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What Specific Types of Veterinarians Are There?

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people who consider their pet to be a member of the family is on the rise, and so is the request for nontraditional veterinary services, like preventative dental care and cancer treatments. To meet the demand of the growing and more diverse domestic pet populations, individuals studying to become veterinarians have a wealth of specialties from which to choose. It all boils down to whether they want to spend their days looking into the eyes of a dog or a prairie dog.

Small Animal Practitioner

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The most common type of veterinarian, the small animal practitioner, treats domestic pets. Some choose to run practices that are exclusive to cats and dogs, while others also treat small mammals, such as ferrets, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs.

Exotic Veterinarian

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Typically, the definition of an "exotic" pet refers to any domestic pet other than a cat or dog. These veterinarians are in high demand as the number of domestic exotic pets steadily increases. This vet will treat animals like guinea pigs, mice, reptiles, prairie dogs, chinchillas, hedgehogs and most birds.

Large Animal Veterinarian

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Large animal veterinarians specialize in the treatment of livestock, including cows, sheep, goats, chickens and pigs. They will have taken college courses in topics like livestock management and animal husbandry.

Specialty Veterinarian

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Similar to human doctors, veterinarians can choose to specialize in many fields. For example, a small animal vet can become an animal cardiologist, ophthalmologist or dentist. And, like pediatricians who only treat children, they can also chose specific species. An equine veterinarian, for example, will treat horses and donkeys, while an avian vet will only treat birds.

Wildlife Veterinarians

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Simply put, wildlife veterinarians specialize in the treatment of wild animals. They typically work for wildlife rehabilitation centers, zoological societies and sanctuaries and can be called upon to care for animals like tigers, monkeys and various birds of prey species.

Research Veterinarians

Focusing on biomedical research, microbiology, pathology and other forms of clinical research, research veterinarians have been called upon to solve health problems including Mad Cow Disease and West Nile Virus, according to They are typically employed by federal and state governmental agencies and work in laboratory settings.

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