What's the Job Description of an Equine Veterinarian?

Equine veterinarians assist in foaling, administer vaccinations, do surgery, and perform many other duties in the care of horses. Explore the job requirements, duties and career outlook of equine veterinarians. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Duties and Responsibilities

From racehorses to range stock, equine veterinarians provide medical assistance to horses. As a practicing veterinarian, you may set broken bones, diagnose diseases, and even quarantine sick animals. Sometimes you may address your patients' living conditions by instructing the owner on better cleaning or grooming practices. You might also give owners specific directions for feeding and exercising their horses.

You could choose to focus specifically on using sports medicine in treating racehorses, or you may wish to work with farm or range animals. Caring for performing horses often requires giving them wellness check-ups to diagnose minor ailments before these problems become serious. In less stressed animals, such as range stock, minor joint injuries or other types of inflammation might never need medical treatment.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Similar Occupations Zoologist, Wildlife Biologist, Animal Care Worker
Work Environment Private practice, ranches, racetracks, farms, government; indoor and outdoor conditions; unsanitary and inclement conditions
Key Skills Manual dexterity, compassion, problem-solving skills
Certification Optional board certification available through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners
Continuing Education Continuing education programs available online

Treating Show and Racehorses

Using sports medicine, you could work at a racetrack tending strained muscles, injured feet, and other similar ailments. You'll give the horses a pre-race examination to determine whether they are healthy enough to compete, and will also assist with any emergency care that arises during the race. Since they have more contact with other horses, show and racehorses tend to contract more viruses and other communicable diseases that may need to be treated. As a private practitioner specializing in equine sports medicine, you also might prescribe exercise or therapy programs to use in rehabilitation.

Treating Farm or Range Animals

In the care of farm or range animals, you'll usually drive to your patient's stable or field. Sometimes you might even need to perform surgery there. If you work in a veterinary hospital, however, owners will usually bring their horses to you, and the hospital may board them during treatment and recovery.

Other Opportunities

Although the majority of equine veterinarians work in private practice, you do have a few non-traditional opportunities open to you. By working for the government, you will strive to control epidemics of the West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and other serious health hazards. If you work in a research laboratory, you'll explore new treatments and cures for equine health issues, such as joint and tendon injuries and osteoarthritis.

Education Requirements

For regular practice as an equine veterinarian, you must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). By concentrating in equine care, you'll study topics such as equine nutritional requirements, sports horse physiology, large animal surgery, and intensive care for critically-ill newborn foals. The American Medical Veterinary Association (AMVA) reported in 2014 that approximately six percent of veterinarians concentrate exclusively on equine care. If you wish to go into equine research, you usually need to earn a master's degree or a Ph.D. in addition to your DVM; for example, you might pursue a graduate program in a specialty area of equine science, such as equine reproduction or nutrition.

Licensure

In order to practice, you must be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary by state, for all states you must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. For most practitioners, this is sufficient. However, if you wish to work at a racetrack, you will need additional licensure from your state's racing commission.

Salary Statistics and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the median annual salary earned by veterinarians of all kinds was $87,590 in May 2014. The AMVA indicated that the median annual salary earned by equine veterinarians in 2013 was $87,000. The BLS projects that the employment of all vets will increase by 12% between 2012 and 2022.

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