About Veterinarians


Question: Hi, my name is Stephanie . In the future I'm thinking about becoming a vet; for now I just have to get some information on the subject. So if its not too much could you please take time and answer these questions. My paper is due on Thursday, so just get back to me before then, if it’s not too much to ask.

1. What kind of benefits?

2. What kind of classes do you have to take?

3. How many hours would it take, and how many years?

4. What kind of safety courses do you have to take and what kind of clothes?

5. What are the working conditions?

6. What are the qualifications?

7. What are the responsibilities?

8. How can others benefit from this?

9. How does this effect family life?

10. What type of traveling do or would you have to do?

11. What’s the average age with people in this profession?

12. How long do youhave to work before a promotion?

13. What’s the highest position?

14. What kind of time is required?

15. Is your profession in demand?

16. If you move out of state, can you still have a job in that profession?

17. Do you get materiality leave?

18. Do you work alone or with other people?

19. What local schools offer your profession?

20. What kind of money do you make? (Salary)

Thank You, Stephanie

Answer: Hi Stephanie,

1. What kind of benefits? -- Benefits vary a lot, depending on whether a vet is self employed (so benefits must fit the profits in this case), works for another veterinarian (benefits usually include vacation, sick days, sometimes health insurance and sometimes continuing education expenses --- anything else is possible depending on the arrangement) or if the vet works for industry or government, where benefits tend to be standard ones like health care, vacations, continuing education expenses and sick leave.

2. What kind of classes do you have to take? Prevet classes emphasize science. Veterinary classes include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, surgery, internal medicine, clinical practice, radiology, bacteriology, virology, immunology, nutrition, dental care and probably others I'm not thinking of.

3. How many hours would it take, and how many years? The minimum requirement currently, I think, is two years of preveterinary work and four years of veterinary school or a total of six years of college. Even though this is the minimum the average time it really takes is probably 8 years -- four years of college with an undergraduate degree and then four years of veterinary school.

4. What kind of safety courses do you have to take and what kind of clothes? -- things like radiation safety, bacteriologic safety, animal handling procedures and other things like this are usually covered in the courses taught in vet school.

5. What are the working conditions? These vary widely depending on whether a vet is in production animal work (cows, pigs), horse medicine or small animal medicine. Since I only practice small animal the conditions are indoor work with an assistant to help handle animals.

6. What are the qualifications? A veterinary degree, passing the National boards and then meeting state licensing requirements (some states have tests, some just go with set requirements).

7. What are the responsibilities? The vet must protect the clients from harm during the examination procedures for a pet, must be able to do a diagnostic procedure and come up with an appropriate diagnosis and then be able to recommend appropriate treatment.

8. How can others benefit from this? Pets are an important part of people's lives and both the pet and the person benefit from veterinary care. In addition, vets can help protect against diseases that pets can transfer to humans (zoonotic diseases).

9. How does this effect family life? Vets sometimes work long hours and/or respond to emergencies at odd hours so this can be a strain on the family but vets can also often arrange time when needed for things like class trips or athletic events so there are good and bad aspects to the job.

10. What type of traveling do or would you have to do? I don't travel at all except when I do speaking engagements which are related to my job but really aren't part of the typical job descriptions for most vets. Large animal vets often travel all day from farm to farm or stable to stable.

11. What’s the average age with people in this profession? I don't know. I suspect that it is over 30, though.

12. How long do you have to work before a promotion? There really aren't promotions in veterinary medicine except maybe when a person is offered a partnership opportunity or something like that.

13. What’s the highest position? Well, there is a vet who is an Air Force general, a vet who is head of the FDA (Dr. Crawford) and a vet went into outer space so he was definitely the highest in miles.

14. What kind of time is required? Most vets work for about 50 hours a week.

15. Is your profession in demand? There are areas of the country where vets are in excess (mostly small animal jobs in the cities) and where demand is very high (mostly large animal vets in rural areas)

16. If you move out of state, can you still have a job in that profession? If I meet the licensing requirements for that state or if they reciprocal agreements with the state I work in --- usually this is possible without too much trouble, though.

17. Do you get materiality leave? Well, I'm a man but most veterinarians who are females are offered maternity leave. Self employed vets lose money when they go on any type of leave, so this has to be considered individually in their decision making.

18. Do you work alone or with other people? I work with another vet and with a support staff.

19. What local schools offer your profession? There is only one veterinary school in the state of Virginia (Virginia - Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine) and 28 vet schools in the U.S., so not all states have vet schools.

20. What kind of money do you make? (Salary) The average salary for vets is around $60,000 per year and for vets who own practices closer to $90,000 per year.

Mike Richards,

DVM 10/31/2004

A Veterinarians life

Question: Hello my name is Katie and me and my friends are doing a research paper on veterinarians and we need to know information. We would love for you to answer the following questions:

1.What does a veterinarian do at work.

2. I need to know about a famous person who was a veterinarians.

3. How long does an average veterinarian work at his office. It would be helpful if you could answer this so if you are happy to write the following questions and send them to me that would be great. If not, I will have to find another vet. Thank You.


Answer: Katie- 1) I can really only tell you what I do at work. I am a small animal practitioner who works mainly with dogs and cats. I spend my mornings seeing patients. Some of the dogs and cats need preventative care. These are things like vaccinations and teeth cleaning that help to maintain health. Others are sick and these are examined to look for signs of a particular illness. Sometimes it is necessary to run laboratory tests or to take X-rays to diagnose their problems. Later in the day I usually do surgery. Most of the surgery is "elective" surgery, things like spaying and neutering. This type of surgery benefits the pet and the pet owner but can be scheduled as needed. Other surgeries are done to repair things that have gone wrong, such as fixing broken legs, suturing cuts or removing objects that dogs or cats shouldn't have eaten from their intestines. My wife is also a veterinarian and she administers the anesthesia to our surgery patients during this time. In the afternoons we have more office visits.

My wife is also the practice business manager, so she makes sure bills are paid, figures out the charges for our services, hires and manages the staff members and all the kinds of things that business owners must do. I run the VetInfo web site at night, so I spend part of my time each day providing information on the Internet. Veterinarians do many other things. Some veterinarians work on larger animals, like horses and cattle. They may spend a lot of the day planning health care programs for herds, as well as necessary medical treatments for sick animals. Veterinarians work in medical research, at pharmaceutical companies, as technical representatives for medical equipment companies, providing laboratory animal care, as teachers are veterinary schools and in many specialty areas such as ophthalmology, neurology or cancer therapy.

2) Dr. Richard M. Linnehan is a veterinarian who is an astronaut. He will be on the next Space Shuttle mission, which should launch within the next few days. His job will be to help repair the Hubble space telescope. This web site tells the details of some his previous work in space: http://www-pao.ksc.nasa.gov/kscpao/release/1998/44-98.htm

3) Most veterinarians work between 45 and 50 hours a week at their practice, if they work full time.

Mike Richards,

DVM 3/1/2002

A Veterinarian

Question: My name is Mike M and I need information on being a veterinarian. Can you please just tell the basic tasks, skills, degrees, or classes required to become a veterinarian. Could you also please tell what happens during a basic week on the job. Thank you.

Answer: Mike- To become a veterinarian a person must take at least 2 years of college level courses which meet the "preveterinary" requirements for the veterinary college they are going to apply to. It is important to get good grades during this time because veterinary schools often have more applicants than they have positions for and grades are part of the selection process. It is not unusual for students accepted into veterinary school to have a degree in another subject or even an advanced degree (Master's degree or PhD). The preveterinary curriculum is very science oriented so it is important to get as much science training as possible in high school prior to attending college. Veterinary schools are usually not overly concerned with the degree a person has from college if they earn one, so it is a good idea to have a second choice that you would enjoy, such as history, engineering, English literature or whatever it is that you would like to do other than being a veterinarian.

Once a person has met the preveterinary requirements and been selected for veterinary school they still have four years of college devoted specifically to veterinary medicine left to complete. These courses cover many aspects of veterinary medicine, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, immunology, medicine, surgery and other courses related to veterinary medicine. If a person completes the training satisfactorily they are awarded the degree "Doctor of Veterinary Medicine" (DVM) at most veterinary college or "Veterinary Medical Doctor" (VMD) at the University of Pennsylvania.

So most veterinarians have had six years, or more, of college level courses. During the final year at many veterinary schools students spend most of their time in the clinics learning to apply the theoretical training they received during the earlier years. They may go out into the 'real world' and do externships (preceptorships) with private practice veterinarians, zoos, referral centers, government health agencies, etc.

There are a number of jobs that veterinarians do. Most practice veterinary medicine in private veterinary hospitals, performing medical and surgical tasks on pets or farm animals. Many work for government agencies and help ensure the safety of foods we eat, research diseases, work with public health agencies, the FDA, USDA or other agencies. Some veterinarians work with the space program and one veterinarian has been on two space shuttle missions. Veterinarians work for pharmaceutical companies, laboratories and other businesses. A few veterinarians write for magazines or produce web sites on the World Wide Web. There are a lot of possible jobs that veterinarians are qualified for.

In a small animal practice, which is currently the field of veterinary medicine I am most familiar with, the typical week is devoted to several tasks. I am not sure that my clinic is typical of all veterinary practices but my week goes about like this:

Monday morning I see patients most of the morning, usually a few that were sick over the weekend and were seen by the local emergency veterinary clinic or whose owners waited over the weekend for our clinic to open up again. We take in the surgery patients for the day throughout the morning. At noon I usually stop seeing patients and start doing surgery. We usually have two to four surgeries a day, mostly spay and neuter procedures. We also do a fair number of dental procedures such as teeth cleaning or extraction of teeth that need to be removed. Less commonly we fix broken legs, remove tumors, do surgical biopsies or other surgical procedures. I try to finish surgery by 2:30 PM in order to see afternoon appointments, which we see from 2:30 to 4:30 PM most days. Many of our appointments are preventative health procedures, such as yearly physical exams, heartworm checks, vaccinations, behavioral consultation or similar procedures. Some of our office visits are examinations of pets who are ill. These pets often require diagnostic procedures such as X-rays, blood work, urinalysis or neurologic exams.

Tuesdays we only see patients, we do not do surgery. It is our late day, so we start seeing patients at 1 PM and see them straight through until 6:30 PM.

Wednesdays are a lot like Mondays.

Thursdays we take the day off which is one of the reasons we can produce a web site. Fridays are like Mondays and Wednesdays.

Saturdays we see patients in the morning only and we do not do routine surgeries on Saturdays.

We will see emergencies at night and on the weekends if our patients call my home and I am able to see them but we refer most of our emergencies to the emergency veterinary clinic (EVC). The EVC is staffed fully over the weekends and at night, which we are not. They are better prepared to deal with emergencies due to this and due to their specialization in emergency procedures.

Hope this helps.

Mike Richards, DVM

Sometimes we take an afternoon or morning and go to the local school system to discuss veterinary medicine with students or show how aspects of veterinary medicine apply to math or science courses.

Becoming a Veterinarian

Q: Dear sir,

I need some information on types of positions in the field, what classes to take for college, how many years of school, how much a vet salary would be? Also some college addresses.

Thanks Aimee

A: Aimee-

The most trying part of becoming a veterinarian is getting into veterinary school. The pre-veterinary curriculum is heavily science oriented so math and science courses in high school should be emphasized in course selection. In college it is necessary to take the required courses for the veterinary schools that you wish to apply to. In most cases there is not much point in applying to a veterinary school other than the one in your home state or the one your home state has contracts with to admit a certain number of students. So get the requirements for that school early, study them and decide if you are willing to take the required courses and do well in them. Outside of the required courses it is still important to get good grades, so take courses that you are enthusiastic about because it is easier to study for them and do well in them. In most cases it probably doesn't matter what other field you choose to get a degree in. Just make sure that it will lead to a job you like if vet school doesn't work out.

It is still possible to get through pre-veterinary college courses and vet school in six years at some colleges but most people getting in now have an undergraduate degree, a fair number have a masters degree and a few have doctorate degrees prior to getting into veterinary school. Persistence counts with veterinary school admission committees so a person that applies three or four times may get in if they have reasonable grades due to their persistence.

Veterinarians who are employees at private practices probably average around $55,000 per year in salary right now, with wide variations around the country. Considering the debt load of six to eight years of schooling and starting salaries of less than $40,000 per year veterinary medicine is not a highly lucrative profession at the present time. Veterinary practice owners probably average around $90,000 per year (these are guesses because veterinary salaries have been dropping lately and I haven't seen an up to the minute survey of salaries lately).

Mike Richards,DVM

Veterinary Medicine - Is it Science or is it an Art

Veterinarians have a lot of training in science. Most veterinarians think of veterinary medicine as a science. But is it?

It is very hard to do proper scientific studies on much of veterinary medicine. This is probably true in human medicine as well, but there is even less money for basic research in veterinary medicine. There is far less tracking of basic statistics across wide populations of pets. There is no organization tracking treatment success rate. No insurance companies, no World Health Organization, no Center for Disease Control for pets. Further complicating this picture is the lack of follow-up when veterinary patients die. Few autopsy exams are done in the average veterinary practice. The actual cause of death of most pets is never documented. Even in practices that do extensive follow-up of their cases, the information is difficult to share --- there is no one to send it to for central tracking. Virtually all the estimates of disease rates, death rates and similar statistics in veterinary medicine are just that --- estimates. Their value depends entirely on the ability of someone to make "educated guesses".

Despite these difficulties, a great deal of the information available to veterinarians does have some basis in science. Scientific studies are done on small groups of pets to evaluate the performance of treatments and medications. These are done by rigorous standards and published in journals that are reviewed by prominent specialists in various fields. This helps to ensure that treatments are reviewed objectively and that there is a body of information that is meaningful. Unfortunately, these types of studies are better at answering small questions than big ones. It is relatively easy to assess whether or not a specific treatment for a specific condition works an acceptable percentage of the time. It is much harder to evaluate the effect of specific nutrients on the immune system of dogs in general or to try to estimate the percentage of dogs in veterinary practice who die due to anesthetic complications.

It will probably be impractical for a long time for veterinarians to pool their collective experiences in the practice of medicine into a wide ranging database from which detailed information on surgical success rates, disease incidence rates and other similar statistics. Even if there was a central storage place for the information, most practices do not track it internally. There is no financial stimulus to do so. In fact, tracking data costs money and the average practicing veterinarian has more pressing needs for available funds.

So what does this mean? It means that your veterinarian can not tell you how serious the threat of corona virus really is. It means that your veterinarian can not give you accurate information on the "best" food for your pet. It means that veterinarians really don't know how many dogs of a particular breed die from anesthesia, much less whether or not a breed is especially prone to problems --- unless the sensitivity is so great that it can't be missed. It means that your veterinarian, who was trained, at least in pre-veterinary work, as a scientist, is frustrated by the inability to be sure of the science behind much of what he or she does. This can lead to problems among veterinarians and for pet owners who are seeking information about their pets.

There are always people willing to give you a completely unscientific opinion on almost anything relating to veterinary medicine. They are usually also willing to state their opinion as if it is fact. If you ask your vet about these issues, you may be surprised at the lack of response to your inquiry or the noncommittal reply. It is hard for your veterinarian to respond to many of the issues that become "hot" topics among dog breeders or pet owners with fact. Without reasonable data or scientific studies, a real scientist's honest response is "I don't know". Many pet owners, unsatisfied with this response, chose to believe the person proclaiming they are right the loudest. It would be nice to fill this void with reason and sound science based information but it just isn't possible.

Your vet is not in a position to provide pure scientifically based medicine. This is where the art of medicine comes in. It is possible to apply the deductive process learned in science courses in the day to day practice of veterinary medicine. It is possible to reason like a scientist, to place more faith in objective information than in unsubstantiated fact. It is possible to collect enough information to make an informed judgment about the problems affecting a patient. Science is a part of the day to day routine of most veterinarians. We just wish we had a lot more of the truly objective information to go on.

You have to decide if you want information that is as objective as possible and seek it from the best possible source. Think for a minute about who is better to trust -- a person who at least thinks in the logical manner expected of scientists and who sees twenty or thirty dogs and cats a day with various illnesses or your neighbor who "knows a lot about pets". Veterinary medicine may not be pure science but it is better than no science at all.

Mike Richards, DVM

When you know more than your vet about a subject...

There is a riddle I like. Which is more accurate, a watch that is one second off or a watch that is broken?

The answer is the watch that is broken. It is absolutely accurate twice a day.

The other watch is only accurate once every 118 years or some figure like that. Which watch is more practical for actual use, though? It is obviously the one that works but is a second off.

A similar situation occurs frequently in veterinary medicine. Many people know the symptoms of one disease very well. They see that disease everywhere. They tell their neighbors "your dog must have parvovirus". This is a pretty common disease, so a good deal of the time they are right. This can make them seem very knowledgeable. Especially if a veterinarian treating the patient is sorting through a number of possible problems and is not willing to commit to the diagnosis of parvovirus while the neighbor loudly proclaims that it MUST be the culprit. When the veterinarian feels comfortable with the diagnosis and commits to it, the client is convinced that the neighbor is brilliant. In this case, if the confused client has the opportunity to watch the process several more times, it will become obvious that there are other possible causes of diarrhea and that the neighbor only knows one. In this case, knowing one disease really well doesn't turn out to be a situation in which someone is more knowledgeable than the vet.

Sometimes, though, the situation is much murkier. Veterinarians are almost all general practitioners. Most work on several species of animals and treat disorders of all body organs and systems medically and surgically. Inevitably, they are not going to know the medical problems of every single dog breed or cat breed well. They are not going to have "cutting edge" knowledge about every organ system in their head. It is very easy for a non veterinarian to learn the medical problems of one or two breeds in more depth than their veterinarian. It is a little more difficult, but not close to impossible, for a lay person to learn more about a particular organ system than the average veterinarian. Especially if it affects a beloved pet of theirs. This can be enormously frustrating for a client. This client may view the veterinarian similarly to the broken watch -- as only good for out of date, untimely information.

This situation is difficult for many veterinarians to deal with. Everyone has an ego. It can be hard to admit that a client is better informed. It is also easy to call up defense mechanisms with some validity --- even though I may not know as much about liver dysfunction from copper toxicity as a Bedlington terrier owner, I know how to diagnose it and where to find the standard treatment. In the framework of my day, that is enough to get by and still allow time to treat everyone I need to treat. This defense is not very satisfying to the client who wants to understand the exact mechanism of the disorder and discuss theoretical treatment options being discussed in the breed newsletter, though. In this situation, the best thing you can hope for is a vet who is willing to take the time to research the issue and meet with you, perhaps at a later time, to discuss it. If your vet is willing to do this, he or she will probably turn out to be a very good source of information for you. Give your vet time to study a topic of interest to you and then come back to ask questions. If you have a written source of information on the topic, make it available to your vet. If your vet really isn't willing to work to acquire a really good understanding of a limited subject and you need information don't be bashful --- ask if you can use his or her references. They're probably pretty good and if you're really interested you can learn a great deal about any veterinary subject. If your vet does take the time to work with you it is important to recognize the importance of the effort. It is a sign that you have found the right vet.

I am not an expert at all of the diseases discussed at this web site. I just own a number of reference books and have a broad range of experience based on eighteen years practicing veterinary medicine. My knowledge of veterinary medicine surpasses almost every lay person's knowledge, in general. That gives me the ability to research many topics more quickly than a lay person can. It doesn't take me as long to get "up to speed" as it took a particular client to acquire an in-depth understanding of a particular disease affecting their pet.I am pretty good at judging the validity of information on a medical topic. These skills are valuable even to the clients who are seeking help at a depth of understanding that currently surpasses mine -- if they are patient enough to wait for me to catch up. Working together with a really motivated client is very rewarding for me, for them and for their pet.

Mike Richards, DVM

What do you want from a vet

If you know the answer to this question, you will be able to find a vet who meets your needs. This could save you heartache and money and might literally save your pet's life.

Your vet does not know the value of your pet to you unless you tell her. Many veterinarians spend much of their day trying to determine what level of care to provide for each individual pet that they see. Unlike human medicine, where it can be assumed that each life is "priceless", many pets have a very finite value to their owner.

On only one occasion has a human being told me that he had surgery and his life was NOT worth the price. One older client told me that his new heart valve cost $50,000 and that he had told his doctor he wasn't worth a penny over $10,000 and wasn't going to pay a penny over that! I thought this was pretty funny but it also brought home a point. Almost every pet I treat has a value far less than $10,000 to its owners -- at least in money they can really spend.

Some of my patients are nearly priceless to their owners. Other patients have much less value. There are many pets whose value is so low to their owners that they will never be patients at any veterinary hospital. When I look across the exam room table I know that I have to provide the best possible treatment plan but that for many pets that will not be the approach I take to treatment. Instead, there will be some compromise that brings the cost of the procedures down to the level that particular client will allow.

This is where you come in. Please let your vet know what treatment level you are looking for. If you want the best care for your pet, say so. If you want your vet to provide the best possible compromise between the hypothetical "best treatment" and the "best cost" treatment, let her know. Don't allow your vet to take multiple X-rays and fix a fractured leg and THEN tell him that you really only wanted to spend $25. Think about what you really want and then make sure that you reinforce your wishes with your behavior. Unless you really want to inhibit your vet over cost, do not complain, even jokingly, about how expensive veterinary care is. Veterinarians want their clients to leave their office satisfied. If your vet comes to believe that you really are more concerned about money than about your pet's health, you will get lower cost care. Whether you really wanted it or not. It's a little like mentioning bombs while going through airport security. You know you're joking. The security guards don't. They only know that it is their job to make sure you're not serious. Your veterinarian really is trying to understand what sort of care you want for your pet. It's serious business. He or she is likely to take a comment about pets costing more than your kids as an indication that you are more concerned about cost than quality. Don't forget that your vet is listening to what you say because he or she is a good negotiator. We have to be with all the practice we get. A good negotiator gathers as much information as possible about the person being negotiated with. Your "offhand" comments say a lot about how you really feel. Make sure you are putting out the right messages!

Mike Richards, DVM

A Veterinarian's Life

Q: Dear Dr. Mike

I'm in fifth grade at Lava Ridge Elementary and I'm doing a Long Term Project. That is a topic that you choose to do for several months and then you give a presentation on what you learned. I am doing my L.T.P. on what veterinarians do to take care of animals on a daily basis, what medicines that they use for different diseases and on what their different jobs are.

I was wondering if you could send me any information about those topics. It would be a big help to me. Please e-mail me when you get this note.Thank you very much.



A: Katie-

My day usually starts with reviewing the records of the pets scheduled to come in that day. Our records are all electronic. We store them in a database on the computer so one of the skills I use is computer literacy. Most vets keep written records. Their skills include interpreting handwriting, which can be harder than understanding computers.

Most of the dogs and cats that we see on a daily basis are there for "well pet" exams or health care maintenance. We check their teeth to see if they need to be cleaned, look at their eyes to make sure they are OK, check for ear diseases, listen to their heart and lungs, feel their abdomen to make sure there are no changes, such as a tumor, and check their skin for signs of disease. We check to be sure they do not have heartworms if they are dogs and check for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus if they are cats and this has not already been done. We vaccinate pets when it seems like the vaccine will help a particular dog or cat. At least half of our day is spent trying to prevent pets from developing diseases rather than treating diseased or injured pets. Spays and neuters are the most common surgical procedures in our office. Probably 75% of the surgeries are one of these two procedures.

Spaying and neutering help to prevent some health problems and help to reduce the overall pet population. There is still an overpopulation of pets, though. Another common procedure in our office is teeth cleaning, which also helps prevent health problems.

Even though most of our day revolves around the routine health maintenance procedures there is still a great deal of variety in a veterinarian's day. We may do orthopedic surgery such as fixing a broken leg, we may treat a puppy with parvovirus, a cat with cystitis (a urinary bladder infection), a dog with heartworms, a cat with herpesvirus (rhinotracheitis) infection, two or three cases of skin disease and see a pet who isn't acting right who doesn't have anything wrong that we can find, all in one day.

Occasionally we see birds or reptiles as patients, but we are not experts on them.

It would be hard to make an accurate list of the diseases we see in any sort of order of importance but these are a few of the things we see:

puppies: Roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm and whipworm infections. These are treated with deworming medications. Parvovirus and distemper are viral infections seen in puppies. These are treated with intravenous fluids, antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections, medications to stop vomiting or diarrhea and lots of nursing care. Mange infections, which are a parasitic skin disease are pretty common in puppies. Fleas might be the most common problem in puppies. We sometimes see congenital heart diseases or other problems present from birth in puppies. This is just a short list, since there are literally hundreds of possible problems.

kittens: Roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm infestations. Rhinotracheitis (a herpes virus), calicivirus, feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus are common viral infections in kittens. Kittens and cats are susceptible to ringworm (a fungus) infections. Chlamydiosis is a bacterial infection that makes kittens have "pink eye" or conjunctivitis. Ear mites are a parasite infection that is common in cats. Fleas are common on kittens, too.

Dogs: heartworm disease is common in my area. It is treated with Immiticide (Rx) which is a derivative of arsenic. We see a lot of dogs who are hit by cars and require surgical repair of skin injuries or broken bones. Older dogs may have diabetes, Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism) or Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism), kidney disease, heart disease or cancer. We use many medications for these conditions, most of which are also used in human medicine. Allergies are very common in dogs. Antihistamines, essential fatty acids and cortisones are commonly used to treat allergies in dogs. Congestive heart failure is common in dogs. Common medications for heart disease include diuretics and ACE Inhibitors such as enalapril (Vasotec Rx or Enacard Rx). We treat lots of periodontal disease in older dogs, so vets are also dentists.

Cats: Older cats also commonly have allergies. Kidney failure is very common in older cats and we use intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy for this. High blood pressure is pretty common in cats and we use medications to control this. Heart disease occurs in cats, too, but cardiomyopathy, or weakness of the heart muscles, is more common in cats. Cancer is not as common in cats as it is in dogs but cancer in cats seems to be malignant a lot more often. Fleas are still a problem in older cats. Feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus are common in older cats, too. Urinary tract disorders are common in cats. In male cats, a urinary blockage may lead to death quickly, so emergency care is commonly needed for male cats with this problem. Cats get periodontal disease and also get a condition that seem peculiar to cats called odontoclastic resorptive lesions.

It is often necessary to do lab work to figure out what diseases are present, so vets have to be proficient at running lab machines and interpreting laboratory values. X-rays are commonly taken, so vets are radiologists, too. We have to discuss a pet's problems with its owner, so public relations is an important part of the job, too. Finally, vets are all small businessmen or businesswomen. They have to make enough money to support their families and to provide adequate equipment and inventory to provide for their patients.


Hope that helps with your project.

Mike Richards, DVM

Last edited 02/15/08


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...