Dyspraxia in Veterinary Practice

Dyspraxia, often misunderstood, impacts various aspects of life beyond just motor skills. In the veterinary field, it presents unique challenges, from surgery planning to organisational tasks. Despite setbacks and misconceptions, dyspraxic individuals bring valuable strengths like empathy and problem-solving abilities. In this blog, vet Kristina Hunter shares her story.


A misunderstood condition

Dyspraxia (Developmental Co-ordination Disorder) at its simplest means ‘bad doing’ and is sometimes thought of as ‘Dyslexia’s motor cousin’. My own experience of the condition reveals that it is so much more than that, it is lifelong and incurable. It is a very misunderstood condition as it affects more than just fine and gross motor movement, it also affects motor planning (i.e. thinking or planning an action), causes problems with organisation, spatial awareness and thought processing. We can seem clumsy, slow, awkward or forgetful and may have classic ‘doctor’s handwriting.’

I suspected I may have dyspraxia during my early employment days; subtle things at first – my tendency to spill water in my consult room, dropping my forceps on the floor and the jokes that I looked drunk from walking into doorframes. On reflection these were all things that I had experienced since childhood, but when I was young the condition was poorly recognised and diagnosis was not forthcoming. I was worried. Would this prevent me from being a good vet? Would I be looked down on by my employers?

Challenges in practice

Things soon started to fall apart as a new grad. This is already a tough time for new vets and even tougher if you have dyspraxia. Dyspraxic staff may need more time to plan how to do a surgery or task and this can be challenging in a busy practice or with unsupportive management. Sadly, this lack of support resulted in me developing severe episodes of depression and was a factor in leaving several roles. Low self-esteem is common in dyspraxia, as is frustration; imagine living in a body that just does not do as you ask! We can see exactly what we want to do, but transmitting this message to our body is challenging and it can be physically and mentally exhausting to deal with this every day.  As it happens, dyspraxia also brings many advantages that instead helped me to succeed: persistence, determination, excellent reading, auditory, and verbal skills, and most importantly for a vet – empathy.

Overcoming obstacles

I was determined not to let dyspraxia stop me from doing the job I had dreamed of my entire life. I was very fortunate to meet many wonderful vet nurses and vets who saw through my apparent disorganisation; it was with their patient support and encouragement that I managed to stay in clinical work. Progression through our careers leaves us with many new skills but can also highlight the struggles of dyspraxia as, the more complex work becomes, the harder we may need to compensate. After several episodes of depression, I decided I needed to seek answers and help. Unfortunately, in the UK for most adults, diagnosis is not available on the NHS and must be done by private assessors. I was not ‘lucky’ to be diagnosed, I worked hard to earn enough money to pay for my own assessment. You very likely already work with undiagnosed dyspraxic staff as it makes no difference to their level of intelligence!

Dyspraxia has not stopped me from achieving my career goals and has not negatively affected client relationships, my productivity or my capability as a clinical practitioner. In fact, I am frequently complimented by clients and staff on my neat surgery and, as an exotics vet, I am used to dealing with small, delicate procedures. I am patient and understanding with students and this has resulted in several teaching roles and academic publications. The biggest challenges I have faced is from the ignorance of others, an automatic assumption that I will not be as effective as my colleagues and a failure to understand that simple changes to my day can make a huge difference.

There are so many myths about dyspraxia that employers may be unaware of the advantages:

  • Motor challenges do not prevent us from being excellent surgeons – we just need a bit of practice and support
  • Our careful surgical planning can prevent errors and improve patient safety
  • Our unique thinking style makes us excellent problem solvers
  • We can learn lots of new skills, it just might take a little bit longer
  • We often have excellent memories and an eye for detail and are great auditors in practice
  • Our strong empathy makes us excellent with client relations
  • We are creative, highly motivated and passionate people who will always work towards our goals
  • Our excellent verbal skills mean that we are effective communicators, team players and can do well in leadership or management roles

I am proud of my dyspraxia and without it I don’t think I would have achieved everything I have so far, it has helped me to be more compassionate towards my patients, clients and colleagues. I will be forever grateful to those who have supported me and hope others follow their example in our profession.


Kristina Hunter MRCVS



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