- Diagnoses animal health problems.
- Vaccinates against diseases, such as distemper and rabies.
- Medicates animals suffering from infections or illnesses.
- Treats and dresses wounds.
- Sets fractures.
- Performs minor to complex surgery, depending on training.
- Advises owners about animal feeding, behavior, and breeding.
- Euthanizes animals when necessary.
- Provides preventive care to maintain the health of livestock.
- Performs diagnostic test such as X-ray, EKG, ultrasound, blood, urine, and faeces.
In many respects a veterinarian is similar to a pediatrician. Animals cannot talk like human beings, and much of the clinical history is obtained from the owner or client, as a pediatrician would obtain from a child's parents. Excellent people skills and communication skills are required.
What cannot be obtained from the clinical history is acquired with the fingers, eyes, and smell. The ability to listen with a stethoscope and palpate with the fingers and hands will reveal much of the physical findings. The sense of smell is also important in detecting the fruity odor of the ketotic cow's breath, or the urea from the breath of a cat in renal failure.
What can not be revealed by the history and exam is further supported by diagnostic tests like blood work, urinalysis, and fecal exams. Veterinarians are well trained in laboratory medicine and parasitology.
The general practice veterinarian spends one third to one half of his or her time in surgery. Animal neutering operations are done in most veterinarians' offices. Many veterinarians also perform orthopedic procedures, bone setting, dentistry, and trauma surgery. Surgery requires good hand and eye coordination, and fine motor skills. A vet's job is similar to that of a human doctor.
When health problems arise, veterinarians diagnose the problem and treat the animal. Accurate diagnosis frequently requires laboratory tests, radiography, and specialized equipment. Treatments may involve a number of different procedures including emergency lifesaving techniques, prescribing medication, setting fractures, birthing, performing surgery, or advising an owner on feeding and care of the animal.
To prevent the introduction of foreign diseases, veterinarians employed by government agencies quarantine and inspect animals brought into the country from other countries. They supervise shipments of animals, test for the presence of diseases, and manage campaigns to prevent and eradicate many diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and rabies, which threaten animal and human health.
Veterinarians in research look for better ways to prevent and solve animal and human health problems. Many problems, such as cancer and heart disease, are studied through the use of laboratory animals, which are carefully bred, raised, and maintained under the supervision of veterinarians.
There are many veterinarians that are professors, teaching at schools and universities of Veterinary medicine. In addition to teaching, Veterinary school faculty members conduct basic and clinical research, contribute to scientific publications, and develop continuing education programs to help graduate veterinarians acquire new knowledge and skills.
Veterinarians also work in the area of public health. They help to prevent and control animal and human diseases and promote good health. As epidemiologists they investigate animal and human disease outbreaks such as food-borne illness, influenza, plague, rabies, AIDS, and encephalitis. They evaluate the safety of food processing plants, restaurants, and water supplies. Veterinarians in environmental health programs study and evaluate the effects of various pesticides, industrial pollutants, and other contaminants on people as well as on animals.
As opposed to human medicine, general practice veterinarians greatly out-number veterinary specialists. Most veterinary specialists work at the veterinary school, or at a referral center in large cities. As opposed to human medicine, where each organ system has its own medical and surgical specialties, veterinarians often combine both the surgical and medical aspect of an organ system into one field. The specialties in veterinary medicine often encompass several medical and surgical specialties that are found in human medicine. Within each veterinary specialty, one will often find a separation of large animal medicine from small animal medicine. Some veterinary specialties are evolving, some are limited only in the teaching universities, and some are practiced only in the field.