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What are ways that a veterinarian can lend their skills to other species of animals should they decide to not become specialized?

I have noticed a problem that has often appeared when people have or own pets that require care, which are usually turned away because a vet only specializes with specific species, or they must travel a great distance in order to get the care their animal needs. Especially in agricultural areas. Shouldn't veterinarians have some knowledge on care for a variety in species? I would think that it's an expectation in vet schools since it's takes 8 years of schooling to become certified unless a person desires to specialize.

#learn-more-to-do-more #veterinarian


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Tania’s Answer

You ask a bit of a difficult question. I will try and answer it with respect, "Shouldn't veterinarians have some knowledge on care for a variety in species?"

In vet school, veterinarian are educated about all domestic species --dogs, cats, horses, pigs, ruminants, and chickens. When we take the national board certification we are tested on diseases and treatment for these species. So, yes, veterinarians have some knowledge on a variety of species. However, when it comes to practicing medicine and being good at diagnosis and treating diseases of animals, most veterinarians choose to focus on a few species. Small animal practitioner have dogs and cats as patients, equine practitioners have horses as patients, and farm vets have ruminants (cows, goats and sheep) and pigs and patients. It is a lot easier and more efficient to know a lot about 1 or 2 species than it is to know a lot about a lot of species. Many many years ago a vet may have felt comfortable treating all these different animals (think James Harriet in "All Creatures Great and Small") but as medicine has advanced, and what a veterinarian needs to know about each species has grown, it is too hard sometimes for one doctor to be really good and treating horses AND really good and treating dogs, for example.


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Dr Ezat Luba’s Answer

Hi Kathryn, I agree with my colleague. Some veterinary colleges do not require their students to learn large and small species, they "track" their students based on their future career paths. So some vets, besides the board exams, do not ever see a cow. My veterinary school required zillions of intern and externship hours in large and small animals and gave us the opportunity to work with vets in other fields that are less traditional (eg wildlife, zoo, exotic, research, etc).

Regardless of how many cows or giraffes you see irl, the great thing about veterinary medicine is that we are given the tools and knowledge to find the information we need to treat an animal we may not encounter everyday. Indeed we have access to top specialists and people who went in a direction focused on species that aren't so common in urban settings. When a bird or hamster or pig owner asks me to see their pet I always advise them that I am not a specialist in avian, exotic or porcine medicine, but if they cannot see a specialist I can do my best with the resources I have to treat their pet.

I hope this helps!

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Sally’s Answer

I agree with what both previous posters had to say, and would like to add that human doctors do the same amount of schooling (plus a required residency no matter what field of work) for a single species. We are given tools in vet school to do the research, but if a vet is not comfortable with a certain species, that is perfectly normal. Vets are largely generalists and do a broad range of medicine (surgery, internal medicine, and healthy vaccine exams), and adding the number of species is another layer to consider.

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