A veterinarian, or a vet, is a physician/surgeon for animals and a practitioner of veterinary medicine. Most vets look after dogs, cats, or other domesticated animals, while some treat wild animals, too, like the big cats and other animals kept in a zoo.
What do they do?
As a child, Geeta (who goes by her first name) loved not only the cat she adopted, but also the dogs that her pet was afraid of. That affection for animals drew her to veterinary science and now she handles them throughout the day. “At the first meeting, a vet must win the animal’s confidence, so that it doesn’t get ferocious during routine check-up,” she says.
Dr Geeta worked with an NGO’s animal hospital for a couple of years before setting up private practice recently. “At the hospital, I used to operate upon 15 patients a day, but you don’t feel the pressure of work if you love the work you do,” she says.
When treating a pet, experience counts far more than hi-tech machinery and medical tests. As Dr Geeta says, “If it’s a human being, you can put them through CT scan, blood tests and ultrasound to be sure about the ailment, but few pet owners are willing to spend that kind of money on an animal. So, most of the times, we have to bank upon our experience for the diagnosis.”
Keeping the animal calm is another concern. A vet first checks with the owner about the pet’s temperament and then proceeds to touch the animal. Even then, an aggressive animal may have to be muzzled and leashed before treatment begins.
In case of a zoo or a large dairy operation, big animals are first driven into a small enclosure that gives them little room for causing injury to the vet, and only then does the doctor examine them. Since the curriculum in India does not cover animal psychology, a vet has to acquire the skill of soothing a fretful animal only through practice.
Job opportunities are aplenty. In urban areas, opening a pet clinic is a good bet. One can also work in the dairy industry or research and development. Some vets even work in the sales and marketing department of pharmaceutical companies or pet food firms. “I have done BVSc and now I handle sales and promotion of products. A managerial role is not uncommon for a veterinary graduate,” says Dr Saurabh Shekhar, regional manager, sales and marketing, Mars India, a company that makes pet foods.
A vet can be an Army officer, too. With 325 of them in the Remount Army Corps, around two dozen officers are recruited almost every year. “You can join directly as captain in the short service commission. After two years in service, you can write an exam for induction in the permanent service commission,” says Colonel Brijmohan Gupta (name changed), a vet in the Indian Army.
If a life outside the cities appeals to you, the dairy industry or government health care centres could use your vet skills for their cattle. “I not only treat animals but also ensure their hygiene to minimise the transfer of disease from animals to humans,” says Dr Om Ahuja, a vet working with the National
Dairy Development Board in Bulandshahar. “Around 70 per cent of animal diseases are contagious, so we try to pre-empt the damage.” Ahuja, who has also got an MBA degree in agri-management, now wants to move to the corporate sector.
Research and development is another avenue. Dr Sonia Sharma, who did her MVSc in veterinary pathology, joined Dr Reddy’s Labs and worked as an associate scientist, finding the cause and effect of animal diseases.
With such a gamut of options, there is every reason to let the animal lover in you turn into a professional.
. You must have deep affection for animals. It is only this that can make the animal feel comfortable
. Be ready to work in rural settings, too. This could be necessary if you want to do research or work in a government set-up
. You should be a great observer — your patients will not be able to communicate their problems to you
. You need some persuasion skills to make a pet owner give detailed answers to all the questions you ask
How do I get there?
You will have to finish BVSc & AH (Bachelor of veterinary science and animal husbandry), a five-year programme, from a university recognised by the Veterinary Council of India. For specialisation, go for MVSc in one of these areas — medicine, surgery, biochemistry, genetics and breeding, poultry science, biotechnology, pharmacology, physiology, immunology, etc. After MVSc, you can work in research or academics at centres of repute like the Indian Veterinary Research Institute or a state university.