Veterinarians diagnose and treat animals using scientific and medical knowledge, practical skills, and various tools and equipment. What matters most to them is the welfare of animals and the protection of public health, especially where diseases can be transmitted from animals to people.
Contact with the owner of each animal is very important, first of all to talk about the symptoms or the behavior of the animal. The vet will also need to consult with the owners and advise on any treatment that is needed.
Veterinarians can use a variety of techniques to diagnose the disease, including physical exams, test results (for example, blood and urine samples), X-ray images, and ultrasound scans.
After having made a diagnosis, the vet will have to decide on a treatment. This could be, for example, cleaning and bandaging wounds, surgery, or a prescription for medicine.
To operate animals, veterinarians use their manual skills, surgical tools, and knowledge of anesthetics.
Apart from practical treatment, an important part of the job is to advise and guide owners on the best way to care for their animals. This includes giving specific advice on treatment, for example medication and how to care for an animal after an operation.
Advice is also important to help prevent illness. For example, veterinarians talk in detail with owners about issues such as nutrition and exercise. Another important part of preventive medicine is vaccination. This helps keep animals healthy as well as prevent the spread of diseases from animals to humans.
Veterinarians sometimes have to euthanize animals that are too sick or injured to be treated. Sometimes they have to perform post-mortem examinations of dead animals to investigate the causes of their death.
In the normal practice of the profession in a general town or city, they will spend most of their time treating domestic animals (especially cats and dogs), while rural veterinarians are more likely to have to treat livestock and horses.
For veterinarians who care for farm animals, the most important roles are overseeing the welfare of the animals, advising on maintaining the health of the herd, and ensuring the safety of food produced from the animals. Veterinarians must certify that animals destined for slaughter or export are disease free. They must monitor the welfare of these animals.
In regular exercise, there will usually be more than one vet. Veterinarians are often assisted by veterinary nurses, and sometimes by animal care assistants and administrative staff.
Veterinarians who conduct their own professional activity must manage the business, including the hiring and supervision of nurses and other personnel. They have to take care of the finances of their activity and market their services.
General veterinarians sometimes make house calls, and farm animal veterinarians travel to farms in the area. Farm animal veterinarians can work outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions.
Some veterinarians work in research, in universities, research institutes, in industry or in commercial laboratories, helping to investigate the causes of disease and the development of new treatments and drugs.
Others work for governments or government agencies, both nationally and internationally, helping to investigate and treat epidemic outbreaks and developing policies and systems to ensure the health of the population.