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Let’s Hear it for the Veterinarians!

My previous dog had 4 doctors: Her regular Veterinarian, a Cardiologist, an Ophthalmologist, and an Acupuncturist. Amazing, right? There are…

My previous dog had 4 doctors: Her regular Veterinarian, a Cardiologist, an Ophthalmologist, and an Acupuncturist. Amazing, right? There are nearly as many specialists for dogs and pets as there are for people. And it’s a good thing. Think about this…. Most of us have one Vet that we go to for everything. That one doctor treats our pets for all types of illnesses and injuries. Veterinarians generally play the role of a “GP” to our pets, but they are also their Surgeon, their Dentist, their Allergist, reproductive health Doctor, Dermatologist, Anesthesiologist, Psychiatrist and so much more! All this on a patient that can’t tell you where it hurts or communicate with you about how he is feeling.

And here’s another thing… The Veterinarian does all that – not just for our dogs and cats – but for…um… how many species?!? Dogs, cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, birds, and whatever else we bring to them! Wow, that is mind-blowing. What an incredible amount of knowledge! How can one person know all that?

A “REAL” Doctor

Last night I was watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and one of the surgeons on the show wanted to date a Veterinarian. Her friend said, “You can’t date a Vet, you have to date a real doctor!” Seriously? I’d like to see that Surgeon perform a kidney transplant (it happens) in such a limited little space as a Veterinarian can. Operating in the tiny chest of a cat, tying the tubes of a small puppy, or removing a tumor from a guinea pig… THAT takes a “real” Doctor (with really good eyes!)!

Perhaps the liability of a human life is what differentiates the human Physician from the Veterinarian, and therein the comparison of these two medical professionals’ grinds to a halt. The obligation and the responsibility to save a person’s life is a hefty burden, even though the loss of a pet can be as agonizing as a human loss in the lives of pet lovers. Still, society recognizes human life as more important.

Nonetheless, the job of a Veterinarian is tough. And getting there can be just as tough. There are currently only 30 colleges of veterinary studies in the United States. The average acceptance rate into vet school is only 11.7%. Obviously, the competition to be accepted in Vet school is fierce.

How to Become a Veterinarian

To become a Veterinarian generally requires a four-year undergraduate degree in chemistry, biology, animal science, zoology, or something along those lines. Majoring in “Pre-vet studies” is available in some schools, but not all. The reason I say “generally” is because there are programs with an accelerated track to Vet school that require only an Associate degree. For example, Iowa State does not require a 4-year undergraduate degree to gain admission to the College of Veterinary Medicine. Several other Vet schools have accelerated programs as well. If you’re a highly focused, outstanding student in high school, you may be lucky enough to transition to what’s called a “direct entry” Vet program. These students transition right from undergraduate school into Vet school. Purdue University offers a similar program.

Most Veterinary programs require a certain number of hours experience of working with animals. We often have Veterinary students work at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts either before or while receiving an education. Some students work or volunteer at area Veterinary clinics. The exposure to real life pet care is invaluable. This experience also shows dedication to the field and can help with obtaining professional references.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, an aspiring Veterinarian has several avenues available to them. They could go on to obtain a master’s degree of their choice or go directly into Veterinary school to earn a DVM, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. A DVM is a four-year degree program. After obtaining a DVM, many graduates choose to continue their schooling an extra year for specialty training as interns. An additional 2 – 5 years of residency training prepares them for a wide variety of specialties like the ones needed by my previous dog: ophthalmology, cardiology, even neurology, dermatology, zoo medicine, etc… After completing the additional training, a Veterinarian can become “board certified”. A board-certified Veterinarian is one that has passed an examination regarding their skill and knowledge in that specialty area. Currently, there are 41 (!!) distinct specialties! Wow. You can view a list of specialties here.

After schooling, a state license is required to practice medicine. Before a license can be obtained, the graduate must pass the NAVLE, North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. The test consists of 360 multiple-choice questions pertaining to animal species and diagnoses, basic Veterinary science, work situations, clinical and professional competencies, and more. Eeek!

Veterinary licensing in Virginia

In order to be licensed to practice Veterinary medicine in the state of Virginia, the applicant must have received a degree in Veterinary medicine from an AVMA approved college; have passed the NAVLE exam with an acceptable score; sign a statement that they have read, understand and will abide by Virginia statutes and regulations governing the practice of veterinary medicine; provide proof of citizenship; attest to no violation of the Code of Virginia (which is basically a “good conduct” type of code – no misdemeanors or felonies, unprofessional conduct, abuse of alcohol or drugs, etc..); and cough-up the $200.00 fee. If the applicant has practiced Veterinary medicine in another state, they must provide verification that their license from that state is in good standing.

Although I do not personally see how the human brain can contain all of this, the learning does not stop there. New diseases crop up and new treatments are continually being developed. A Veterinarian must stay on top of it. A certain amount of continuing study is mandatory to maintaining a license too. In Virginia, 15 hours of continuing education is required annually.

Do you want to be a Veterinarian?

The outlook is good for those special people that commit themselves to the hard work it takes to become a Veterinarian. Job growth is strong and the demand for Veterinarians is expected to increase much faster than the average for other occupations. It’s a tough job, physically and emotionally stressful, but the reward is great. We applaud the Veterinarian and appreciate their efforts, as well as their continued dedication to all things pet related. THANK YOU for taking care of our furbabies!


If you have any questions regarding Holiday Barn Pet Resorts services, feel free to reach out to either of our locations!Glen Allen or Midlothian. We would love to help you however we can!

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