A kitten stares down an oblivious dog in a vet office

What is a Veterinarian?

Veterinarians are trained medical physicians who treat and care for animals. Veterinarians help protect your pets from normal diseases, and they also protect you from getting diseases from your pets. Veterinarians often work in private animal practices and in animal hospitals. They are trained to treat companion pets, horses, production animals (dairy and beef cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry, etc), aquatic, and zoo animals.

What Does a Veterinarian Do?

So what does a veterinarian do, exactly? Veterinarians have a variety of tasks and responsibilities in their jobs. A veterinarian’s primary function is to examine animals and diagnose health programs. Like humans, animals also must have regular health check-ups. Veterinarians also treat medical conditions, wounds, and perform surgery on animals. Veterinarians are also responsible for protecting animals and humans from the spread of diseases, so veterinarians perform vaccinations regularly on companion animals. Veterinarians are also required to euthanize animals with critical health conditions.

Types of Veterinarians

Although many veterinarians work in private practices and primarily treat companion animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, or gerbils, there are other veterinarians who specialize in equine or food animals. Equine veterinarians focus on the treatment and diagnosis of horses. Food animal veterinarians, on the other hand, spend time working on farms to treat illnesses and injuries of farm animals sold in some form of production. They may also work as advisers to farm owners by making recommendations for best feeding, health, and living practices. 

Other veterinarians work as researchers. This means that they may work for health institutions or universities to conduct research on the relationship between animals and humans with regard to the spread of diseases. Veterinarians are key figures in creating safety and health regulations and they often help to make recommendations for the general public. They also may research animal-specific medical conditions to help create medicines and treatments of diseases.

Training and Education

Many people love pets and other animals, but veterinarians have to be medically trained in order to treat and protect these beloved animals. If you’ve ever considered becoming a veterinarian, be aware that you must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D) at an accredited college or university. These programs typically last four years and most applicants need to have earned a bachelor’s degree prior to the start of the program. Veterinarians also must be licensed in their state of work.

Veterinarians are the animal doctors with education and license certification to diagnose and treat animals, but there are also veterinary assistants who work closely with veterinarians but do not treat animals. If you’re interested in working with animals, make sure you know what education and qualifications you’ll need to become one!

Last Updated: April 15, 2015