Four Fields for a Large Animal Vet
April 29, 2015
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The veterinary community is full of dog and cat doctors, but the large animal vet — often called a farm vet — isn't as easy to find for pet owners. These vets are a breed apart from your local practice, working from a larger clinic that sees multiple types of animals or a specialty clinic that sees only horses, cows or other nondomestic creatures. Farm vets almost all make "house calls" and will treat multiple animals on-site.
Dairy Farm Veterinarians
A day in the life of a typical dairy farm vet can include things like driving to the dairy farm, evaluating a herd for breeding purposes, pregnancy checks, udder problems and assisting with difficult births. Because new babies and emergencies happen at all times of day, the large animal vet is often on-call at all hours. Some have technicians who assist them, and they are expected to be ready, as well.
Horse vets find themselves doing similar things as dairy vets but spend most of their time conducting annual exams, checking basic health and giving vaccinations. Often they're called to treat lame or injured horses, as facilitated by the , and to assist with pregnancy and birth complications. Also known as equine vets, they usually have a vet tech with them who knows how to handle horses and perform procedures in the field. Horse vets commonly have a clinic where their horses can be brought for treatment, as well.
Other large animal vets might visit farms with multiple or exotic species. During a small farm visit, for example, a veterinarian might come out to a barn to check the goats for worms, vaccinate the pigs, dogs and cats and check milk quality in the family's dairy cow. In most cases, the owner is expected to help restrain and assist. For emergencies, however, the vet may bring his or her own help. Some of these veterinarians do not have a building out of which to practice and instead work in a mobile van or truck while using whatever might be available at the location of their next client. They typically refer more advanced problems to larger clinics or farm-focused animal care centers.
Exotic Animal Veterinarians
Large exotic animals are not easy to move and require a special knowledge when handling. Veterinarians who treat these animals show up on site prepared for most tasks: tranquilizer guns, sedation, great care and speed are their main tools. Owners of these animals are usually required to act as one-off veterinary assistants unless a major procedure must be performed.
The life of a large animal vet is never dull. Because of the nature of the work and the experience required, farm vets and large animal vet techs are in high demand — so much so that some states now repay student loans for those who commit to working in the field of large animal medicine. If you are interested in becoming a large animal veterinary technician, a strong background in veterinary medicine is important, but it's best acquired through a comprehensive program full of hands-on experience.