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A veterinary physician, usually called a vet, which is shortened from veterinarian (American English, Australian English) or veterinary surgeon (British English), is a professional who practices veterinary medicine by treating diseases, disorders, and injuries in animals.
In many countries, the local nomenclature for a veterinarian is a regulated and protected term, meaning that members of the public without the prerequisite qualifications and/or licensure are not able to use the title. In many cases, the activities that may be undertaken by a veterinarian (such as treatment of illness or surgery in animals) are restricted only to those professionals who are registered as a veterinarian. For instance, in the United Kingdom, as in other jurisdictions, animal treatment may only be performed by registered veterinary physicians (with a few designated exceptions, such as paraveterinary workers
), and it is illegal for any person who is not registered to call themselves a veterinarian or prescribe any treatment.
Most veterinary physicians work in clinical settings, treating animals directly. These veterinarians may be involved in a general practice, treating animals of all types; they may be specialized in a specific group of animals such as pet, livestock, zoological medicine or equines; or may specialize in a narrow medical discipline such as veterinary surgery, dermatology or internal medicine . As with other healthcare professionals, veterinarians face ethical decisions about the care of their patients. Current debates within the profession include the ethics of certain procedures believed to be purely cosmetic or unnecessary for behavioral issues, such as Onychectomy of cats, docking (dog), cropping (animal) and Devocalization on dogs.
Etymology and nomenclature
The word veterinary comes from the Latin
n sage and veterinary physician Shalihotra
(mythological estimate c. 2350 BCE), the son of a Brahmin sage, Hayagosha, is considered the founder of veterinary sciences
The first veterinary college was founded in Lyon
, France in 1762 by Claude Bourgelat
[Marc Mammerickx, ''Claude Bourgelat: avocat des vétérinaires'', Bruxelles 1971.]
According to Lupton, after observing the devastation being caused by cattle plague
to the French herds, Bourgelat devoted his time to seeking out a remedy. This resulted in his founding a veterinary college in Lyon in 1761, from which establishment he dispatched students to combat the disease; in a short time, the plague was stayed and the health of stock restored, through the assistance rendered to agriculture by veterinary science and art.
[J.L.Lupton, "Modern Practical Farriery", 1879, in the section: "The Diseases of Cattle Sheep and Pigs" pp. 1]
The Odiham Agricultural Society was founded in 1783 in England to promote agriculture and industry,
and played an important role in the foundation of the veterinary profession in Britain.
Roles and responsibilities
Veterinarians treat disease, disorder or injury in animals, which includes diagnose
, treatment and aftercare. The scope of practice, specialty and experience of the individual veterinarian will dictate exactly what interventions they perform, but most will perform surgery (of differing complexity).
Unlike in human medicine, veterinarians must rely primarily on clinical signs, as animals are unable to vocalize symptoms as a human would. In some cases, owners may be able to provide a medical history and the veterinarian can combine this information along with observations, and the results of pertinent diagnostic tests such as radiography, X-ray computed tomography, Magnetic resonance imaging, blood tests, urinalysis and others.
Veterinarians must consider the appropriateness of animal euthanasia ("putting to sleep") if a condition is likely to leave the animal in pain or with a poor quality of life, or if treatment of a condition is likely to cause more harm to the patient than good, or if the patient is unlikely to survive any treatment regimen. Additionally, there are scenarios where euthanasia is considered due to the constrains of the client's finances.
As with human medicine, much veterinary work is concerned with preventive healthcare, in order to prevent problems occurring in the future. Common interventions include vaccination against common animal illnesses, such as canine distemper or rabies, and dental prophylaxis to prevent or inhibit dental disease. This may also involve owner education so as to avoid future medical or behavioral issues.
Additionally veterinarians have important roles in public health and the prevention of zoonoses.
The majority of veterinarians are employed in private practice treating animals (75% of vets in the United States, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association).
Veterinarians and their practices may be specialized in certain areas of veterinary medicine. Areas of focus include:
- Exotic animal veterinarian - Generally considered to include reptiles, exotic birds such as parrots and cockatoos, and small mammals such as ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, and common degus.
- Conservation medicine - The study of the relationship between animal and human health and environmental information.
- Small animal practice - Usually dogs, cats, and other companion animals/household pets such as hamsters and gerbils. Some practices are canine-only or feline-only practices.
- Laboratory animal practice - Some veterinarians work in a university or industrial laboratory and are responsible for the care and treatment of laboratory animals of any species (often involving bovines, porcine species, felines, canines, rodents, and even exotic animals). Their responsibility is not only for the health and well being of the animals, but also for enforcing humane and ethical treatment of the animals in the facility.
- Large animal practice - Usually referring to veterinarians that work with, variously, livestock and other large farm animals, as well as Equus (genus) and large reptiles.
- Equine medicine - Some veterinarians are specialists in equine medicine. Horses are different in anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and animal husbandry to other domestic species. Specialization in equine veterinary practice is something that is normally developed after qualification, even if students do have some interest before graduation.
- Food animal medicine - Some veterinarians deal exclusively or primarily with animals raised for food (such as meat, milk, and Egg (food)). Livestock practitioners may deal with Domestic sheep (sheep), Bovinae (cattle) and Suidae (Pig) species; such veterinarians deal with management of herds, nutrition, reproduction, and minor field surgery. Dairy medicine practice focuses on dairy animals. Poultry medicine practice focuses on the health of flocks of poultry; the field often involves extensive training in pathology, epidemiology, and nutrition of birds. The veterinarian treats the flock and not the individual animals.
- Food safety practice - Veterinarians are employed by both the food industry and government agency to advise on and monitor the handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness.
- Zoological medicine - A relatively recent branch of veterinary medicine, focusing on wildlife. Wildlife medicine veterinarians may work with Zoology and conservation medicine practitioners and may also be called out to treat marine species such as sea otters, dolphins, or whales after a natural disaster or oil spill.
- Aquatic medicine - mostly refers to veterinary care of fish in aquaculture (like salmon, cod, among other species), but can also include care of aquatic mammals. For certain countries with high economic income from aquaculture, this is an important part of the veterinary field (like Norway, Chile). Other countries (particularly those who are landlocked), might have little or no emphasis on aquatic medicine.
- Dentistry - Many practices are incorporating dentistry into their daily medical services. Most canine dental cleanings range from $500-$1,000 with extractions and oral surgeries in the $2,000 to $4,000 range. Oral radiographs can cost the patient from $200-$400. Veterinary dentistry can extend the life of the patient by preventing oral disease and keeping the teeth & gums of the patient in healthy condition. Although the procedures and anesthesia can be pricey most veterinarians are starting to train in veterinary dentistry.
These increased values exceed those of public practice including uniformed services
[Burns, Katie. "AVMA Survey Measures Income Trends to 2007." AVMA Journals (1 January 2009): Javma News. American Veterinary Medical Association. 2 Mar. 2009 <>.]
In Australia, the profession wide average income was $67,000 in 2011 and this has declined compared to other professions for the past 30 years whilst graduate unemployment has doubled between 2006 and 2011.
[White, Tim. "How we make ends meet: economic sustainability of the veterinary profession" Australian Veterinary Journal (April 2012). 18 Apr. 2012 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-0813.2012.news_v90_i4.x/abstract.]
The financial rewards for veterinary specialists proved impressive in a 2015 compensation survey sent to veterinarians in the US. Ophthalmologists and radiologists could earned more than $345,468 per year. Pathologists earned more than $267,000 per year, and veterinary surgeons earned more than $250,061 per year, and lab animal medicine specialists could earn more than $246,000 per year. Veterinary dermatologists responded to the survey with a median salary of $224,640 and anesthesiologists with $405,200.
Education and regulation
In order to practice, vets must complete both an appropriate academic degree
in veterinary medicine
, and in most cases must be registered with the relevant governing body for their jurisdiction.
Veterinary science degrees
Degrees in veterinary medicine culminate in the award of a veterinary science degree, although the title varies by region. For instance, in North America, graduates will receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris; DVM or VMD), whereas in the United Kingdom or India they would be awarded a Bachelor of Veterinary Science
(BVS, BVSc, BVetMed or BVMS), and in Ireland graduates receive a Medicinae Veterinariae Baccalaureus (MVB). In continental Europe, the degree of Doctor Medicinae Veterinariae (DMV, DrMedVet, Dr. med. vet., MVDr.) or Doctor Veterinariae Medicinae (DVM, DrVetMed, Dr. vet. med.) is granted.
The award of a bachelor's degree was previously commonplace in the United States, but the degree name and academic standards were upgraded to match the 'doctor' title used by graduates.
Comparatively few universities have veterinary schools that offer degrees which are accredited to qualify the graduates as registered vets. For example, there are 30 in the United States, 5 in Canada, and 8 in the United Kingdom (3 of which offer degrees accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)).
In the United States, approximately 80% of admitted students are female. In the early history of veterinary medicine of the United States, most veterinarians were males. However, in the 1990s this ratio reached parity, and now it has been reversed.
Preveterinary courses should emphasize the sciences. Most veterinary schools typically require applicants to have taken one year equivalent classes in organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physics, biology; and one semester of vertebrate embryology and biochemistry. Usually, the minimal mathematics requirement is college level calculus. Individual schools might require introduction to animal science, livestock judging, animal nutrition, cell biology, and genetics. However, due the limited availability of these courses, many schools have removed these requirements to widen the pool of possible applicants.
= List of AVMA Accredited Veterinary Colleges=
|! School !! State/Province/City !! Country !! Year Founded||-||Auburn University||Alabama||United States||1907|
|Tuskegee University (probationary, 2013)||Alabama||United States||1945|
|Midwestern University (provisional, 2013)||Arizona||United States||2012|
|University of California, Davis||California||United States||1946|
|Western University of Health Sciences (minor deficiency, 2012)||California||United States||1998|
|Université de Montréal||Quebec||Canada||1866|
|University of Calgary||Alberta||Canada||2008|
|University of Guelph||Ontario||Canada||1866|
|University of Prince Edward Island||Prince Edward Island||Canada||1986|
|University of Saskatchewan||Saskatchewan||Canada||1969|
|Colorado State University||Colorado||United States||1907|
|University of Florida||Florida||United States||1976|
|University of Melbourne||Victoria||Australia|
|University of Sydney||New South Wales||Australia|
|University of Queensland||Queensland||Australia|
|James Cook University||Queensland||Australia|
|University of London||London||England|
|VetAgro Sup||Marcy l'Etoile||France|
|University College Dublin||Dublin||Ireland|
|Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México||Mexico City||Mexico||1916|
|Massey University||Palmerston North||New Zealand||1962|
|The University of Edinburgh||Edinburgh||Scotland||1823|
|University of Glasgow||Glasgow||Scotland||1862|
|Utrecht University (minor deficiency, 2014)||Utrecht||The Netherlands||1821|
|Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine||Ross University||Saint Kitts||Caribbean||1982|
|St. George's University (minor deficiency, 2011)||Grenada||Caribbean||1999|
|University of Georgia||Georgia||United States||1946|
|University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign||Illinois||United States||1948|
|Purdue University||Indiana||United States||1959|
|Iowa State University||Iowa||United States||1879|
|Kansas State University||Kansas||United States||1905|
|Louisiana State University||Louisiana||United States||1968|
|Tufts University||Massachusetts||United States||1978|
|Michigan State University||Michigan||United States||1910|
|University of Minnesota (minor deficiency, 2014)||Minnesota||United States||1947|
|Mississippi State University||Mississippi||United States||1977|
|University of Missouri-Columbia||Missouri||United States||1946|
|Cornell University||New York||United States||1894|
|North Carolina State University||North Carolina||United States||1978|
|The Ohio State University||Ohio||United States||1885|
|Oklahoma State University||Oklahoma||United States||1948|
|Oregon State University||Oregon||United States||1979|
|University of Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania||United States||1884|
|University of Tennessee||Tennessee||United States||1976|
|Lincoln Memorial University (provisional, 2015)||Tennessee||United States||2012|
|Texas A&M University||Texas||United States||1916|
|Virginia–Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine||Virginia/Maryland||United States||1978|
|Washington State University (minor deficiency, 2010)||Washington||United States||1899|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||Wisconsin||United States||1979|
Registration and licensing
Following academic education, most countries require a vet to be registered with the relevant governing body, and to maintain this license to practice.
Dependent on where the vet practices (or wishes to practice), they may have to complete an examination or test in order to complete this registration. For instance, in the United States, a prospective vet must receive a passing grade on a national board examination, the North America Veterinary Licensing Exam. This exam must be completed over the course of eight hours, and consists of 360 multiple-choice questions, covering all aspects of veterinary medicine, as well as visual material designed to test diagnostic skills.
The percentage electing to undertake further study following registration in the United States has increased from 36.8% to 39.9% in 2008. About 25% of those or about 9% of graduates were accepted into traditional academic internships. (2008 -696 graduates accepted a position in advanced study, 89.2% (621) accepted an internship (private practice, 74.5%; academic, 25.3%; and other internship, 0.2%). An additional 6.0% (42) accepted a residency). Approximately 9% of veterinarians eventually board certify in one of 40 distinct specialties from 22
specialty organizations recognized by the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS).
|Anesthesiology and Analgesia||Animal Welfare||Avian Practice|
|Bacteriology\Mycology||Beef Cattle Practice||Behavior|
|Canine and Feline Practice||Canine Practice||Cardiology|
|Critical Care||Dairy Practice||Dentistry|
|Radiation Oncology||Radiology||Reproductive Medicine|
|Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation||Surgery||Swine Health Management|
Curriculum comparison with human medicine
The first two-year curriculum in both veterinary and human medical schools are very similar in the course names, but at certain subjects relatively different in content. Generally, the more basal the field of science is (for example: biochemistry, biophysics, cell biology etc.), the more similar it is. Later on when the courses get more clinically oriented, more significant differences arise. Where some things are completely different, and other things are about the same. Considering the courses, the first two-year curriculum usually include biochemistry, physiology, histology, anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, epidemiology, pathology and hematology.
Some veterinary school uses the same biochemistry, histology, and microbiology books as human medicine students; however, the course content is greatly supplemented to include the varied animal diseases and species specific differences. Many veterinarians were trained in pharmacology using the same text books as human physicians. As the specialty of veterinary pharmacology develop, more schools are using pharmacology textbooks written specifically for veterinarians. Veterinary physiology, anatomy, and histology is complex, as physiology often varies among species. Microbiology and virology of animals share the same foundation as human microbiology, but with grossly different disease manifestation and presentations. Epidemiology is focused on herd health and prevention of herd borne diseases, and foreign animal diseases. Pathology, like microbiology and histology, is very diverse and encompasses many species and organ systems. Most veterinary school have courses in small animal and also large animal nutrition, often taken as electives in the clinical years or as part of the core curriculum in the first two years.
The last two year curriculum of the two fields are similar only in their clinical emphasis.
A veterinary student must be well prepared to be a fully functional animal physician on the day of graduation, competent in both surgery and medicine. The graduating veterinarian must be able to pass medical board examination and be prepare to enter clinical practice on the day of graduation, while most human medical doctors in the United States complete 3 to 5 years of post-doctoral residency before practicing medicine independently, usually in a very narrow and focused specialty. Many veterinarians do also complete a post-doctoral residency, but it is not nearly as common as it is in human medicine.
In the last years, curricula in both human and veterinary medicine have been adapted with the aim of incorporating competency-based teaching
[Burger, C., Pirker, M., Bergsmann E. M., & Winter, P. (2015). Qualitätsmanagement in der kompetenzorientierten Lehre: Theorie und Praxis an der Veterinärmedizinischen Universität Wien [Quality management in competence-oriented teaching: Theory and practice at the Vetmeduni Vienna]. In O. Vettori, G. Salmhofer, L. Mitterauer & K. Ledermüller (Eds.), Eine Frage der Wirksamkeit? Qualitätsmanagement als Impulsgeber für Veränderungen an Hochschulen. Reihe 6: Qualität - Evaluation - Akkreditierung [A question of effectiveness? Quality management as innovation generator for changes at universities. Series 6: quality - evaluation - accreditation] (pp. 145-160). Bielefeld, Germany: UniversitätsVerlagWebler. ()]
Impact on human medicine
Some veterinarians pursue post-graduate training and enter research careers and have contributed to advances in many human and veterinary medical fields, including pharmacology
. Research veterinarians were the first to isolate oncovirus
'' species, ''Brucella
'' species, and various other pathogen
ic agents. Veterinarians were in the forefront in the effort to suppress malaria
and yellow fever
in the United States. Veterinarians identified the botulism
disease-causing agent, produced an anticoagulant
used to treat human heart disease
, and developed surgery
techniques for human
s, such as hip replacement
, Limb (anatomy)
and organ (anatomy) Organ transplant
In popular culture
Reality televisions shows featuring veterinarians include:E-Vet Interns (1998–2002), a US show filmed at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colorado
, filmed at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital
, ColoradoRookie Vets (2005), featuring students at Massey University in New Zealand
Vet School Confidential
(2001), following students at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine
in the US
*Vets in Practice
(1997–2002), a British series
Fictional works featuring a veterinarian as the main protagonist include:
James Herriot's James Herriot#Books containing fictionalized stories of his career as a farm animal veterinarian in England, which was adapted as the BBC television series ''All Creatures Great and Small (TV series)''.
''The Three Lives of Thomasina'' about Andrew MacDhui, a veterinarian in a village in Scotland.
- The Doctor Dolittle series of children's books, which have twice been adapted into movies, Doctor Dolittle (film) (1967), and Dr. Dolittle (film) (1998).
*The movie ''Beethoven (film)'', featuring the evil veterinarian Dr. Herman Varnick.
Concerns about the role of veterinary physicians in helping health threats survive and spread have been raised by several commentators, particularly with respect to pedigree dogs. Koharik Arman (2007) reached the following conclusion for example: "Veterinarians also bear some responsibility for the welfare situation of purebred dogs. In fact, the veterinary profession has facilitated the evolution of purebred dogs. 'Breeds' that would not normally be sustainable are propagated by the compliance of veterinarians to breeder wishes."
- Freyberger, P. (2009). ''Vetting: The Making of a Veterinarian''. PJF Publishing.
- Herriot, J. (2004). ''All Creatures Great and Small''. St. Martin's Griffin.
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