What is a Veterinarian?

A Veterinarian is a specialized type of Doctor. Also known as: Veterinary Doctor, Veterinary Physician, DVM, Veterinary Surgeon, Staff Veterinarian, Large Animal Veterinarian, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Emergency Veterinarian, Small Animal Veterinarian, Veterinary Medicine Doctor, Vet.

A veterinarian is a medical professional who protects the health and well-being of both animals and people. They diagnose and control animal diseases and treat sick and injured animals. They also advise owners on proper care of their pets and livestock. Veterinarians provide a wide range of services in private practice, teaching, research, government service, public health, military service, private industry, and other areas.

When taking the veterinarian's oath, a doctor solemnly swears to use his or her scientific knowledge and skills "for the benefit of society, through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge."

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What does a Veterinarian do?

A Veterinarian:

  • 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 tests 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 cannot 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 veterinarian'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.

A veterinarian in research looks 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 a veterinary school, or at a referral centre 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.

What is the workplace of a Veterinarian like?

Small animal veterinarians typically work in veterinary clinics or veterinary hospitals, or both. Large animal veterinarians often spend more time traveling to see their patients at the primary facilities which house them (zoos, farms, etc).

As opposed to a human doctor's office, which only has exam rooms, a veterinarian's office is more like a hospital with a full pharmacy. Waiting rooms are available often with separate areas for dogs, cats, and exotics.

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Further Reading

  • So You Want My Job: Veterinarian

    When man’s best friend gets sick, veterinarians like Richard McAroy are the ones who are there to get them back on their paws again. Dr. McAroy is a vet in New Hampshire and fixes up dogs and lots of other four (and sometimes eight) legged creatures.

  • A Day In The Life Of A Veterinary Hospital

    Spending a day in a modern veterinary clinic offers insight into the business of pet care in Canada.

  • A Day In The Life Of A Veterinarian

    What do I do all day, you may ask? I am a veterinarian in a busy city practice and, yes, I get to have lots of cuddles with adorable kittens and puppies, but I also have to see lots of sick animals and that can be very sad.

  • How To Become A Veterinarian

    When the eight years of college study are completed and the degree "Doctor of Veterinary Medicine" is earned, the individual has numerous types of employment niches awaiting his or her skills.

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