Your local vet is a physician for animals and a practitioner of veterinary medicine. Vets working on clinical settings often practice medicine in a limited field such as pet medicine, production medicine, or livestock medicine. A veterinarian specializing in production medicine is an expert in dairy cattle, beef cattle, swine, sheep, poultry, and equine. Veterinarians may also choose to specialize in medical disciplines such as surgery, dermatology, or internal medicine, after postgraduate training and certification. Finding a local vet nearest you is easy with a vet directory.
Some veterinarians pursue postgraduate training, enter research centers, and contribute in advances in many human and veterinary medical fields, which include pharmacology and epidemiology. Moreover, legendary vets were in the forefront in the effort to suppress malaria and yellow fever in the United States. They were the ones who were determined in discovering the identity of the botulism disease-causing agent, produced an anti-coagulant that is used to treat human heart disease, and developed surgical techniques for humans such as hip-joint replacement, limb, and organ transplants.
Like physicians, veterinarians must make serious ethical decisions about their patient’s care. There is an on-going debate within the profession over the ethics of declawing cats, docking or cropping of tails and ears, spaying or neutering dogs, debarking dogs, housing of sows in gestation crates, and housing egg-laying poultry hens in cages. Some of them use their skills to protect humans against diseases carried by animals and conduct clinical research on human and animal health problems.
Other vets work in basic research, broadening our knowledge of animals, as well as medical science and applied research, developing new ways to use that knowledge. They do not only diagnose animal health problems and vaccinate against diseases, but they also medicate animals suffering from infections or illnesses by treating and dressing animal wounds, setting fractures, performing surgery, and giving advice to owners about animal feeding, behavior, and breeding. They may also work with food animals and/or horses, and usually drive to ranches and farms to provide veterinary services to herds or individual animals.
Veterinarians can also perform caesarian sections on birthing animals. Others care for zoo, aquarium, or laboratory animals. When they treat animals, they use medical equipment such as stethoscopes, surgical instruments, and diagnostic tools, which include radiographic and ultrasound equipment.
Vets who are working in research, use a full range of sophisticated laboratory equipment. In addition to this, some are involved in food safety and inspection. Those who work as livestock inspectors, check animals for transmissible diseases such as E.coli, advise owners on the treatment of their animals, and may quarantine animals. There are those who also examine slaughtering and processing plants, check live animals and carcasses for diseases, and enforce government regulations regarding food purity and sanitation.
More vets are finding opportunities in food security as they ensure that the nation has abundant and safe food supplies. Those involved in food security often work along the country’s borders as animal and plant health inspectors, where they examine imports and exports of animal products to prevent disease here and in other foreign countries. Many of these workers are employed by the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Division or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Veterinarians in private or clinical practice often work long hours in a noisy indoor environment. Sometimes they have to even deal with emotional or demanding pet owners. When working with animals that are frightened or in pain, vets even risk being bitten, kicked or scratched.