What does a veterinarian do?


A veterinarian is a licensed doctor of animal health who has trained at a university and provides medical and surgical care for animals. The professional designation is ‘doctor of veterinary medicine’ (DVM).

In urban areas, veterinarians care for cats and dogs for the most part. But they will also see small and exotic pets such as birds, small mammals and reptiles, and possibly zoo animals. In more rural areas, a veterinarian will see farm animals including cows, horses, sheep and pigs, as well.

On the job

A vet’s job is to diagnose health problems and to medicate sick animals, treat and dress their wounds, and perform surgeries such as setting fractures. Spaying, neutering and dentistry (cleaning) are common procedures in a vet’s practice too.

Veterinarians will also advise owners about animal feeding, behavior, breeding, and issues such as fleas and ticks. Annually, they test for and vaccinate against diseases such as distemper and rabies.

Of course, a practicing veterinarian must continue to be knowledgeable about emerging diseases in animals, different products that treat animals, the latest diagnostic and treatment techniques, and animal diseases in general.

Where will you work?

Veterinarians may own their own practice or work in a clinic setting. Most veterinary facilities are miniature hospitals complete with laboratory, X-ray, surgery suite, pharmacy, examination and treatment rooms, and kennels for patient boarding and/or hospitalization. A clinic may also provide pet selection and care services, nutrition counselling, behaviour counselling, boarding, and grooming.

Specialty practices

There are specialty practices that focus on a particular species such as certified feline specialists, equine specialists, avian, swine, bovine, zoo or exotics specialists. There are also 24-hour emergency hospitals where vets see animals who are having a medical emergency or who have a problem that requires extra care. Mobile practices provide limited veterinary services and may be associated with a local veterinary hospital.

Vets you don’t think of

Veterinarians also work on farms, in zoos, at vet schools or in laboratories. Some are employed in research, teaching, administration or government work related to the care and welfare of animals.

Licensing is required

Every veterinarian practice in Canada is registered with a provincial licensing body and regularly inspected to ensure compliance with high quality standards.

Published on December 12, 2011
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