Working with animals is an incredibly rewarding job, especially if you have a genuine affection for our furry or feathered friends. These days, veterinary surgery is one of the most popular career choices for young people. It can be a tough profession and certainly isn’t all about stroking cute animals. There are many years of study and difficult decisions to be made about the health and welfare of all kinds of creatures. Here, we will take a look at what skills are required and what the work involves.
A veterinary surgeon is responsible for the prevention of disease and for the medical and surgical treatment of animals including household pets, zoo animals, farm animals and horses. You could specialise in practices for small animals, food producing animals, equine work or in mixed practices dealing with both small and large animals. Many veterinary surgeons working in practice choose to further their knowledge by studying for additional qualifications, such as the Certificates and Diplomas offered by the RCVS, and it is a requirement of RCVS that all veterinary surgeons keep their skills and knowledge up to date throughout their careers.
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Teaching and research
Veterinary researchers play a crucial role in furthering our understanding of diseases. Research in veterinary sciences enhances the health, welfare and usefulness of both food producing animals and pets. It also serves to safeguard the public from diseases spread from animals in food and by other means. Research is undertaken at the university veterinary schools and at research institutes, departments financed by Government, in laboratories and by private organisations.
Opportunities also exist within the public sector and vets are involved in protecting public health in government departments and agencies such as the Food Standards Agency, the Meat Hygiene Service, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) employs vets to monitor animal health and to prevent the spread of diseases. Other opportunities exist in industry such as in pharmaceutical companies, international and overseas organisations and charities such as the RSPCA and PDSA.
Skills to be a vet:
You’ll need to have:
- Strong problem-solving skills
- Excellent communication skills
- practical skills and physical fitness to handle animals
- the ability to make difficult decisions
- management and business skills
In general veterinary practice your daily tasks could include:
- diagnosing and treating sick and injured animals
- performing operations
- carrying out tests such as blood analysis, X-rays and scans
- visiting farm animals and advising on disease control
- providing care for an animal in veterinary hospitals
- carrying out regular health checks and giving vaccinations
- neutering of animals
- supervising veterinary nurses and support staff
- keeping detailed records of treatments
- communicating with pet owners
- putting severely injured or terminally ill animals to sleep
- In public health, your daily tasks will include investigating human and animal disease outbreaks like foot and mouth disease.
- As a vet in industry, you’ll develop and test drugs, chemicals and biological products. You may also check hygiene and care in stables, kennels or pet shops.