MADDIE'S® Veterinary Student Externship Program

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If you are a veterinary student interested in shelter medicine, there is no better, “real world” place to learn than at Austin Pets Alive!. Here, you'll learn how to treat more animals under a tight shelter budget. Your experience will be under the guidance of five full-time shelter veterinarians. This program is heavily concentrated in shelter medicine (minimal to no spay/neuter experience) and may include some soft tissue surgery.

Ratnayaka Nipuni headshot 190328 222628

Dr. Nipuni Ratnayaka

Maddie's Lifesaving Academy Veterinarian

What Will Students Learn?

  • Infectious diseases rounds - Calicivirus, Parvovirus,
  • Distemper, Ringworm
  • Other Rounds Topics
  • Disease prevention starting at intake
  • Best Practices for managing high volume shelter cases
  • Protocols: using them effectively for maximum efficiency
  • Triaging of critical/emergency cases in a high volume
  • shelter setting
  • Trauma - head trauma, wounds, fractures, etc
  • Parvo puppies in shock
  • “Fading” neonatal kittens and puppies
  • Surgeries (based on current case-load)
  • Spay/Neuter techniques (this will not be a heavy focus)
  • Emergency Surgery
  • Diaphragmatic hernia repair surgery
  • Abdominal explores, RnA
  • Esophageal tube placement
  • “Elective” Surgeries - enucleation, amputation, mass
  • removal
  • Practice Clinical Skills
  • Bandage/splint changes
  • IV catheter placement
  • If time/cases allow, assisting in surgeries listed above
  • Efficiency in physical exam

Who Should Attend?

Veterinarians and vet students

What to Bring

  • Scrubs & closed toe shoes for the clinic
  • If you would prefer not to wear our communal scrubs and shoes bring flip flops & scrubs to leave in parvovirus ward.
  • Stethoscope

Travel Stipend

If your applications are filled to completion, you may receive a grant for travel and housing during your externship.

Recommended Reading

Infectious Disease Management in Animal Shelters By Lila Miller and Kate Hurley. A binder with APA’s medical protocols will be provided at the apprenticeship.


Externships are available year round, for any amount of time, minimum 1 week.

Open Enrollment


“Being able to take home standard operating procedures from a city that focuses on maintaining No Kill is a game changer in bringing our community forward from the animal control mentality to engaging the entire community in achieving high standards of animal welfare.”

Maddie's® Lifesaving Leadership Master Class Student

“It was fantastic. I enjoyed it [the apprenticeship] so much and took away more valuable information than I ever thought possible… thank you as does all of the Eastern Madera County SPCA. You have made an imprint on my life that I will be forever grateful for.”

Maddie's® Dog Foster Program Apprenticeship Student

"While participating in an apprenticeship at APA! I learned more effective and cost-saving ways to better serve the animals in our care, while also providing established protocols and procedures to staff members. I was able to more easily and clearly create a framework for common symptoms and illness. Other takeaways from the apprenticeship would be HR development, crowdfunding, and drug and illness protocols."

Maddie's® Clinic Apprenticeship for Managers Student

"I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to attend your master class. I was shocked at the amount of information I learned from your class. Your candor and non-judgmental attitude made receiving information when I was admitting I had been wrong so much easier. Again, thank you for the opportunity, and I look forward to staying in contact with you!"

Maddie's® Feline Lifesaving Master Class Student

"Thank you for giving us the tools we need and the continued offer of support. I feel confident that between this course and the feline course I’m attending next month, our shelter is going to be able to save most of that last 10% and that is HUGE. You are amazing. Your staff is amazing. Your volunteers are phenomenal. Thank you."

Maddie's® Canine Lifesaving Leadership Master Class Student
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