Vets are trained and licensed medical experts that deal with non-human animal patients. They are the Doctor Doolittles of the real world, and they don't just respond to emergencies. Vets are integral to preventing or managing serious health conditions, and qualified vets can also go into research or public health.
Between March and December 2020, 12.6 million U.S. households adopted so-called pandemic pets. With this came a rise in vet visits and revenues. Landlords who struggled to receive rent from regular tenants became much more willing to lease to booked and busy animal clinics run by essential workers. And many facilities are leveling up, offering stylish waiting rooms and catering for pet owners' comfort. Pet telemedicine or 24/7 virtual consults also became a reality. Morgan Stanley projects that by 2030, the growing pet care industry will be worth a staggering $275 billion, so now's a great time to work towards becoming a vet. You could even specialize in fields such as dermatology, nephrology, ophthalmology, or oncology.
The demand for vets is growing, and the demographics in the field are changing, too. In 2009, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reported that females had officially overtaken males in the field. Today, the veterinarian profession is well on its way to being woman-dominated. Over 60 percent of American vets are women, and females account for 80 percent of veterinary students.
Vets treat about 20 animals on a busy day. The first three hours after opening can be the most hectic, with pet owners bringing in animals with medical emergencies such as parvovirus in puppies. Consults usually last around half an hour, and after doing a full physical, vets get the owners' consent to carry out specific procedures such as bloodwork, ultrasounds, or X-rays.
Being a vet requires a passion for animals and a love for the work—busy workweeks often comprise more than 50 hours. Vets are intelligent and compassionate people who don't pursue their profession for prestige. Getting into veterinary school is as competitive as getting into med school, and academic fees for eight years of training can be prohibitive. In 2019, the average graduate left school with at least $143,000 in debt.
To be a good vet, you also have to have people skills. The job involves communication with owners, often during anxiety-ridden moments. You'll have to chat about medical history and prescription medicines. You'll also have to gently break bad news to people when diagnoses are tragic or in cases where animals need to be put down.
It's not unusual to go to vet school and encounter people who aren't fresh out of their first bachelor's degree. Some would-be vets come to the profession after pursuing other fields or starting families. Only about 73% of applicants to vet school are under 24 years old, so if you think you're too old to embark on this challenging but fulfilling path, there's a solid chance you aren't!
The word veterinarian has been used for centuries and first appeared in print during the 1640s thanks to Sir Thomas Browne, the English polymath. It's linked to the Latin words for cattle doctor, beasts of burden or working animals, and old, as in veteran. American English uses the word veterinarian, and British English speakers employ the term veterinary surgeon.
The veterinary profession is not a new one. It has a rich legacy linked to agriculture, industry, transport, and man's very survival. Archaeological evidence suggests that humans performed veterinary procedures as far back as five thousand years ago. There are also records of animal doctoring in ancient Egyptian medical texts, in Indian treatises from a few centuries BCE, and in the Byzantine compilation Hippiatrica from a few centuries CE. The first college for veterinary sciences was founded in 1762 in France.
Dogs are the most common patients at animal clinics, and cats follow hot on their heels. Health issues range from allergic skin disease and gastroenteritis to urinary tract disease or dental problems. Vets see soon-to-be three-legged cats and dogs that have eaten things they shouldn't have, and they encounter limps, lumps, bumps, and bites.
These days, there are numerous reality TV shows for you to watch to get a better idea of what a vet does. NatGeoWild, Netflix, and other media juggernauts know what the people want—cute animals and heartwarming stories. Here are a few shows to get you started: The Incredible Dr. Pol, Dr. Oakley—Yukon Vet, The Vet Life, Secrets of the Zoo, Hanging with the Hendersons, and Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER.
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