las Vegas, they decided to pursue their dreams of owning their own practice together. In 2015, Cy-Fair Animal Hospital opened its doors in Dr. Ross’ home city of Houston. “The Vet Life” chronicles the doctors’ juggling act running the full-service hospital and animal shelter while managing family lives filled with spouses, parents, in-laws, children, pets and friends. The show has some drama, but it also covers the fun and comedic friendship the three Vets have with each other.

The Zoo#5 – The Zoo/Secrets of the Zoo (all the Zoo shows are either on Animal Planet or NatGeoWild)
Both cable networks have several “zoo” shows, these are sort of like the NCIS and Law & Order primetime shows – many spin-offs but in different locations. Though not actually Vet shows, a good portion of each show involves treating an animal or two (doing surgery on a silverback Gorilla) for some ailment or just routine physicals (like the episode with the giraffes). If you watch enough episodes there will be several handlers, trainers and veterinarians you’ll enjoy watching, and all the shows give you a behind the scenes look of what happens in a zoo. I like them all, but check out “The Zoo” if you have to choose one — it’s filmed at the Bronx Zoo and many of the keepers are very engaging and interesting to watch.

Hendersons#6 – Hanging with the Hendersons
(Animal Planet & Amazon Prime)
Animal Planet premiered this feel-good veterinary show early in 2019 after YouTube users swooned over a video of veterinarian Dr. Ross Henderson singing to a golden retriever before surgery. Supposedly, a new season is in the works. The show follows the Henderson family practice in Lakewood, Colorado. The Fox Hollow Animal Hospital was founded by Dr. Tony Henderson in 1996. It now includes Tony’s sons Dr. Ross and Dr. Ryan and technician assistant Cole, plus the extended clinic family and numerous pets, including Tony’s beloved golden retriever and sidekick, Lord Barrington. Drama and high stakes at the clinic with animals are part of the daily routine for this dynamic family but so are jokes, laughter and family camaraderie.

#7 – Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER (NatGeoWild and Disney Plus)
Dr. Susan Kelleher owns and operates a busy exotic animal care practice located in South Florida, Broward Avian and Exotics Animal Hospital. “Everything but dogs and cats. If it will fit through the door, I’ll treat it!” is Dr. K’s motto. Her patients include rabbits, reptiles and birds of all shapes and sizes, foxes, ferrets, fish, marsupials, and even primates. One of the featured veterinarians on the show was Dr. Laura Thielen, a young, enthusiastic and charming vet who was mentored by Dr. K. But last year she moved back to her hometown state of Texas, and low and behold, National Geographic gave Dr. Thielen her own show, the originally titled (pun intended) “Dr. T Lone Star Vet.”

Dr K
#8 – Dr. T Lone Star Vet (NatGeoWild and Disney Plus)

Beloved veterinarian, Dr. Lauren Thielen or Dr. T as she is affectionately called, now has her own show (having been the bright, plucky and kind Vet who made people fall in love with her on “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER.”) Like the other Vet shows on NatGeoWild, this new program has humor, drama and makes people feel better about all kinds of animals. Dr. T.’s departure from “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER” last year was a tear-jerker (try to watch that episode), and like Dr. K, Dr. T specializes in exotic animals and birds. I really like Dr. T and Dr. K, and probably would have rated them higher by a position or two, except that I’m not a big fan of exotic animals, especially snakes and reptiles. But between these two shows I’m learning to appreciate them!

Dr T

Do You Have Favorites?
Have you watched any of these or any of the other veterinarian shows? If so, which ones are your favorites?  Let me know in the comments below!



Note:  Photos courtesy of National Geographic WILD and Animal Planet







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26 comments on “The Top 8 Vet Shows and 5 Things I Learned by Watching Them
  1. Linda Brown says:

    Dr Jeff…please don’t forget Dr Jeff…he’s a great vet and an animal advocate

  2. Janette k McMillen says:

    I like most of the vets on tv my favorites are Dr
    Pol, Heartland Docs and Critter Fixtures.

  3. Valerie Smith says:

    I agree that Dr Jeff is the best show and most compassionate doctor. His pop up clinics in remote areas with low cost and his cost in Denver make him outstanding. His equipment and clinic by far is completely updated and a amazing staff. I watch Dr Pol but get disturbed with his handling of animals and insist they don’t need to get knocked out for procedures or pain meds. He always says it doesn’t hurt. Yes they are hurting. Just look at their eyes being handed back to the owners. His associate vets like Dr Brenda and others are so compassionate and give much better care. I think Dr Brenda is up their with Dr Jeff. The best. Dr Pols office and home shots need updating major. He needs better equipment. I don’t care for Dr T. She speaks with a baby tone. Glad she left Dr K. I enjoy checking out the exotics. Very compassionate caring vets. I enjoy watching Dr Erin and Dr Ben. Nice seeing the Nebraska countryside and their compassion for animals and family values. I only watch Critter Fixers if nothing else is on. The one vet talks to much silly. Not entertaining. The masks gotta go. What are they saying? Dr Oakley is enjoyable to watch. Tired of her chasing buffalos otherwise ok. Oh yes she does try to act like her daughters. I couldn’t pinpoint what bothered me until I read a comment and got my answer. Love secrets of the Zoo. So entertaining. I learn a lot with behind the scenes. They truly love all the animals. But of all the shows Hatcher Family Farm is so enjoyable to watch. Their care for their animals and family values are enjoyable to watch. Very sincere.

    • Thanks for your comments Valerie…. I wrote this blog post review of the Vet shows several years ago, and I agree, Dr. Pol is “old school” and needs better, more up-to-date equipment, but I still find the show entertaining, and he has a big heart. Also love the Secrets of the Zoo shows, but focused my review on the Vet shows (though the Zoo shows have some wonderful Vets!). Just now started watching the Hatcher Family Farm. Again, thanks for reading!!


    Critter Fixer is a fun one to watch with two vets.

  5. Eira Alvarado says:

    I have been watching all the shows about animals, especially those about veterinarians, i.e. dr. Pol, dr. Jeff, Critter fixers, veterinarians from Texas, etc. And they just melt my heart, they make me cry of joy because they are God sent angels to take care for those beautiful souls that would not do any harm to humans. GOD BLESS THEM!!!!8

  6. Daniel Serrano says:

    Yes all of them but then cable prices went up to much.
    Then I could never find a vet that has prices that I could be able to afford.
    One vet visit I took my dog was over 600.00 for a ear infection.and I live in Deltona Fl.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The British shows blow these all away like The Yorkshire Vet.

    • Janette Williams says:

      Love Dr Jeff. Also Animal Emergency Hospital, all the vet shows dealing more with dogs and cats. Not crazy about large animal shows. Not a fan of Dr Pol. Much too rough with the animals, does things to animals w/o anesthesia that I’d certainly want my pet under anesthesia for. Certainly don’t like watching the digging into large animal bottoms.

  8. Brad Redding says:

    I agree with your view on top five vet shows with one major objection. Dr. Oakley in my opinion would not be in the top ten of at all. She is a middle age vet who tries to act like one of her own daughters. She is not professional at all due to this. The real issue is almost all if not all of her cases she has a standard saying half way through the exam. ” Oh shoot I don’t like what I see at all” and in almost every case a minor injury turns out to be a life issue with most of the time it’s due to not handling the anaseeioa In correctly. Due to her area where she works does not help. Lack of vets. I would iminigne 95% of her cases have the same scenario. Why is she on. Dr. Pol by far has them all beat, then Dr. Jeff, Critter Fixers,Vet life, but all of them beats Dr. Oakley who should not Even have a show

  9. Eilene BARDEN says:

    We love all the shows my 6 yr old granddaughter only wants to watch animal shows right now its Secrets of the Zoo and Dr Pol

  10. May R. Vail Lee says:

    Thank you for your write up! I believe that Dr. Oakley’s shows top the list. It is because the range of animals that she treat is wide, the incredible scenery, the distance that he has to cover is quite superior than the other shows, the involvement of her family in her practice and how he draws his audience to her practice is quite incredible. The Zoo shows are great & 2nd on my list. It is because of the wide range of animals, the conservation and the educational program that they have. I like all the rest of the shows that you presented & watch them all the time. I liked what you wrote!

  11. Tammy Palmer says:

    I was sure DR. JEFF would of been on there. He should of, he does alot of volunteering, helping the poor, traveling miles, he should have been before Dr pol. Also alot more sanitary, and has alot more (up to date) equipment. Think about it,,

    • Suzanne Ellzey says:

      I completely agree that DR.JEFF Rocky Mt. Vet, should be first on this list! He and his wife, Petra, his long time assistant and friend, Hector, fabulous Susan, and the whole staff are wonderful and caring. I appreciate that Dr. Jeff and his team travel the Denver area and the world to help low income pet owners care for their furry best friends. I also love that Dr. Jeff is reducing misery in the world by promoting and performing spay and neuter clinics and training other vets in his techniques. His is a team of very skilled and deeply caring people who respect each other and work together to truly make a difference in the world. They give me hope

  12. I love these shows and I watch them all not only are the informative but it teaches you a lot about what to look for and prepares you for what to expect in the more serious situations as well as better care for your animals I watch them every chance I have.

  13. Dawne Riegler says:

    My favorite is Dr. Pol. Been watching the show since it came onto the tv. Direct TV has removed NOW program from my TV selection and it’s too much to get the next package. WHAT CAN I DO????????

  14. Chris Wells says:

    You missed the best of all — “The Yorkshire Vet,” on Amazon Prime, perhaps through Prime’s Acorn streaming service. This show has the weight of the James Herriott novels and BBC TV series behind it. The scenery is gorgeous, the Vets and staff are kind and witty; and the farmers, townsfolk and animals are eccentric.

    • I do love this show, but as I said in my blog post, I decided not to include the British vet shows in my ranking, but really like “The Yorkshire Vet.” Thanks for mentioning!

    • Jan Stadler says:

      Love all the veterianarian shows. We do love the Columbus zoo and their Vets as well as the caregivers. But always love all the rest as well. We can’t get enough of all of them and boy can you learn a lot. Love Dr Oakley and Dr Pol. The Heartland Vets is great also. Keep up the good shows. We even watch the re-runs.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m wondering if we get “The Yorkshire Vet here in Lake St Louis on Spectrum cable tv network?

  15. Alison C Morgan says:

    You don’t like Dr. Jeff Rocky Mountain Vet? He was my favorite until I discovered Dr. Pol

  16. Anonymous says:

    I watch mostly all those shows. My favorites are Dr.Pol and the zoo shows, Columbus and Bronx. All very informative as well as entertaining. Thank you

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