Veterinarians diagnose and treat diseases and dysfunctions of animals. Specifically, they care for the health of pets, livestock and animals in zoos, racetracks and laboratories. Some veterinarians use their skills to protect humans against diseases carried by animals and conduct clinical research on human and animal health problems. Others work in basic research, broadening our knowledge of animals and medical science and in applied research, developing new ways to use knowledge.
Most veterinarians diagnose animal health problems, vaccinate against diseases, medicate animals suffering from infections or illnesses, treat and dress wounds, set fractures, perform surgery and advise owners about animal feeding, behavior and breeding.
Veterinarians who work with food animals or horses usually drive to farms or ranches to provide veterinary services for herds or individual animals. These veterinarians test for and vaccinate against diseases and consult with farm or ranch owners and managers regarding animal production, feeding and housing issues. They also treat and dress wounds, set fractures and perform surgery, including cesarean sections on birthing animals. Other veterinarians care for zoo, aquarium or laboratory animals. Veterinarians of all types euthanize animals when necessary.
Veterinarians who treat animals use medical equipment such as stethoscopes, surgical instruments and diagnostic equipment, including radiographic and ultrasound equipment. Veterinarians working in research use a full range of sophisticated laboratory equipment.
Some veterinarians contribute to human as well as animal health. A number of veterinarians work with physicians and scientists as they research ways to prevent and treat various human health problems. For example, veterinarians contributed greatly to conquering malaria and yellow fever, solved the mystery of botulism, produced an anticoagulant used to treat some people with heart disease and defined and developed surgical techniques for humans, such as hip and knee joint replacements and limb and organ transplants. Today, some determine the effects of drug therapies, antibiotics or new surgical techniques by testing them on animals.
Some veterinarians are involved in food safety and inspection. Veterinarians who are livestock inspectors, for example, check animals for transmissible diseases such as E. coli, advise owners on the treatment of their animals and may quarantine animals. Veterinarians who are meat, poultry or egg product inspectors examine slaughtering and processing plants, check live animals and carcasses for disease and enforce government regulations regarding food purity and sanitation. More veterinarians are finding opportunities in food security as they ensure that the Nation has abundant and safe food supplies. Veterinarians 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 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.
For more information on the veterinary work environment, training and employment, please visit Bureau of Labor Statistics-Veterinarian.