A veterinarian (American English) or a veterinary surgeon (British English), often shortened to vet, is a doctor who treats animals and a practitioner of veterinary medicine. The word comes from the Latin veterinae meaning "working animals". "Veterinarian" was first used in print by Thomas Browne in 1646. Many careers are open to those with veterinary degrees (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), D.V.M., VMD ( Veterinaria Medicina Doctoris), MVB (Medicina Veterinaria Baccalaureate), BVS (Bachelor of Veterinary Surgery), BVMS (Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery), BVetMed (Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine) or B.V.Sc. & A. H. (Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry). Those working in clinical settings often practice medicine in a limited field such as "companion animal" or pet medicine, which includes small animals such as dog, cat, and pocket pets, production medicine or livestock medicine. Production medicine includes specialties in dairy cattle, beef cattle, swine, sheep, and poultry, equine medicine (e.g., sport, race track, show, rodeo), laboratory animal medicine, reptile medicine, or ratite medicine. Veterinarians may choose to specialize in medical disciplines such as surgery, dermatology or internal medicine, after post-graduate training and certification.
Some veterinarians pursue post-graduate training and enter research careers and have contributed to advances in many human and veterinary medical fields, including pharmacology and epidemiology. Research veterinarians were the first to isolate oncoviruses, Salmonella species, Brucella species, and various other pathogenic 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 surgical techniques for humans, such as hip-joint replacement, limb and organ transplants.
Like physicians and animal therapists, veterinarians must make ethical decisions about their patients' care. For example, there is ongoing debate within the profession over the ethics of performing declawing of cats and docking or cropping tails and ears, spaying or neutering dogs, as well as "debarking" dogs, the housing of sows in gestation crates and the housing of egg laying poultry hens in battery cages.
Education and regulation
Veterinarians must first obtain a degree in Veterinary Medicine and a license to practice. The competition for admission into veterinary school is stiff. Individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine must graduate with either a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree from North America; the equivalent degree for veterinarians who graduate in the U.K. or other commonwealth country is a Bachelor of Veterinary Science/Surgery/Medicine (BVS, BVSc, BVetMed or BVMS) degree and the equivalent for veterinary graduates in Ireland is a Medicina Veterinaria Baccalaureate (MVB) degree. The title and degree name "Doctor" in the US is considered around the world as an honorary one, as the DVM degree does not result in a thesis, publication, or other academic doctorate qualification as in a PhD. There was a time in the US where the name of a veterinary degree was also a Bachelor's, but the degree name and academic system was modified to match the honorary title of the profession. This dynamic is still in place in the UK and Australia, where vets are called veterinary surgeons.
In the United States, there are currently only 28 veterinary schools that meet the accreditation standards set by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): Auburn University, Colorado State University, Cornell University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University, Oklahoma State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, Tufts University, Tuskegee University, University of California, Davis, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Pennsylvania, University of Tennessee, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, and Western University of Health Sciences
In Canada, there are currently five veterinary schools that meet the accreditation standards set by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) : Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), University of Saskatchewan, Université de Montréal, Atlantic Veterinary College, and UCVM (University of Calgary Veterinary Medicine) - University of Calgary.
In West Indies, 3 Veterinary Schools - (RUSVM-Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine) Ross University, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine - St. George's University and St. Matthew's University (SMU) are listed by the American Veterinary Medical Association and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and its graduates qualify for entrance into the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) or the Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence (PAVE) certification programs.
An alternative to becoming a licensed veterinarian is becoming a veterinary technician. Veterinary technicians are, essentially, veterinary nurses, and are graduates of two or four year college-level programs and are legally qualified to assist veterinarians in many medical procedures. Veterinary assistants are not licensed by most states, but can be well-trained through programs offered in a variety of technical schools. Many veterinary assistants are trained on the job by directly assisting the veterinarians.
The prerequisites for admission to veterinary programs vary from school to school with many programs not requiring a bachelor's degree for entrance. Instead they require a number of credit hours that range from 45 to 90 semester hours at the undergraduate level. However, most students admitted have completed an undergraduate program and earned a bachelor's degree.
Preveterinary courses should emphasize the sciences. Most veterinary schools typically require applicants to have taken one year equivalent classes in organic, inorganic chemistry, physics, general biology; and one semester of vertebrate embryology and biochemistry. Usually, the minimal mathematics requirement is college level trigonometry. Individual schools might require introduction to animal science, livestock judging, animal nutrition, and genetics. However, due the limited availability of these courses, many schools have removed these requirements to widen the pool of possible applicants.
In addition to satisfying pre-veterinary course requirements, applicants must submit test scores from standardized tests such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT), or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The decision as to which test should be taken depends solely on the requirement of the college to which the applicant is applying. As of 2007, 22 schools require the GRE, 4 require the VCAT, and 2 accept the MCAT.
Admission to veterinary school is highly competitive, with the number of qualified applicants admitted varying from year to year. This is due in large part to the fact that the number of accredited veterinary colleges has remained largely the same since 1983, but the number of applicants has risen significantly. As a result, only about 1 in 3 applicants were accepted into veterinary school in 2005.
Approximately 80% of admitted students are female. In the early history of veterinary medicine of the USA, most veterinarians were males. However, in the 1990s this ratio reached parity, and now it has been reversed. Most veterinary schools require their applicants to submit applications through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS).
New graduates with a DVM/VMD/BVS/BVSc degree cannot begin to practice veterinary medicine until they have received their license. To be licensed in the United States for example, one 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. This exam covers all aspects of veterinary medicine, as well as visual material designed to test diagnostic skills. Unlike physicians of whom an academic internship is generally required (and 85% eventually board certify in one of a large number of specialties and subspecialties) veterinarians can enter practice after graduation and licensure. The percentage electing further study 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 20 specialties.
Interns receive a small salary, but often find that their internship experience leads to better paying opportunities later. Veterinarians who then wish to pursue board certification in medical or surgical specialties, such as internal medicine, oncology, surgery, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, ophthalmology , must complete a 3- to 4-year residency program that provides intensive training. Other specialties, such as epidemiology or toxicology, require a PhD training.
When the application committee decides who gains admittance and who does not, many schools place heavy emphasis and consideration on a candidate's veterinary and animal experience. Formal experience is a particular advantage to the applicant. Formal experience consists of work with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research, or some area of health science. Less formal experience is also helpful for the applicant to have, and this includes working with animals on a farm or ranch or at a stable or animal shelter and basic overall animal exposure.
Veterinary school requires extensive preparation, and the likelihood of acceptance is not in favor of the applicant. Nationwide in 2007, approximately 5,750 applicants competed for the 2,650 seats in the 28 accredited veterinary schools in the United States. This statistic results in nationwide acceptance rate of 46 percent
WICHE: Veterinary School Financial Alternative
The Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP) is one of three exchange programs of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Western states, in particular, can place their residents who are pursuing professional, graduate, and undergraduate programs, which are not available to them in their own state, at a financial disadvantage. These exchange programs are designed to give students in these disadvantageous situations another financial option and place them on a more fair and even status. This is done so by providing the outbound students and their families the option to save money through reduced tuition arrangements.
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, based in Boulder, Colorado, works with 15 states to expand educational access and excellence for all of the citizens in the West region. The states that participate in WICHE include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
If selected to receive support, WICHE exchange students pay reduced levels of tuition. This usually consists of paying resident tuition in public institutions or reduced tuition at private schools. The home state of the students then pays a support fee to the admitting schools to help cover the cost of the students' education. Another advantage that WICHE students receive is that they are given some preference in admission selection process. Each state determines just how many fields and students they are willing and able to support; veterinary medicine is usually one of these fields.
For veterinary medicine, maximum WICHE support is limited to four academic years. The following states are in compliance with the WICHE program and will support students who wish to pursue a DVM Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. States with additional support arrangements include North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. The following veterinary Schools are those who are willing to receive students under support of the WICHE program University of California Davis, Colorado State University, Oregon State University, and Washington State University.
Educational Requirements in Various Countries
The educational requirements for the veterinarian vary with each country. Typically, it takes from four years to eight years of education after graduating from secondary school. Some countries grant a bachelor's degree - ie, the UK, Australia, Ireland, and India. Due to historical nomenclature modifications, other countries grant a doctoral degree - in the United States and Canada, the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) which are equivalent to the (BVS, BVSc, etc) degrees. In the United States, holders of either degrees are allowed to practice as veterinarians if they succeed in passing national and state board examinations, and after passing three veterinary licensing exams - the Basic and Clinical Sciences Examination (BCSE), the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners' North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE), and the Clinical Proficiency Examination (CPE), and a state veterinary law exam, foreign-educated veterinarians may practice as a general practice veterinarian.
Applicants must have earned or be close to earning bachelor's degrees before applying and must take the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT), Graduate Record Exam (GRE), or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The chances of admission in one state might be significantly different from those in another state, depending on the number of in-state applicants and the number of places available.
Curriculum Comparison Between Veterinary and Human Medicine
The first two year curriculum in both veterinary and human medical schools are very similar in the course names, but very different in the content. 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 is more complex, as intestinal physiology of animals is complex (Rumen Physiology), different renal physiology (especially in the Equine Species, Fish, Reptiles and Poultry), and of course, different pulmonary physiology (Avian vs. Fish vs. Mammals). Histology is essentially the same for most organs, with the additional differences in the tissues of ruminant intestinal tract and pilo-sebaceous differences in birds, reptiles, and fish. Anatomy is exceedingly complex with the anatomy of the dog most focused upon; ruminant anatomy, with particular focus on intestinal surgical approaches; and equine anatomy, with focuses on musculoskeletal anatomy of the limbs, and intestinal surgical anatomy. Microbiology and particularly, virology, of animals share the same foundation as human microbiology, however, 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 microbilogy 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 first two year curriculum.
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 fully functional animal physician on the day of graduation - competent in surgery and medicine at the same time, and willing to practice on as many as 5 or more common animal species. Most veterinarians are trained to perform orthopedic surgery, gynecologic and obstetrical surgeries, intestinal surgeries, minor urologic surgery, oral surgeries, and even minor cardio-thoracic surgeries. The accumulation of skills in the last two years of veterinary school encompasses what many human doctors acquire after 3 or 5 years of post-doctoral residency. In fact, it is impossible for a human doctor to independently perform ALL the surgical procedures a veterinarian is trained to do in one residency alone. 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 medical doctors for human in the USA complete 3 to 5 years of post-doctoral residency before practicing medicine independently, usually in a very narrow and focused specialty.
Admission competition in US Veterinary Schools
In the United States, the average veterinary medicine student admitted into 28 Veterinary Schools, has an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 and a GRE score of approximately 1350/1600. Work Experience with animals or animal care experience are also taken into consideration along with GPA and GRE, MVAT, or MCAT scores, while considering admission into a DVM program in US Veterinary Schools. In the U.S. and Canada, veterinary school lasts four years (again, normally after the completion of an undergraduate degree), with at least one year being dedicated to clinical rotations. In the U.S., one can enter veterinary school (DVM) after completing the undergraduate pre-veterinary requirements in as little as two years, but most veterinary school applicants have completed a bachelor's degree before entry into a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program in 28 US Veterinary Schools. DVM applicants should have strong background in Science, Chemistry, Biology or Zoology. To promote diversity and a larger pool of superior applicants, many veterinary schools now have dropped the requirement for key animal science and animal handling courses, and accepting a variety of graduate entrance examinations instead of the MVAT. Maturity and life experiences is often considered as equally important as GPA, and the GPA of core science courses are often weighted more than over-all GPA.
In many other countries, the veterinary degree is granted upon completion of a bachelor's degree in veterinary medicine and is not usually a post-graduate program as in the U.S. and Canada. After completion of the national board examinations, some newly-accredited veterinarians choose to pursue residencies or internships in certain (usually more competitive) fields. The entry requirement for residency is 1 year of internship or 2 years of clinical experience plus research publication. The admission in residency program is highly competitive. Most of the veterinarians work as general practice veterinarian, only few become Veterinary Specialists.
In India, the Veterinary medical degree is known as Bachelor of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (B.V.Sc. and A.H.). The program lasts for a period of five years with 4.5 years of course work and six months of clinical and farm training internships. Admission to the Veterinary Colleges are through the tests conducted by the Agricultural and Veterinary Universities in the respective states or through a National Level Joint Entrance Test. Admission into BVSc & AH program in India is competitive due to fewer Veterinary Colleges and seats.
In Pakistan UVAS (University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences-LAHORE) takes its own test for admission in M.Phil degree after DVM. Also interviews are held for the candidate with his choice of department which he is applying to join.
The mean salary for new graduates in 2010 was US$48,674 including nearly 50% going on to advanced study programs. Those not continuing their studies made US$67,359 at first.
The average income for private practice rose from $105,510 in 2005 to $115,447 in 2007. These increased values exceed those of public practice including uniformed services and government. According to a survey done by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average starting salaries of new graduates in 2006 depended upon their respective fields of practice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009 Edition recorded the following:
Vets in the UK tend to make less than those in the US with average new graduate wages starting at an average of £25000.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about three-quarters of veterinarians were employed in either an individual or group practice. The remainder were employees in other settings, including colleges of veterinary medicine, medical schools, research laboratories, animal food companies, and pharmaceutical companies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that around 1,400 civilian veterinarians are employed by the United States federal government, mainly in the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security. State and local governments also employ veterinarians.
Skills required of a general practice veterinarian
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 the medical history from a child's parents. Excellent people skills and communication skills are required. Veterinarians, like other physicians, require well-functioning physical and sensory faculties in order to diagnose and treat their patients. They also make use of diagnostic tests like x-ray, C.T., M.R.I., blood work, urinalysis, and fecal exams to diagnose patients. 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.
Focuses of practice
Many areas of focus exist for veterinary practices. These include:
As opposed to human medicine, general practice veterinarians greatly out-number veterinary specialists. Most veterinary specialists work at the veterinary schools, 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.
Veterinary specialties are accredited in North America by the AVMA through the American Board of Veterinary Specialties (http://www.avma.org/education/abvs/). In Europe, specialties are accredited through the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation (http://www.ebvs.org/). In Australia, specialties are recognized by the Australian Veterinary Boards Council (http://www.avbc.asn.au/special.htm). While some veterinarians may have areas of interest outside of recognized specialties, they are not legally specialists.
In popular culture
US-based cable network Animal Planet, with animal-based programming, frequently features veterinarians. Two notable shows are Emergency Vets and E-Vet Interns, set at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colorado.
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.).
Most states in the US allow for malpractice lawsuit in case of death or injury to an animal from professional negligence. Usually the penalty is not greater than the value of the animal. For that reason, malpractice insurance for veterinarians usually is well under $500 a year, compared to an average of over $15000 a year for a human doctor. Unfortunately, some states have allowed punitive penalty, loss of companionship, and suffering into the award, likely increasing the cost of veterinary malpractice insurance and the cost of veterinary care. Most veterinarian carry much higher cost business, worker's compensation, and facility insurance to protect their client and worker's from injury inflicted by animals.
Concerns about the role of veterinary surgeons 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.” A finding that was echoed by Sir Patrick Bateson in his Independent Review of Dog Breeding following the broadcast of the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed: "Its only the ready availability of modern veterinary medicine that has permitted some conditions…to become widespread.” Before one criticizes the veterinary profession on these issues, one need to understand the make up of the veterinary profession. Veterinarians are as diverse as the general population. Some veterinarians work for and represent the animal industry, some are involved in research using animal as models for human diseases, and some are actively working in protest against the animal industry and facilities that use animals for research. All veterinarians strive to work to improve animal welfare. However, not all veterinarians are all in agreement on all issues concerning animal research, animal husbandry, and animal rights.
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