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What Veterinarians Do

Veterinarians care for the health of animals. They diagnose, treat, or research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and animals in zoos, racetracks, and laboratories.


Veterinarians typically do the following:

Veterinarians in private clinical practices treat the injuries and illnesses of pets and farm animals with a variety of medical equipment, including surgical tools and x-ray machines. They provide treatment for animals that is similar to what a doctor would do to treat humans.

The following are common types of veterinarians:

Companion animal veterinarians treat pets and generally work in private clinics. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 77 percent of veterinarians who work in private clinical practice treat pets. They most often care for cats and dogs, but also treat other pets, such as birds, ferrets, and rabbits. These veterinarians diagnose animal health problems, consult with owners of animals, and carry out medical procedures, such as vaccinations and setting fractures.

Equine veterinarians work with horses. About 6 percent of private practice veterinarians treat horses.

Food animal veterinarians work with farm animals such as pigs, cattle, and sheep. About 8 percent of private practice veterinarians treat food animals. They spend much of their time at farms and ranches treating illnesses and injuries and testing for and vaccinating against disease. They also may advise owners or managers about feeding, housing, and general health practices.

Food safety and inspection veterinarians inspect livestock and animal products and enforce government food safety regulations. They may inspect livestock, checking the animals for E. coli and other transmittable diseases. They check for food purity and sanitation by inspecting food products, animals and carcasses, and slaughtering and processing plants. Others may work along the country’s borders in food safety and security, ensuring abundant and safe food supplies.

Research veterinarians work in laboratories, conducting clinical research on human and animal health problems. These veterinarians may perform tests on animals to identify the effects of drug therapies, or they may test new surgical techniques. They may also research how to prevent, control, or eliminate food- and animal-borne illnesses and diseases.

Some veterinarians teach at colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition