In Australia, there are over 12,000 registered veterinarians — and not all off them are treating dogs and cats in clinics. In the world of veterinary science, there are many different specialisations; after all, treating a horse is very different to treating a bird or a snake.
Large animal and livestock vets
Large animal vets typically provide veterinary services for livestock, such as horses, cows, sheep, pigs and goats. While many operate from a clinic, the majority of vet-patient interactions take place at clients’ properties, since large animals are not always easy to transport. Often large animals are only transported to a clinic in a situation where specialised equipment is required, for example in the case of surgery that cannot be completed in the paddock.
Some large animal vets choose to specialise in equine veterinary science, as horses are unique compared with other livestock, because they are often kept for sport and recreational purposes. Besides general health concerns, horses often require vets for a range of reasons not often applicable to other livestock — such as mild soundness concerns that perhaps don’t affect a horse’s day-to-day paddock life, but do affect its performance in the competition arena.
Companion animal vets
When you head to the local vet clinic with your dog, you are visiting a vet that specialises in small animals and companion animals. These types of veterinarians typically deal with dogs and cats, as well as rabbits, rats and mice, birds, fish, reptiles and more; if you keep it at home as pet, they can likely treat it.
While small animal vet clinics will see most companion animals, it’s important to note that some of the more obscure animals are often best treated by a specialist; after all a dog is very different to a snake. Although not as widespread, there are vet clinics out there that specifically treat birds, reptiles or other “exotic” pets.
Wildlife is generally considered another category when it comes to veterinary specialisation. Although many local companion animal vet clinics will take in and treat injured wildlife when required, there are specialised wildlife vets who have trained in the unique skill of providing treatment to wild animals. In Australia, these types of vets usually work for government agencies and assist in the management and conservation of our native animals.
But wait, there’s more….
Just like human doctors, there are many different veterinary specialisations. Besides the type of animal they treat, vets can also specialise in different aspects of animal care, such as certain surgical procedures, animal behaviour, dentistry, oncology, pharmacology, microbiology and orthopaedics, just to name a few.
There are also vets that work in areas such as research, animal welfare and even biosecurity. Many of these vets may be employed by government agencies, for example the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) employs veterinarians to work with animals of all types that are being imported or exported from Australia.
If you are considering becoming a veterinarian, the career paths are many and varied. Whether you have aspirations of working in a clinical setting with dogs and cats, hitting the road and treating livestock in remote parts of Australia, or working to protect the animals that make our country unique, there is a role out their beckoning!