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What Does a Veterinarian Do?

Veterinarians may specialize in treating livestock at farms.
Many vets specialize in treating household pets.
Veterinarians may visit schools as part of a community outreach program.
A veterinarian might get training with exotic pets, like guinea pigs.
A veterinarian may specialize in large animals, which often includes farm animals like horses, cattle, and sheep.
Exotic animal vets might tend to giraffes at zoos.
Some veterinarians choose to specialize in horse care.
Hamsters are cared for by small animal veterinarians.
Veterinarians are doctors who treat animals.
A large animal veterinarian cares for goat and other farm animals.
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  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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A veterinarian is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of animals. The tasks that he or she performs on the job vary widely, depending on his or her medical specialty and where he or she practices. Old fashioned country vets may have a practice which includes house calls to all the local animals, for example, while another might specialize in equine reproductive services, offering consulting services to horse breeders. Practitioners of this incredibly varied and demanding profession are often in demand, making veterinary medicine a great career choice.

Most veterinarians break down into one of three categories: large animal, small animal, and exotic. Large animal vets focus primarily on farm animals like sheep, goats, horses, and cattle; they may offer general large animal services, or they may choose to specialize in something like large animal orthopedics. Small animal vets care for pets like cats and dogs, although some may receive additional training in small exotics like guinea pigs, hamsters, and so forth. Exotic animal vets can be found at zoos taking care of everything from giraffes to lions, and they may also have private practices to serve people with exotic pets like snakes and lizards.

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Just like human doctors, veterinarians can go into a number of specialties which will determine what they do on the job. One who enters general practice is trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions; many of these also provide basic surgery. A vet may also choose to specialize in a field like radiology, orthopedics, oncology, and so forth; such veterinary specialists typically have their own practices, and they may offer consulting services to those in general practice.

Some routine tasks which are familiar to general practice vets include vaccinations, well pet exams, spay and neuter services, setting broken bones, and treatment of conditions like kidney failure, abscesses, and viral or bacterial infections. A general practice veterinarian may also call in a specialist for certain conditions; for example, when a dog is genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia, the general practice vet might call in a veterinary orthopedic surgeon to offer experienced advice.

The training to become a veterinarian is lengthy. Vets must first attend medical school and then work in clinical residency. Since many vets treat an assortment of species, their training is often very long to ensure that they are capable of offering care to all of the animals that they serve. A specialist who wants to focus on a service like caring for racehorses may complete a general residency and then an additional residency for his or her specialty.

Employment prospects for veterinarians are generally quite good. Many vets find their profession quite rewarding, although it can also be very frustrating at times. In addition to dealing with frightened, sick, or injured animals, veterinarians also need to be comfortable with people, since they need to work with owners and caregivers to provide the best treatment.

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anon951469
Post 114

I've always wanted to be a vet since I will I think in kindergarten, and now that I found this website I want this job so much more!

As of now I would want to be a small animal vet, because I love cats and dogs and such. I've gone to a few vet med camps at my town university and I loved seeing all the guts! I know it might sound weird, but it was fun. Of course I've put into consideration about the fact I will be doing surgeries, but I have a small saying I like to keep in my mind. I just say, "They're in a better place, they're in a better place" and most times it calms me down a little. If that does not work I usually go to my room and write down all the wonderful traits of that animal. Of course, the last one only applies for when your own pet dies. The first one is mostly for anything I see on the internet or T.V about an animal dying. I'm not sure why I posted this but whatever!

anon943107
Post 112

What do you do in an average day?

anon927170
Post 108

I'm only 11 and in sixth grade and I would love to be a vet and I bet animals will want me to be a vet.

I have helped animals a lot. Like one time I was at my friend's house and no one was at home and there dog got bit by another dog and I cleaned and sewed the bites and a few days later I took out the stitches and there was no sign of infection anywhere. But the important thing is I know I will be a vet and maybe just maybe, I might see one of you.

anon352651
Post 103

I want to become a veterinarian because I love animals.

catlover14
Post 102

I want to be a vet but I don't know if I could put an animal to sleep.

anon346646
Post 101

I've always wanted to be a veterinarian since kindergarten and I'm in tenth grade and still want to be a vet because it is my dream to become one of the people who help animals and make them feel better and to help poor helpless animals.

anon329749
Post 99

What do you have to study to be a veterinarian?

anon324204
Post 98

I know that I'm just a kid (in seventh grade), but I want to be a vet, and I will become one. I am determined that I will become a vet. I know everyone is older than I am right now, but I have been looking at articles about becoming, handling animals, and other things associated with becoming a vet and animals.

I have a love for animals and science (biology) and a little bit of math. (please tell me there is no geometry in this career!)

When people ask me what I want to be, to me it seems like they are discouraging me. For example, they always say that I will have to put an animal down. I'm prepared to do that. I don't want to leave an animal in pain. It would be kinder to give it a quick and swift death and not allowing them to agonize in pain and depression.

But the important thing is that I feel limited. I can only go to a college in my state and there is only (I think) one vet school. I'm worried no one will accept me for a job because I didn't come from an amazing vet school. It is my dream to help animals. As soon as I am old enough, I will be volunteering at animal shelters. Everyone and everything that I have read has said that its insanely hard to get into a college or even a job when trying to get into a vet career.

I also don't understand what 'private practice' is. But I don't know that I will have to preform surgery on an animal. I'm a bit squeamish about blood, but I will get over it. Do I have any chance of making it? If not, can you tell me a few hints or tips to get me on the right track?

anon318110
Post 96

What are the job benefits of a veterinarian? I'm doing a project on veterinarians and this is one of the requirements. Please answer as soon as possible.

anon313597
Post 94

How long do vets go to college? Can they be any type of vet?

anon311743
Post 93

I'm 14 and in the eight grade. I love science and animals. I have very high grades and want to become an exotic vet. I do not mind puke or feces and I would have no problem doing surgery. My friends don't think I should be a vet because there isn't a demand for them. Is that true?

anon311662
Post 92

I would love to be a vet because I love animals especially cats. I'm 16 years old. I have 11 cats in my house. I couldn't treat animals like a dog or a pig if I were a vet because I'm Muslim. The most important thing is I love animals so much!

anon309992
Post 91

I've always wanted to become a vet but I need advice on snakes and lizards. They freak me out!

anon308360
Post 89

I want to be a vet. I have helped injured animals since I could walk. I helped a dog that got shot and I helped a cat that got run over and all lived to be happy and healthy. I am only 15 years old, though. Any advice? I don't mind doing surgery.

anon297646
Post 87

I'm 18 years old and I want to be a veterinarian because I will do whatever it takes to save an animal. Any advice?

anon275352
Post 85

I really want to be a vet, but I'm a little squeamish when it comes to having to perform surgery on animals. What should I do?

anon270526
Post 84

I'm 15 years old, and I always wanted to be a vet. Do you think since I'm 15 any vet would let me help around in an office and see if I really want the job or do you think they wouldn't. I'm too shy to ask, so can you give me advice?

anon268802
Post 79

Vets can be on call at any time, of any day. But, normally their day just lasts from about 8 in the morning to 6. The hours will be about the same as your local vet, so if you're that curious you can always ask them.

anon249798
Post 67

I want to be a vet so much. I love animals. How many hours does a vet get to spend with family, and how many days off do they get?

anon212353
Post 64

Are all vets trained in using endoscopes such as a bronchoscope, or is that a specialty?

anon163848
Post 61

A vet does have to do surgeries. All of you are so young. Don't worry so much about it right now.

anon160846
Post 58

I'm in seventh grade and we are doing a project on what we want to be when we grow up. i was wondering if anyone knows a good school to become a vet. Please post!

anon144013
Post 53

For all who have posted saying they don't like blood or they don't want to do surgeries:

Veterinarians, obviously, are doctors for animals. This means they see everything from the fluffy kittens that most people imagine to the most horrific injuries and infections.

If you want to be a vet, you cannot shy away from blood, pus, scabs, saliva, feces, or bowels--they are all frequent players in veterinary medicine, and all veterinarians have to deal with, and sometimes get covered in, these things.

In other words, veterinary medicine isn't all puppies and ponies--if you're squeamish, it isn't for you.

anon142160
Post 52

I am thirteen now and I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, or at least have some kind of occupation with animals and I realized that being a veterinarian is what I want to do most.

I feel confident in a lot of the job of being a veterinarian, but I am not very good at math and I am afraid I won't be able to do surgeries. Do I have anything to worry about and is there anything that can help me?

anon141229
Post 51

I really want to be a vet. I am 15 and love animals more than anything. i don't mind performing surgery on them if that is what it takes to save their lives. But i am so worried about the courses it takes to get to being a vet I'm good at math but I'm a sophomore in high school and I love biology but i don't understand it at all and i am freaking out. any advice?

anon136595
Post 50

I want to know what a veterinarian does on a regular day at work and how much he/she gets paid because I am 15 and I want to be a veterinarian so badly and I wanted to know what exactly you do on a day to day basis and how much you make and if it is fun, or just stress?

anon131874
Post 49

I'm starting to want to be a vet. i think it's a very interesting job. I'm thinking of when i go to high school in two years i can volunteer in petco. i tried this year but they said i was too young, they said when i turn 16 to come back. do you have any advice in becoming a vet?

anon130578
Post 48

I'm 16 and I really want to be a vet. However, there seems to be a lot of jobs based on veterinary work. Is it possible to treat farm animals and specialise in pets as well?

anon127958
Post 47

I'm Amanda, and 18 years old. I'm going to be a veterinarian, as I am very determined and want it more than anything in the world! Upon reading a few comments, since I am dedicated to studying the practice of veterinary medicine, allow me to answer a few questions I saw on the comments!

1.) All veterinarians preform surgery. Being a vet is not a job for someone who wants to necessarily just have a career based on working with animals. Although a vet must love animals, they must also love biology, math, and have absolutely no problem with sawing bones for amputation, or removing tumors from a dog's stomach.

Being a vet means you're going to see some very, very icky stuff, and it means you'll have to be great with your hands and have a strong stomach, as well as a strong heart and mind when it comes to sad situations, but if you can handle all of the very difficult stuff, it is a very rewarding job!

2.) The road to becoming a veterinarian should start in high school. Paving your way to getting into veterinary school should be a long but very fun and rewarding process.

Volunteer at animal shelters, apply to work at doggie daycares, or even at veterinary offices as a kennel cleaner! Try to get an internship with a real vet to see what it's like! I do all of this (I volunteer, have a doggie-daycare job, and am looking for an internship) plus I participate in conformation dog shows and agility with my dog, and I also horseback ride. This is all stuff I can put on my college application when I apply for veterinary school in four years.

Becoming a vet takes four years of undergrad (a bachelor's degree, in my case, majoring in biology) and four years of veterinary school! So, eight years all together in college in order to earn your DVM (doctor of veterinary medicine) degree.

I am only 18 but have my road to being a vet very well paved out and know a lot about the process in becoming one!

anon107915
Post 42

I'm signing up for a vet course (in Australia)and I want to become a veterinarian when I'm older but have to no clue what to put in a letter about why I want to do this course. What should I do?

anon99751
Post 41

I want to be a veterinarian because i love taking care of animals, but i think the surgery is a little risky for me because my hands are a little shaky some days. i don't want to mess that up, but what do i do?

billiecat99
Post 40

I'm 10 and i want to be a vet and i don't want to open dogs up or i will cry. can i be a nurse for animals? and how many years will it take in college?

anon96754
Post 39

i want to be a vet because i really love animals and would like to help them in what kind of help they need. i know sometimes you have to put the animal down but i could do it because i know i was helping them so please give me info on what i am looking forward to.

anon95520
Post 38

but i'm asking like what do they do, like, for example, they give the animals shots.

anon81775
Post 34

i've always wanted to be veterinarian but for me to become one i have to go to college. so what's a great college for me to go to so i can become a veterinarian?

anon78891
Post 33

i have always wanted to be a veterinarian!

anon78652
Post 32

i want to be a veterinarian but I'm 14 years old.

anon77212
Post 31

So being a veterinarian you take 12 years of college but what does a veterinarian use for their job?

anon75409
Post 30

Can you still be a vet with a record and jail time?

anon72044
Post 29

I want to become a vet in a small animal category i don't really like all animals like snakes and lizards. i want to but i just can't help it.

anon69793
Post 28

i want to know how many years vets have to go to college.

anon68642
Post 27

we are doing this research in our class. I'm in the eighth grade and it was for the career we want. this page was helpful. thank you!

anon68426
Post 26

i think it cool because you get to work with animals and you just have fun!

anon68289
Post 24

i want to be a vet when I'm older because i love animals and i have been around all sorts of animals as i have grown.

I rodeo, so when something is wrong with one of our animals i will tend to it. Of course, i will call my parents first and ask, if say a horse is colicky, if they want me to give them a shot of banamine into the vein, or whenever we get a new goat, my mom tells me to go out and to vaccinate them. She will hand me a needle and a bottle of vaccination and tell me how many CC's to give a goat or animal.

Smaller goats get less medicine and vaccines because they are smaller and don't need as much. I think that i would be a good vet because i love animals and already know each vaccine and medicine in the cabinet, plus everything that our local vets use.

Plus for my senior internship i am planning on working for one of our local vets.

anon65331
Post 23

this is a good website. i like it.

anon64757
Post 22

I've always wanted to become a vet. There has not been a animal i don't like and that does not like me but i do not want to have to do surgeries. Do all vets have to do that?

anon62966
Post 21

I have my heart set on being a veterinarian!

i am in high school where I'm a sophomore and I'm taking every science class possible. i can't wait to graduate and go to college to continue.

anon62820
Post 20

when you're a vet you kind of have to do surgery. you have no choice.

anon62546
Post 16

I want to be a Veterinarian when i grow up but i am only in eighth grade so i will be working at my community vet in high school for a job. I am on this discussion right now because my class has to make a powerpoint presentation on our career that we want to do. (:

anon61162
Post 14

i like to work as a vet but i don't like to do anything that is bloody.

anon56500
Post 12

i would do any thing for a poor animal.

anon55073
Post 11

Lol, no one wants to do surgeries.

anon51845
Post 10

i want to be a vet but the surgery sounds pretty serious, but on the other hand it sounds interesting and fun!

anon51835
Post 9

I want to know the specific classes i need to take to be a vet.

anon49544
Post 7

I want to be a vet but surgery sounds scary.

anon46905
Post 6

A veterinarian does all sorts of tasks in a vet clinic. Surgery is the number one thing a vet must learn to do. When you go to vet school, you will have to learn such things, hence will *have* to do them. If you want to deal with animals but not do any hard core surgeries, you may reconsider becoming a vet or become a vet technician.

anon45157
Post 5

hi i want to be a vet when i get older because i love working with animals, and i need to know how many hours a day do vets work and how many days a week?

anon42342
Post 4

what do you do on a daily basis from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed?

anon40941
Post 3

Hi i want to be a vet when i am older but i don't really want to do surgery. i love working with animals and i live on a farm.

anon38045
Post 2

I don't want to place bones or do surgeries? do all vets have to do that stuff???

anon31142
Post 1

I need to know if all veterinarians perform surgery, because I want to become a veterinarian, but I don`t want to do surgeries?

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