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A veterinarian is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of animals. The tasks that he or she performs on the job vary widely, depending on his or her medical specialty and where he or she practices. Old fashioned country vets may have a practice which includes house calls to all the local animals, for example, while another might specialize in equine reproductive services, offering consulting services to horse breeders. Practitioners of this incredibly varied and demanding profession are often in demand, making veterinary medicine a great career choice.
Most veterinarians break down into one of three categories: large animal, small animal, and exotic. Large animal vets focus primarily on farm animals like sheep, goats, horses, and cattle; they may offer general large animal services, or they may choose to specialize in something like large animal orthopedics. Small animal vets care for pets like cats and dogs, although some may receive additional training in small exotics like guinea pigs, hamsters, and so forth. Exotic animal vets can be found at zoos taking care of everything from giraffes to lions, and they may also have private practices to serve people with exotic pets like snakes and lizards.
Just like human doctors, veterinarians can go into a number of specialties which will determine what they do on the job. One who enters general practice is trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions; many of these also provide basic surgery. A vet may also choose to specialize in a field like radiology, orthopedics, oncology, and so forth; such veterinary specialists typically have their own practices, and they may offer consulting services to those in general practice.
Some routine tasks which are familiar to general practice vets include vaccinations, well pet exams, spay and neuter services, setting broken bones, and treatment of conditions like kidney failure, abscesses, and viral or bacterial infections. A general practice veterinarian may also call in a specialist for certain conditions; for example, when a dog is genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia, the general practice vet might call in a veterinary orthopedic surgeon to offer experienced advice.
The training to become a veterinarian is lengthy. Vets must first attend medical school and then work in clinical residency. Since many vets treat an assortment of species, their training is often very long to ensure that they are capable of offering care to all of the animals that they serve. A specialist who wants to focus on a service like caring for racehorses may complete a general residency and then an additional residency for his or her specialty.
Employment prospects for veterinarians are generally quite good. Many vets find their profession quite rewarding, although it can also be very frustrating at times. In addition to dealing with frightened, sick, or injured animals, veterinarians also need to be comfortable with people, since they need to work with owners and caregivers to provide the best treatment.