In 2017, more than 68 percent of American households owned a pet, according to the National Pet Owners Survey. This equates to roughly 85 million families with a small pet, a figure that is expected to rise. There will undoubtedly be an increase in demand for veterinarians and experts in small animal medicine as a result of this growth.
Small animal medicine veterinarians specialize in the care of dogs, cats, birds, exotics, and other companion animals. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to become a veterinarian, as well as the industry as a whole.
Small animal medicine veterinarians are licensed veterinarians who can diagnose and treat a wide variety of companion animals. Small animal practitioners frequently treat dogs and cats, as well as other small mammals, birds, and reptiles kept as pets. A small animal veterinarian can work in a variety of settings, but will typically interact with patients and their owners in the clinic’s exam room by appointment.
In 2017, more than 66 percent of veterinarians worked in private practice and only cared for companion animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). While some veterinarians prefer to focus solely on small companion animals, others may have mixed practices that include equine or other large animal veterinary services.
Outside of private practice, vets can work as college professors or educators, pharmaceutical sales representatives, military personnel, government inspectors, and researchers.
Training And Instruction
After completing a rigorous course of study that includes both small and large animal species, all small animal veterinarians earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), the United States has 30 accredited veterinary medicine colleges that offer a DVM degree to their graduates.
The median wage for veterinarians is approximately $90,420, according to the April 2018 BLS salary survey statistics. In the survey, earnings ranged from less than $53,980 for the bottom 10 percent of all veterinarians to more than $159,320 for the top 10 percent of all veterinarians.
According to the AVMA, the average starting salary for a new small animal medicine veterinarian varies depending on the type of practice. Small animal exclusive veterinarians earned the highest average salary of $71,462 in their first year. A large animal exclusive veterinarian’s starting salary was $68,933, while a mixed-practice veterinarian’s starting salary (who practices both large- and small-animal medicine) was $62,327. Equine veterinarians earned the least in their first year, earning $38,468.
Because of their advanced education and experience, board-certified veterinarians in a specific specialty area (ophthalmology, oncology, surgery, etc.) typically earn significantly higher salaries. In 2017, there were 416 board certified canine and feline diplomates and 707 board certified small animal surgeons, according to AVMA data. (Since 2010, the number of board-certified small animal surgeons has nearly doubled). Some veterinarians may be certified in both areas. There were 13,035 active board-certified diplomates at the end of 2017.
The most recent AVMA employment survey (December 2017) found 71,393 small animal medicine veterinarians in private practice. Out of a total of 47,545 vets, there were 47,545 in companion animal exclusive practices and another 6,368 in companion animal predominant practices. With an ever-increasing number of animals kept as pets and an ever-increasing amount of money spent on the medical care of those pets, the veterinary profession should remain a profitable business for the next decade and beyond.