Large Animal

The Specialty Practice of a Large Animal Veterinarian

Jul 7 • 3 minute read

Being a veterinarian can be fun and exciting, but it’s also a lot of hard work. Large-animal veterinarians spend their days treating everything from cattle and horses to pigs, sheep, and goats. These vets spend much of their time examining and vaccinating livestock on ranches and farms. They may also treat minor ailments and perform surgeries as needed.

Large Animal Veterinarians: What Do They Do?

The daily tasks of large animal veterinarians vary widely depending on their specific specialty. For example, a large animal anaesthesiologist may handle large animals’ anaesthesia and pain management needs. They may also need to be proficient in veterinary terminology and to understand and treat the diseases specific to each large animal species. Specialists may focus on equine, exotic, exotic orthopedic, or large animal medicine.

Qualifications for a Large Animal Veterinarian

The first step toward becoming a large animal veterinarian is earning a bachelor’s degree. The degree may be in a field like equine or large animal science, depending on their chosen specialty. The vet must then earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. To become licensed veterinarians, large animal vets may also need to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) exam.

After earning a degree, large animal vets often must pass the required state licensing exams. Some states have unique licensing requirements for large animal veterinarians, depending on the type of practice they plan to operate.

When to Call a Large Animal Vet

When a large animal shows signs of sickness, it’s a good idea to consult a vet who has experience treating the specific species. Livestock and other large animal often experience different health challenges than companion animals such as cats and dogs. For example, cows often suffer from laminitis. This disorder is where excess plantar pressure, caused by a combination of high pre-existing inflammation, poor hoof structure, and excess cartilage, destroys the tissues between the heel and the coffin joint. A large animal veterinarian would have the training and experience to identify and treat laminitis and other diseases common in livestock.

Unique Health Conditions They May Treat

Large animal vets may be called upon to treat various health conditions in the animals they care for. Some common conditions treated in large animals include:

  • Arthritis-causing joint diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and laminitis
  • Medical conditions that affect the reproductive system, such as uroliths in horses and polycystic ovarian syndrome in cattle
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as equine metritis and equine pemphigus
  • Skin disorders, such as bacterial folliculitis, interdigital dermatitis, and sebaceous adenitis

The Daily Activities of Large Animal Veterinarians

The day-to-day tasks of a large animal veterinarian can vary widely. Depending on the needs of their patients, a large animal vet may spend their time providing preventive care, diagnosing health conditions, administering treatment, or performing surgery. Given the size of the animals they care for, many large animal vets travel to homes and farms to provide care. A large animal vet’s daily routine may include:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions in large animals, such as arthritis, lameness, and colic in cattle and horses
  • Minor surgery, such as spaying or neutering male animals, removing splints and bandages from injured animals, and minor dental work, such as cleaning and polishing teeth
  • Examining and cleaning large animals, such as horses, cows, sheep, and pigs
  • Managing medications
  • Preventive care, such as ensuring vaccinations are kept current and worming or deworming protocols are followed
  • Preventive health care, such as annual physical exams and dental cleanings

The Value of a Trusted Large Animal Veterinarian

Whether you are a farmer or rancher with herds of livestock or you own and ride a horse for pleasure, you depend on your vet to keep your animals healthy and in good shape. Knowing you can trust a large animal vet to handle everything from emergencies to routine care gives you peace of mind. Make sure you establish a relationship with your local large animal vet so that you can partner with them to promote a better future for your animals and you.

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