Undergraduate programs in animal medical care include associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees for veterinary technicians and technologists. Students aspiring to be veterinarians must pursue a doctoral degree, which may include specializations such as equine or avian care. Most programs at all levels include clinical rotations and other opportunities for hands-on practice.
Programs for veterinary technicians, veterinary technologists and veterinarians share some common courses in animal anatomy and physiology, nutrition, parasitology, immunology, diagnostic imaging, and anesthesiology. Students in both undergraduate and graduate programs learn to nurse large and small animals, administer medications and assist during surgery.
Here is an outline of common concepts taught in veterinary courses:
Normally, states require the Veterinary Technician National Examination to work as a veterinary technologist or technician, and different levels of optional certification are also available for technologists. Veterinarians, on the other hand, need state licensure. This requires taking the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination and any other state required exams. Veterinarians may also pursue specialty certification from the American Veterinary Medical Association after they meet additional experience and educational requirements.
Medicine courses address the broad range of diseases, disorders and physical trauma treated in a veterinary practice. Students learn the standard procedures and treatments for common diseases and injuries. Lessons provide instruction in identifying symptoms, diagnosing, selecting treatment and determining prognosis.
This course explores the anatomical structure and biological systems of common pets and farm animals. Students learn about the function and interrelation of the muscular, skeletal, nervous, respiratory and other systems. Class work employs comparative anatomy to demonstrate the anatomical differences and similarities between species such as dogs, cats, horses, and cows. These classes often include lab dissections of feline or canine cadavers.
Veterinarians need to be familiar with the metabolism and nutrition requirements of various domestic animals in order to make feeding suggestions and identify malnutrition. They also need to know what animals can't digest and what foods may cause health problems for certain species. This class covers these subjects as well as the unique nutritional needs of animals suffering from the disease.
This class explains the role of animal immune systems in fighting infection and disease. In studying immune function, the class also studies diseases that attack the immune system itself. Discussion includes the importance of vaccination in bolstering an animal's defense against illness. Students discover how reactions from the immune system can be used to aid in diagnosis.
Study of parasitology familiarizes students with common parasites affecting domestic animals. Prospective veterinarians should be aware of the types of parasites, their life cycles and their effects on hosts. Parasites can be found internally or externally and may transmit disease, including zoonotic diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. Students learn methods to prevent parasites as well as identify and treat existing cases.
This course introduces all the elements necessary to ensure the health and safety of an animal undergoing anesthesia. Through a combination of course and lab work, students learn the process for calculating dosage, applying catheters and operating anesthetic equipment. Equipment used by the anesthesiologist includes anesthesia delivery systems and monitors for keeping track of the patient's vital signs. Students are also trained to handle emergency situations.