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Marine veterinary medicine, also called aquatic animal medicine, is an emerging specialty within the veterinary field. This specialty serves the needs of captive mammals such as dolphins and seals, sea turtles, other zoo and aquarium species, and pet fish. Some marine vets pursue research related to free marine mammals.
Beyond the traditional four years of veterinary school, the specialty of marine animal health calls for continuing graduate school classes, internships and residency training for some students. In addition to dolphins, fish and other aquarium life, some programs also study manatees and aquatic birds.
Students of this specialty take classes in ecology as well as marine animal biology, physiology and pathology. Classes often are held in oceanarium settings or in free-range marine mammal areas.
Marine vets use diagnostic tests the way small and large animal vets do, just in different settings. These specialists learn to use ultrasound, radiological and endoscopic equipment, as well as lab equipment to test aquatic urinalyses, biopsy samples and more.
Marine vets frequently examine such topics as viral marine diseases, aquatic toxins, a further discipline called conservation medicine, and ways to respond to stranded marine mammals.