Today’s veterinarians are in the unique position of being the only doctors educated to protect the health of both animals and people. They are not only educated to meet the health needs of every species of animal but they play an important role in environmental protection, food safety, and public health.
In taking The Veterinarian’s Oath, a doctor solemnly swears to use his or her scientific knowledge and skills “for the benefit of society, through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, and the advancement of medical knowledge.”
Today nearly 70,000 veterinarians are professionally active in the United States. They provide a wide variety of services in private clinical practice, teaching, research, government service, public health, military service, private industry, and other areas.
The Veterinarian’s Oath (Adopted by the AVMA):
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.
Veterinarians diagnose and control animal diseases, treat sick and injured animals, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to people, and advise owners on proper care of pets and livestock. They ensure a safe food supply by maintaining the health of food animals. Veterinarians are also involved in wildlife preservation and conservation and public health of the human population.
You are probably most familiar with veterinarians who specialize in pet medicine in a clinical setting such as an animal hospital or veterinary clinic. During each visit, this type of veterinarian will be able to guide you in all aspects of pet maintenance, including food requirements, daily care, and any special needs. They will also be able to provide vaccinations, complete surgery, and even prescribe medicines as needed.
To be considered for admission to a college of veterinary medicine, a student must first complete undergraduate pre-veterinary medical coursework, which usually includes three to four years of college study, with specific course requirements. Each college of veterinary medicine establishes its own pre-veterinary requirements. Typical requirements include basic language and communication skills, social sciences, humanities, mathematics, chemistry, and the biological and physical sciences.
Veterinary medical study is difficult. Students learn about many different animals and diseases, and become skilled in surgical techniques and many laboratory and diagnostic procedures. A typical veterinary medical student spends about 4,000 hours in classroom, laboratory, and clinical study. Because the time required for instruction absorbs most of a student's day, many evening and weekend hours are spent doing reading assignments, library research, and independent study.
Before graduate veterinarians can engage in private clinical practice in any state, they must acquire a license issued by that state. A license is granted only to veterinarians who pass state-required examinations.
Continuing education is important, even after veterinarians have completed their college studies and acquired the appropriate licenses. New scientific knowledge and techniques are constantly being developed, and veterinarians must keep up to date by reading scientific journals and attending professional meetings and seminars.
Take the time to choose the right veterinarian for your special pet. It is a good idea to start thinking about selecting a veterinarian before a new pet becomes a member of your family. In fact, a veterinarian can assist you in selecting a pet that complements your personality, work schedule and home life.
If you've just moved, you will want to locate a veterinarian soon. Don't wait until your pet becomes ill; you want to establish a relationship right away. Your veterinarian can give you with information on special climate concerns for your pet. In addition, since traveling can be a stressful experience for a pet, an early check-up may be in order.
When health problems develop, practitioners must diagnose the problem and treat the patients. Accurate diagnosis frequently requires the use of laboratory tests, radiography or x-rays, and specialized equipment. Treatments may involve a number of procedures including: emergency lifesaving measures, prescribing medication, setting a fracture, delivering a calf, performing surgery, or advising the owner on feeding and care of the patient.