All of us as owners of Kerry Blue Terriers have had our fair share of visits to our local Veterinarian. My Kerry, Deidre Rhiannon Bluestockings, aka 'Nips' loves to go to our Veterinarian—so many new smells to experience, visiting with the Veterinarian's office cats, chatting with the Veterinarian herself, who Nips dearly loves. Whether the trip is for a routine check-up or for one of those occurrences that can plague our chosen breed, a trip to the veterinarian is part and parcel of being a KBT ower and so we get to know our particular Veterinarian very well.
What we may not know much about is the Veterinary field itself, especially the many specialties and sub-specialties that exist in this growing field. Growing field? That's right. Veterinarians are one of the top 10 growing fields in the United States! In 2008 there were approximately 60,000 veterinarians, but nearing the end of 2011 there are almost 90,000 veterinarians produced by some 26 Veterinary schools in 24 states. About slightly over 51% of these 90,000 veterinarians are women, so the field is fairly evenly divided.
Most veterinarians (77%) are located in small practices and provide care to the 70 million dogs, 80 million cats, 11 million birds, 7 million pet horses and millions of other companion animals.
Veterinarians also are involved in medical research, prevention of bio-and agro terrorism and food safety says the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A surprising 11% (10,000) of all veterinarians are in special practice and are Board Certified by the AVMA in 21 specialties, with 7 of these Boards having additional sub-specialties. Additionally there are other veterinary fields including veterinarian technicians and the highly specialized veterinarian nurses who support the work of their veterinarian.
The American Veterinary Medical Association was established in 1863 as a nonfor profit association representing veterinarians working in a variety of locations and settings. Initially composed of practitioners along the East Coast, the organization has grown from its early days of 40 founding members to the current 90,000 members. The mission of the AVMA is "to improve animal and human health and advance the veterinary medical profession" with is objective "to advance the science and art of veterinary medicine, including its relationship to public health, biological science, and agriculture."
What is a veterinary specialist? According to the AVMA web site, a veterinary specialist "is a graduate veterinarian who has successfully completed the process of board certification in an AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organization." These are veterinarians who have extensive post-graduate training and experience in their specialist field, who have submitted their credentials to their specialized AVMA organization and have passed an extensive set of examinations given by their specific Board Certification organization.
Many of these specialties are familiar to us as we as human patients often visit the human equivalent of these veterinary specialists for our own health. Specialists such as Dentistry, ophthalmology, dermatology, preventive medicine, anesthesiology, radiology, emergency medicine and critical care specialists, and surgeons are found in veterinary medicine and require additional training, in most cases a residency just like our own physician specialists.
However, some of the specialties many not be as familiar to you; they are listed below with a brief explanation of what each specialty does.
- Veterinarian Practitioners: These are 'regular' veterinarians who have a breed specific Board Certification: Avian = Birds; Beef Cattle = cattle raised for meat; Canine & Feline = dogs and cats; Dairy = cows that produce milk; Equine = horses; Feline = cats; Food Animal = cattle and pigs; Swine Health Management = pigs; Exotic Companion Mammal Practice = ferrets, rabbits, mice, rats and other small mammals; Reptile and Amphibian Practices = nakes, lizards, salamanders, turtles, etc.
- Veterinarian Toxicology: Veterinarians who study the effects of poisons and other toxic products on the animal body and how to treat animals affected by these toxins.
- Laboratory Animal Medicine: Veterinarians who work in research or in practice to make sure that lab animals such as rodents, rabbits and other animals receive proper care.
- Poultry Veterinarians: Veterinarians who specialize in chickens, turkeys, and/ or ducks, usually in food production settings
- Theriogenologists: Specialists in animal reproduction
- Behaviorists: Veterinary specialists who have training in animal behavior
- Clinical Pharmacology: Specialists in studying the composition, usage and biological effects of pharmaceuticals on animals
- Internal Medicine: specialties include Cardiology, Neurology and Oncology
- Veterinarian Microbiologists: Subspecialists in Bacteriology, Mycology, Parasitology, immunology and virology
- Veterinarian Nutrition: Specialists who develop nutritional management strategies to promote health and manage the symptoms of various diseases
- Veterinarian Pathologists: Specialists in studying diseases in animals and changes that can occur as a result of diseases and their progression
- Veterinarian Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: Veterinarians who specialize in returning animals to normal functioning after injury, lameness, illness, or surgery
- Zoological Medicine: Veterinarians who work with exotic animals kept in zoological parks including research, medical care and treatment options