Veterinarian FAQs

  • Introduction

    If you're a pet owner, you're probably familiar with companion animal veterinarians. This type of vet is a general practitioner who provides preventative care, diagnosis, treatments, and surgical services for dogs, cats, and other common pets. Some vets specialize in the care of exotic animals, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and pocket pets. There are veterinarians for livestock and large animals, too. These vets focus on providing care for cattle, horses, pigs, and other animals on the farm.

    Veterinarians can choose to specialize in areas such as nutrition, oncology, cardiology, and many others. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) currently recognizes more than 40 fields of study and 22 veterinary specialist organizations nationwide.
  • How often should I bring my pet in for an exam?

    This depends on the age of your pet. Ideally, puppies should have their first vet visit between six to eight weeks old, and kittens should see the vet within one week of bringing them home. Healthy adult animals need a checkup once per year. Vets recommend two exams per year for senior pets (age 10 and up).

  • What are the benefits of having my pet spayed or neutered?

    Aside from preventing unwanted pregnancy, sterilization has other benefits for pets. Spayed females won't go into heat, and they have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer and mammary gland tumors. Neutering males reduces aggressive behavior, territorial marking, and roaming urges. It also eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer and can reduce the chance of prostate disease.

  • Should my pet be on heartworm medication?

    Dogs are very commonly affected by heartworm disease, so they should be on medication to prevent it all year long. Heartworm preventatives are available as topical “spot-on” medications, monthly chewable pills, and injections that are given every six to 12 months. Heartworms are less common in cats, but preventative medication is still recommended.

  • How often should my pets be vaccinated?

    In general, puppies and kittens need several types of vaccines every three to four weeks until they're 16 weeks old. Depending on the vaccine, your pet might need a booster shot every one to three years. Pets that are indoors-only may require fewer and less frequent vaccinations.

  • Are you supposed to brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth?

    Poor oral hygiene can lead to dental disease in animals as young as two to three years of age. To help prevent this, vets recommend that you brush your pet's teeth at least two to three times a week. Dogs and cats should also have a professional dental cleaning once per year.

  • Is it safe for my cat or dog to be vegan?

    According to the ASPCA, cats need a diet that's high in protein and taurine, which can only be found in meat and other animal products. They also struggle to digest carbohydrates from plants. Dogs can eat plants, but it's difficult to provide adequate nutrition for them on a vegan diet.

  • Why is my dog dragging his butt on the ground?

    Dogs drag their rear ends on the floor for a number of reasons, including clogged anal sacs, intestinal parasites, and food allergies. Some groomers express a dog's anal glands manually, which is often unnecessary and can cause irritation that leads to scooting. If you notice frequent scooting, contact a veterinarian to figure out the cause.

  • What is a brachycephalic breed?

    Brachycephalic animals are prone to obstructive breathing due to the short muzzles and flattened faces they were bred to have. Common brachycephalic breeds are the pug, French and English bulldogs, Boston terrier, Pekingese, shih tzu, boxer, and bull mastiff. Brachycephaly can occur in cats such as the Persian, Himalayan, and Burmese breeds, and in rabbits such as Netherland Dwarfs and Holland Lops.

  • When do I switch from puppy/kitten food to adult food?

    For puppies, it depends on the dog's breed and size. Generally, dogs are considered ready for adult food around 18-24 months of age. Large breeds take a bit longer to mature. Toy breeds can reach their adult size in as little as 10 months. Cats should be transitioned to adult food when they're around 12 months old.

  • Should I declaw my cat?

    It can be tempting to declaw a cat to stop it from scratching your furniture, but it's a medically unnecessary procedure that does the animal more harm than good. Declawing can cause paw and back pain, lameness, tissue necrosis, and discomfort when using the litter box. Better alternatives include keeping your pet's nails trimmed and providing scratching posts around your home.

  • We just found a stray pet. What should I do?

    The pet may already belong to someone, so check for a collar and tags, or have it scanned for a microchip at your local animal shelter or veterinary clinic. Many people who lose a pet will look for it at nearby shelters, so consider leaving the animal there to give the owner a better chance of finding it.

  • Are dogs color blind?

    Dogs don't see in black and white, but they're unable to recognize many of the colors that humans can. The colors they can see best are blue, yellow, and combinations of these shades. Objects that are green, orange, and red appear to be dull brown or gray through a dog's eyes.

  • What degree do you need to be a veterinarian?

    In the United States, vets must obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or Veterinary Medical Doctor (VMD) degree to practice. Some choose a dual DVM/Ph.D. or DVM/M.S. program, and others opt for specialty training after earning their degree. Becoming a veterinarian takes about four years of undergraduate education and four years to complete a DVM or VMD program.

  • How do you become a registered veterinary technician?

    Veterinary technician requirements vary by state. Most vet technicians must complete an AVMA-accredited two-year associate or four-year bachelor's program and pass the VTME exam. Some states have alternate paths to credentialing, such as passing a certification exam at a specialist academy.

  • What do veterinary assistants do?

    Vet assistants help veterinarians and technicians with their daily tasks, set up equipment, and clean key areas of the clinic, such as kennels and operating rooms. There are certification programs for vet assistants, but most are trained for these tasks on the job.

  • What do veterinary technicians do?

    Vet technicians serve many roles in the clinic. They act as surgical nurses, lab and radiography technicians, and supervisors to veterinary assistants. Technicians also meet with pet owners and usually provide the initial exam of their animal. They can administer vaccines and medications, but are not allowed to write prescriptions or provide a diagnosis without veterinarian approval.

  • How much do veterinary assistants/technicians make?

    Veterinary assistants typically earn about $13.75 an hour, or $28,590 per year. Vet technicians, on average, make $17 per hour, or $35,320 per year for full-time employment.

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