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Saving lives, one video at a time

FirstlineFirstline August 2021
Volume 18
Issue 4

This dynamic duo has transformed their highly followed TikTok account into a learning house for both veterinary professionals and pet owners.

Peter Carlos, RVT, has been a veterinary technician for the past decade and works at the Taylor ER Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Turlock, California. Nearly 4 years ago, his path intertwined with the bright and bubbly Jaycee Leonardo, who joined the team as an assistant at just 16 years old.

Not so long ago, the duo combined forces in an unexpected way and have since become social media sensations within veterinary medicine.

“We became such great friends working together and are constantly joking around. We think the same things are funny and have the same sense of humor. We sing, dance, and make work fun,” says Leonardo.

Carlos agrees. “We do have an age gap, but our friendship really grew from liking and laughing at the same things. We just make work fun, so the stress of daily veterinary medicine doesn’t burn us out.”

At the height of the pandemic last year, the pair started an account on TikTok, a newly popular (at that time) video-sharing app. It was a slow day at the clinic when Carlos decided he wanted them to perform the viral “foot shake dance challenge” that had been spreading like wildfire among the medical community. After posting that video, they decided TikTok was something they wanted to pursue and continued to post.

Five video posts later, their following had grown tremendously.

Now more than a year and a half later, they have accumulated nearly 2 million followers and counting, and their TikTok presence continues to flourish, despite neither having prior experience in social media besides personal accounts.

As their popularity grew, the duo decided to shift gears and make their TikTok platform educational—for those inside and outside the veterinary industry.

The dynamic duo—the early years

Carlos began his career in the veterinary industry at the pet store Petco. He started working there during his junior year of high school and continued after he graduated. He says he began experiencing burnout from his job due to customers looking for medications at the store instead of getting treatment for their pets. This, along with his love for animals, led him to Carrington College in Stockton, California, where he began taking veterinary technician courses.

After completing the necessary schooling and requirements, Carlos became an RVT and has been working at Taylor ER Veterinary Emergency Hospital for the past decade. He even married the practice manager, whose father is the owner.

Leonardo’s path that led her to where she is today was significantly different than Carlos’.

“There are so many different routes to get to where you’re going, I just think people need to not be afraid to start,” Carlos says.

Leonardo says she wanted to be a veterinarian her entire life. Or so she thought. Once she got to high school, her mother enrolled her at a local college to begin taking veterinary technician classes. Through these classes, she discovered the differences between veterinarians and veterinary technicians and decided to pursue a career as a veterinary technician instead.

“I always wanted to be a veterinarian until I got started in technician school—and then realized I really enjoyed the technician side of veterinary medicine and focused on becoming a veterinary technician,” says Leonardo.

After taking technician classes and volunteering at the Taylor ER Veterinary Emergency Hospital for 2 years, she received a job offer on her 18th birthday and has been working there ever since. She’s scheduled to take her RVT certification in August (after it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Engaging and educational content

Carlos’ and Leonardo’s videos cover a wide range of clinical content, featuring patients from the hospital or highlighting everyday items to show viewers veterinary medicine through unique approaches. For example, the pair created videos of them inserting microchips, but their spin is adding microchips to fruit to show the process.

“A lot of the comments were...‘Does that hurt’ or ‘What’s the microchip for?’” says Carlos. “Then someone said jokingly, ‘Microchip a grape.’ So I microchipped a grape. That video kind of evolved because then people wanted to start seeing more videos like that. Someone commented, ‘Microchip a strawberry.’ So I did, and that video took off again.”

They’ve also shined a spotlight on dental health, which has become one of their most popular topics. Their videos have shown viewers, among other things, how they remove calculus from teeth as well as extract an abscessed tooth root.

“The most popular topic of our videos would be dental cleanings,” Carlos says. “People can’t believe the amount of gunk and junk we take off the pet’s teeth.

“We’re educating [viewers] on calculus, tartar, [and] toothbrushing and [raising] the overall awareness that pets need daily hygiene when it comes to teeth. People are always so amazed at what’s on dogs' teeth and then what they can look like once they’ve been cleaned.”

Through educational content, Leonardo and Carlos have created a space where pet owners can learn about procedures and proper care and veterinary professionals can learn tips and tricks to help improve the care of their patients.

The pros and cons of social media

Although social media is a great resource to help get your brand out there and attract customers, it also poses some challenges for practices, particularly due to negative feedback or comments. Through their TikTok experience, Carlos and Leonardo have discovered the good and bad aspects of social media when it comes to business.

“Negative words will carry much further than good words, and someone who has a negative experience will tell 10 friends,” says Carlos. “And yet, when someone has a good experience, they will maybe tell their neighbor about it.”

According to the duo, there is no way to avoid negative comments. No matter what you post or say, there will always be someone who disagrees or does not like what you’re doing. When you come across this, it’s necessary to defend yourself, your practice, and fellow staff members to maintain credibility and continue to build your online platform.

Business lessons learned

  • Use a team-based approach to ensure that all the social media responsibilities are not all on one person.
  • Be original, and when you see trends, try to put your own spin on them.
  • Do not oversell or bombard followers with ads or products.
  • Be consistent. Remember, not every post will get hundreds of likes or views.
  • Showcase and tag clients and pets. People will most likely share a post they’re tagged in, which can help boost your following.
  • Create posts that show off all aspects of your practice.
  • Instead of using stock images, share real images of your staff, clients, and practice.

On the “pros” side, social media can provide a behind-the-scenes look at how a practice is run, helping clients better understand your clinic. This knowledge can be crucial to your practice because it shows who is taking care of their pet and what exactly is happening.

According to the duo, social media can help illustrate “what all goes into” the blood work, for example, by providing some background on “how everything that we do is not as simple as it sounds.” Take dental health. TikTok has enabled them, through their dental videos, to show “what is really happening. It is not just brushing your dog’s teeth.”

What’s next?

“We just keep posting. We love sharing what we see daily, and we love to share the real side of veterinary medicine,” says Carlos.

Leonardo agrees. “We want to continue to share our side of veterinary medicine and teach people that a lot more goes into caring for pets than just feeding and showing love at home.”

With their passion for educating their viewers, the popular TikTok duo is helping to elevate veterinary medicine to new heights on social media. Their continued goal is to focus attention on the role and importance of veterinary medicine and to help pet owners and veterinary professionals find common ground to learn from one another.

“If we can show just a small side of what we see, then maybe we can change just one person’s view on what veterinary medicine is. Then we feel we have done our job.”

Check out Leonardo and Carlos at @vet_techs_pj on TikTok.

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