Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology

Veterinary pharmacology explores drug benefits, and toxicology examines the effects poisons have on animals. Learn about job duties and salary range info in addition to graduate degree requirements and course topics.

Is Veterinary Pharmacology or Toxicology for Me?

Career Summary

Veterinary pharmacologists and toxicologists are specialized veterinarians. Veterinary pharmacologists specialize in drug therapy for animals and have knowledge of how different drugs impact bodily processes. In this profession, you might treat animals at veterinary hospitals, calculate how long it takes drugs to leave the systems of animals used for food, or conduct research at pharmaceutical firms or universities.

Veterinary toxicologists are experts in the dangers that toxins pose to companion and farm animals as well as wildlife. These can include substances found in nature or the toxic impacts caused by drugs, feed additives and environmental factors. You might diagnose animal diseases caused by chemicals and toxins. You could work in industry testing proposed commercial products or at government agencies judging the safety of proposed drugs and chemicals. You also might explore the link between the safety of food consumed by humans and the health of livestock. Veterinary toxicologists and pharmacologists can also find jobs at research facilities, universities and private consultancies.

Salary and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 70,300 veterinarians working in the United States as of 2012 (www.bls.gov). Jobs for veterinarians were expected to increase at an average rate, with employment opportunities projected to increase 12% between 2012 and 2022, per the BLS. Most veterinarians earned between $51,530 and $144,100 as of 2012, the BLS reported.

How Can I Work in Veterinary Pharmacology or Toxicology?

Education Requirements

First, you must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from an accredited vet school and become licensed in your state. You'll then need to complete additional training before seeking certification in a veterinarian specialty. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), pharmacology and toxicology are among the 40 veterinary specialties in which certifications are available (www.avma.org).

Topics of Study

Coursework, clinical rotations and research are all required in order to complete residency training in veterinary pharmacology or toxicology. In the pharmacology specialty, you'll spend at least three additional years studying and training to become a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology. You'll typically learn how to analyze drugs in bodily fluids and how to judge the correct medication dosage for animals. You also might explore processes for drug review, regulation and government approval.

Residency

You'll need to complete a minimum 3-year residency training program to become a diplomate in the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology. During training, you may study poisonous plants, scientific ethics and veterinary pathology as well as learn testing methods to identify toxins.

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