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Veterinarians have a multitude of choices for places to work. In countries where pets are treasured family members, there are private clinics and hospitals in most towns and all cities. In rural areas, there are farms and ranches in need of a traveling vet to care for their animals. In research and rescue facilities, veterinarians perform laboratory and clinical work. They may even work for film companies, caring for the animals on a movie set.
Private Practice - Small Animals
Most veterinarians work in small animal hospitals and clinics where they see patients in the office, treat accidents or illness and practice preventive medicine. Their days may be spent giving vaccinations against such diseases as rabies or distemper, doing well-animal check-ups, performing surgery, setting broken bones, diagnosing atypical behaviors and euthanizing terminally ill animals. In general these private practices are targeted at two main categories of pets. Cats and dogs are the largest category; exotic pets are a separate specialty. Exotic pet veterinarians train specifically to work with birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians and mammals, such as rabbits and ferrets, that have different health issues and sensitivities than cats and dogs.
Private Practice - Large Animals
Veterinarians who work with large animals are frequently on the road, traveling to ranches, farms, stables or sanctuaries for rescued animals and retired working animals. The work involves wellness visits to farms and ranches to treat herds and administer vaccines or first aid or help with births. A veterinarian may be hired as staff for a stable of racehorses, to monitor the health of the animals daily, adjust their nutrition, advise on exercise and generally protect the considerable investment of the owners. Emergency calls to ranches and farms might mean performing surgery in a barn or treating a hurt or sick animal in a field.
Zoos, Aquariums and Other Wild Animal Places
Veterinary doctors may be on retainer or on staff at zoos, where they evaluate and keep tabs on the overall conditions and well-being of the entire population. A very large zoo will likely engage several specialists to deal with different populations. The sea lion veterinarian will have different expertise than the large cat or the elephant and giraffe veterinarian. Aquariums are another venue for veterinary work. A vet who takes care of the creatures in the aquarium has sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins and other animals and fish under her care. A marine veterinary specialist might also be called upon in ocean disasters such as whale strandings or propeller injuries to turtles, fish or dolphins who are transported to respite centers for treatment. Circuses may keep vets on staff to travel with the troupe and care for the working animals.
Animal Shelters and Sanctuaries
Shelters use both paid and volunteer veterinarians to diagnose and care for the animals they take in. Those vets may perform spaying and neutering to prepare animals for adoption, treat hurt animals and birds, advise the shelter workers on feeding and exercise for the animals and give vaccines to animals admitted without any medical history. Sanctuaries take in exotic and wild animals who have retired from working in shows and circuses and rescued animals who have been abused. Veterinarians may have sanctuaries as pro bono or paying clients, as these organizations typically exist on donations and keep paid staff to a minimum.
Veterinarians work as researchers in laboratories, looking for cures for animal and human diseases. This work involves caring for the lab animals and evaluating blood and tissue samples and other research designed to test potential drugs and therapies.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .