With a passion for animals that began during childhood, Dr. Evan Antin followed his professional calling by becoming a veterinarian and has since worked with wildlife around the world. The Kansas native, who was named “Sexiest Veterinarian Alive” by People magazine, has a huge social media following that helps him share his love for animals. Recently, Dr. Antin fulfilled his dream of hosting his own TV show, Evan Goes Wild, which finished airing its first season on Animal Planet earlier this month. When he’s not in the limelight, Dr. Antin works at an animal hospital in California and spends quality time with his own pets.
Dr. Antin took time out of his busy schedule to talk to TAiLS & toys about his career path and his most memorable experience as a vet. He also discusses Evan Goes Wild, his new pet wellness brand and common pet care tips that are often overlooked by owners.
Q When did you first realize that you wanted to work with animals for a living?
A I knew animals would be a big part of my life at a very young age. I grew up always having cats, dogs and exotic pets. I lived in Kansas in the suburbs, where we had a creek in the backyard. I was always flipping rocks looking for insects, snakes, frogs and turtles. So wildlife was always something I was passionate about. When I started college at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I actually started as a business major, but then I was taking science courses to fill some of the prerequisites [and] I just fell in love with it. I was taking general biology courses and actually starting to really enjoy learning and going to class and being tested on everything, which was new for me — I’d never got that excited about school. A few years before that, I’d started having an interest in medicine/surgery, which was always on the back of my mind and seemed pretty neat. But then I put everything together and I was like, You know what? Medicine looks awesome, I love learning about the sciences and I’m crazy about animals; [becoming a veterinarian] is, for sure, my professional calling. I started pursuing med school and haven’t looked back. I love being a vet and I’ve been very happy with this career choice.
Q What is one of the most memorable things you’ve experienced while working as a vet?
A I’ll tell you one of the most special moments. I’ve volunteered with wildlife around the world for over a decade, but during med school and before med school, I wasn’t a vet at the time, so I couldn’t do veterinary work. But I would work with the animals in their enclosures and that kind of thing. And when I graduated, I worked for a couple of months but then I took this long trip in Indonesia for about two and half months. I was traveling with my best friend; we were going all over the country, and in Northern Sulawesi is the Tasikoki Wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary. This was the first time I was going to a wildlife rescue in another part of the world as a vet; I had done it many times, like I said, as a volunteer, but now I was a vet. The timing was perfect because their vets were out of town and they had some animals that really needed help. I got to work on this critically endangered monkey species, one in particular is called the crested black macaque. This one monkey had a big infection that ate through one of its canine teeth and the infection was spreading up into his face. It was getting pretty gnarly, so I had to surgically remove the canine and scoop out the infection in the tooth socket, basically. That was a neat procedure, but what was so special was that it was just so surreal to me. One of the biggest reasons I went to vet school was to work on wildlife and I was actually doing it, in Indonesia, working on this crazy rare primate species, and it was like all that hard work was paying off in a really special moment.
Q Tell us about your new Animal Planet show, Evan Goes Wild, and what that has been like.
A That’s also surreal. I’d been wanting a show on Animal Planet and was working towards that in a major way for 13 years. It’s really how I envisioned my dream show — getting to work with wildlife around the world, promote wildlife conservation, show people what veterinary medicine is about and educate them about animals [similar to] some of the shows I grew up watching and loved so much, like The Crocodile Hunter with Steve Irwin. It’s truly a professional and personal dream come true.
One of the things the show does best is get people excited about animals in a fun, natural way. There are a lot of species we work with that I don’t think the general public has ever heard of or seen before, and so getting the opportunity to share those animals is huge. And then while we’re at it, we do talk about their conservation, we do talk about things that are affecting our wildlife and things that are affecting their numbers and whatnot. Just raising awareness is the first step in wildlife conservation, which is something that’s very important to me. People aren’t going to conserve or care or make changes to a problem when they don’t even know it exists. And so I think the show does a really good job demonstrating that these things are real, but at the same time not being depressing or too graphic. We show really beautiful animals and the interactions that I get to have with them, so it’s done in a positive, fun way.
Q What can you tell us about your Happy Pet line of wellness products for dogs?
A My goal with Happy Pet was to create something that’s natural and safe, but also effective. It’s hard to find that combination in the pet world; there are a lot of natural things that just don’t really get the job done, and then there are a lot of things that get the job done, but they’re a little bit concerning in terms of how they’re made. Happy Pet is all grooming products and then I have an active line that is just sunscreen for now, but we’re working on some insect repellant. With each product, there’s some component to it that has a medical benefit behind it. I have a palm moisturizing cream with manuka honey, which is really effective at healing wounds. If you have a serious wound, don’t just put my lotion on it — go see your vet; but for mild stuff, it’s great. And I’ve got Hits the (Hot) Spot! Relief Wipes. Our shampoos and conditioners are sulfate- and paraben-free and everything’s manufactured in solar-powered facilities. It’s almost completely natural ingredients, and the things that aren’t natural are of no concern whatsoever. [Happy Pet contains the types] of products I’d recommend over the years, I just decided I’m going to make my own versions with a veterinary education in mind and put some extra things in there that make them a little bit more effective, in my opinion.
Q Do you still find time to practice medicine in Southern California?
A Yes. I work at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital; it’s just outside of L.A. in Thousand Oaks. There are times when I’m very part-time there. When we filmed Evan Goes Wild, I was out of the country from mid-October through mid-January (I had done some other personal traveling during that time). During those few months, I was not at Conejo at all. But these days, I’ve been able to get back at least four times a month. I used to work five long days a week, grinding real hard and staying super busy in there. With all these other projects and things that I’m working on, I’m not in there as much. But I like it; I think it’s really fun. It’s the best of both worlds.
Q What are some common pet care tips that are often overlooked by pet parents?
A Preventative medicine. This includes vaccination — that’s one of the best ways to prevent two of the scariest viruses in the dog world: parvovirus and canine distemper virus.
On top of that, if you’re adopting a new pet — and this goes for shelters, too — you really need to keep their areas clean. I’m currently doing a campaign with Clorox; they make some really awesome products that are actually effective in eradicating nasty viruses. We can use Clorox as a regular bleach solution; if we use half a cup diluted in three quarters of a gallon of water, we now have a product that can kill parvovirus. To have an effective product like that is really valuable to help reduce the spread of disease. Another product I really like is their Clean-Up spray, which can eliminate distemper. So products like that are super important.
Other tips: When you get a new pet, consult with your veterinarian. Depending on where you live around the country, there are different things you should be concerned about. I don’t see a lot of heartworm where I live in Southern California, but in the Midwest and the South and the East Coast, there are issues like that. Fleas are pretty much anywhere in the country and they’re a bit seasonal. We’re jumping into summer right now and flea and tick season is becoming a reality again, as it does every year, so having your dogs on preventatives is really important. Deworming pets is important. You can find internal parasites in pretty much most parts of the continental U.S., but they are going to be more common in these warmer months.
Q Tell us about the pets you have at home and if you have a favorite.
A I’ve got a little dog named Henry; he’s a rescue from Boulder Humane Society. He’s about 11. I’ve got a cat named Willy; he’s 12 and also from Boulder Humane. I’ve got a cat named Blue; he’s like 3½. We found him in the attic of my mother-in-law’s house. I’ve also got a tortoise named Dolores. I’ve got a mangrove snake that doesn’t have a name, and then I’ve got a little lizard and some fish.
As much as I love them all…the best pet I have is Willy. He has changed the opinion of so many friends of mine about how they felt about cats. I say this all the time — if you don’t like cats, you haven’t met the right cat. And if you’ve met the right cat and you don’t like cats, then there’s something wrong with you and you probably don’t like any animals, so I can’t relate to you at all. [Laughs] Willy is one of those cats. He’s super friendly and easygoing. He loves my other animals and plays with them. He’s just the sweetest little guy and he’s the cat of cats. He’s such an amazing cat ambassador. He’s probably the most special of my pets but I love them all!