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Veterinary surgeon: Job description

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Veterinary surgeons - usually known as vets - work to safeguard the health and welfare of animals.

Vets working in general practice are responsible for the medical and surgical treatment of a range of animals, including domestic, zoo and farm animals. They also work to prevent disease in animals and the spread of disease.

There are mixed veterinary practices and those specialising in small animals, food-producing animals and equine work, amongst others. The specialism may depend on the practice's rural or urban location.

Vets combine their knowledge of animal physiology, nutrition and medicine with practical skills to diagnose illnesses, prescribe medicines and perform surgery. They also manage anaesthesia during procedures.

Vets are also employed in other sectors, such as education and research, government agencies including the army, animal charities and pharmaceutical companies.

Typical work activities

Vets either work from a surgery or by visiting animals in their living environments, such as a farm or stables. Some vets carry out home visits.

Typical tasks include:

  • handling, examining and treating all species of animals, including domestic animals, farm livestock and horses;
  • meeting and consulting with the owners and carers of various animals, including zookeepers;
  • carrying out tests such as x-rays, blood samples and ultrasound scans;
  • giving advice to farmers on issues such as nutrition, breeding and herd health;
  • routinely visiting farms to check the health of livestock;
  • immunising animals against different types of disease;
  • euthanising old and terminally ill animals;
  • performing surgery, including managing anaesthesia;
  • working on out-of-hours emergency cases when on-call;
  • providing suitable paperwork for animals travelling abroad, as well as inserting identification microchips;
  • maintaining up-to-date records;
  • liaising with, and referring to, other professionals within the industry;
  • inspecting certain animal products to ensure they are safe for human consumption.

Vets who work as practice partners have the additional responsibility of managing practice finances, promoting the surgery to potential clients, and recruiting and managing vets, veterinary nurses and other relevant staff.

Vets working for government agencies may research diseases, test and manage infection outbreaks, investigate food safety issues and complete paperwork for pet passports.

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Written by AGCAS editors
December 2013

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