A passion for healing and an abiding love for animals - do you have this combination of noble character traits within you? Veterinary Medicine deals with the medical problems of animals, including domestic pets, working animals, and livestock. Veterinary medicine and veterinary doctors have been around ever since humans domesticated animals and can be traced back to Egyptian times, in ancient texts which contain references to animal hospitals.
Veterinary science has come a long way from those early days. Today, many highly advanced diagnostic and therapeutic techniques are used to provide medical, dental, and surgical care to animals, include hip replacements, cataract extractions, vaccinations, or root canals. Veterinarians also have the option of taking on consulting roles in educating pet owners in pet care.
The general route to a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) qualification includes five to six years of veterinary medicine at a university, depending on the country of study. Extensive experience of working with animals will, in some cases, compensate for the absence of an undergraduate degree, though these instances are exceptional. Pre-veterinary courses at most universities and colleges abroad tend to include subjects like physics, biology, animal nutrition, genetics and zoology. Recent additions include mathematics and the study of general business management, for veterinarians who start their own practices.
The bachelor’s degree courses in veterinary colleges in Australia are usually of five years’ duration, with plenty of practical modules to equip students with the required hands-on skills. Admission to these courses is based primarily on your performance in Grade 12, with knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology being mandatory.
Top universities in Australia offering veterinary science courses - bachelor’s and graduate certificate/diploma - include Central Queensland University, Griffith University, Sydney Institute of TAFE, Charles Darwin University and James Cook University University, among many more. The world-class infrastructure at these institutions, coupled with experienced faculty, makes them global centres of excellence.
Veterinary courses in the UK offer a strong grounding in biological sciences including anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, and specialised areas such as study animal nutrition, housing and welfare. Long hours and a heavy workload are common features of most, the ultimate objective being that all students must graduate with the ability to treat all animals, whether domestic, farmyard or wild.
The Complete University Guide 2012 ranked University of Glasgow, known for its work on parasitic diseases and developmental biology, as the top institution overall for veterinary sciences in the UK. Other top Universities were Nottingham, for the quality of its research assessment, and Bristol, for animal welfare.
Universities and colleges in the USA tend to have courses that cover a broader range of topics, under the umbrella of animal science. These deal with a range of options from basic sciences through companion and zoo animal care to farm management.
While Massey University offers the only Bachelor of Veterinary Science course in New Zealand, there are courses in veterinary nursing and animal behaviour offered across the country - not surprising, given the country’s biodiversity and unique animal species and its dependence on animal products such as meat and wool to bolster its economy. Among the institutions of higher learning in Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the field of veterinary science.
Though the conventional route taken by most veterinary science graduates is to work as vets in private practice, there are numerous alternative options available and growing. Government service, in disease research, animal export/import, quarantine etc. or in wildlife conservation is an option. Newer opportunities are beginning to emerge in related fields such as food safety and animal welfare; there’s also pet care, which is in high demand in Europe and the USA.
The ability to treat and cure animals and increase their quality of life, good communication skills to deal with their owners and, no doubt, a strong stomach at times - these are the hallmarks of a good vet. Are you up for it?