The job of a veterinarian involves minding the wellbeing and health of animals. A qualified veterinarian is typically an individual who has received training in animal behavior, animal surgery, and animal medicine. Veterinarians can specialize in either large animals such as horses and cows or small animals such as household pets.
Types of veterinarians
Just as there are different kinds of medical doctors, there are also different types of veterinarians.
- Equine veterinarian – the work of an equine veterinarian is diagnosing and treating horses.
- Research veterinarian – research veterinarians mostly deal with conducting animal health research. This could include testing new techniques of animal surgery or testing animals in order to determine the effectiveness of certain drugs. These veterinarians also conduct research on ways of preventing, controlling and eliminating diseases and ailments in animals.
- Pet veterinarian – as the name suggests pet veterinarians mainly care for and treat companion animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and birds. Pet veterinarians mostly work in hospitals and private clinics. Their duties include not only diagnosing and treating pets but also consulting with the pet owners regarding preventive medicine. They may also carry out surgery on pets, vaccinate the pets and so on.
- Livestock veterinarians – the work of a livestock veterinarian is restricted to domesticated farm animals such as cattle, sheep, and pigs. They treat farm animal diseases, injuries and also conduct vaccination campaigns. They may also offer counsel to the farmers regarding housing and feeding of the animals as well as preventive health care.
Before joining a veterinary school for a doctorate in veterinary medicine, one must have completed four years of undergraduate studies. Typically the courses one would undertake at the undergraduate level if interested in joining a veterinary program are science-related ones. These include chemistry, zoology, animal science, biochemistry, and molecular biology.
The areas of study covered in a doctorate of veterinary medicine program include diagnostic imaging, clinical pathology, large animal medicine, small animal medicine, animal behavior, anesthesia, and principles of surgery and veterinary pharmacology.
A doctorate in veterinary medicine usually takes about four years to complete. It is normally divided into two parts – two years of classroom lectures and another two years of clinical practicums. The practicums endow the students with first-hand clinical experience in various specialties including oncology, dentistry, equine care, cardiology among many others. Important veterinary skills such as prescribing medication, treating wounds, setting fractures and performing surgery are also imparted to the students during their practicums.
Licensing and certification
Upon receiving their doctorate in veterinary medicine, the next step for an aspiring veterinarian is to get licensed. One major prerequisite to getting a license is taking and passing the NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licensing Exam). The NAVLE is an intensive exam that lasts seven and a half hours. It comprises a total of 360 questions. It is an assessment of the knowledge a candidate possesses as pertains to animal species and veterinary activities.
Besides the NAVLE, some states may impose extra hurdles before a license can be issued. These include requiring candidates to sit and pass additional exams in clinical skills and veterinary law.