Are you considering becoming a large animal veterinarian as a career option?

If you are, you should pay close attention to this article. We’ll be talking to you about the important steps you need to take to become a certified large animal veterinarian. The challenges involved and the perks of this profession.

A lot of people, especially ranchers and farmers depend on large animal veterinarians. They rely on them to handle the health needs of their horses, sheep, cattle, goats and other livestock. Taking care of large animals comes with its own set of unique challenges, which includes but not limited to the need to have some specialized knowledge about the animal. They are often dealing with strong and very powerful patients. It is more worrying because many of these vets usually work in non-clinical environments such as stables and ranches.

Let’s dive in right away.

What is a large animal veterinarian?

A large animal veterinarian, also referred to as a livestock veterinarian provides health care to large animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and pigs. Large animal veterinarians are mostly doctoral degree holders in veterinary medicine. And usually have a special training in taking care of large animals.

Large animal veterinarians go through the same training with other veterinarians. Plus the graduation from veterinary school and clinical rotations. A large animal vet may also undergo extra clinical studies. As well as residency to acquire the relevant and requisite skills to care for horses and livestock.

What Does a Large Animal Veterinarian Do?

Every veterinarian handles the health needs and requirements of their animal patients. Some of their roles and duties include:

  • Conducting routine exams and testing for common health conditions.
  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries.
  • Handling x-ray machines and other medical technology.
  • Offering advice to owners and caregivers.
  • Prescribing and dispensing treatments and medications.

Due to the fact this is a specialized job, large animal veterinarians often have a close working relationship with their clients. Usually, to take care of large groups of animals. Importantly, they are required to have up-to-date information about the United States Department of Agriculture, food science safety cases as well as local and state animal welfare laws. Additionally, a large animal vet needs to have a decent knowledge of record-keeping to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. This is necessary to ensure they are on the right side of the law and their patients getting the best care.

Public Health Issues

The role of large animal veterinarians is indispensable in maintaining public health and safety. This is due to the fact that these vets take care of animals that are used in the production and processing of foods for public consumption.

If adequate measures are not put in place, diseases and infections that affect animals can also affect people who eat meat. Or those involved in the processing animals. Thus, veterinarians play a vital role maintaining public health. By identifying, diagnosing, treating, and managing illnesses that might hurt public health. A viable instance is when a vet identifies a potential epidemic among farm animals and swiftly. And effectively treats the animals to stop further spread of the disease and potential meat contamination.


A vet may also work as a consultant to owners of large animal farms, stables and ranches. They could work with certain clients to draft specialized foods, exercise, facilities. And feeding schedules to help keep their client animals in good health. It might be a bi-weekly or monthly appointment, depending on client needs.

Best Large Animal Veterinarian Schools in the US

For anyone interested in becoming a professional large animal veterinarian. There are certain educational requirements that need to be obtained to make such dream a reality. Before I talk about some of the best large veterinarian schools you can find in the US. I want give a quick overview of what the process of becoming a vet looks like plus the basic entry level requirements into these schools:

According to the United States Department of Labor‘s Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary programs take an average of four years of full-time study to finish and usually require at least three years of structured education in classroom, laboratory and clinical environments plus a year of clinical rotations. Vet schools in the US issue the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree (DVM).

One of the best ways to boost your chances of gaining admission into the top large-animal veterinary schools is getting real-life experience. Some of the highly ranked vet schools expect applicants to have ample real-life experience working with animals. This could be working on a farm or as an animal trainer. Additionally, some people decide to serve as veterinary assistants before enrolling in veterinary school.

Here is a list of some of the best large animal veterinarian schools available in the U.S:

University of Findlay

This is one of the highly ranked universities in the country that offer vet courses. For students offered provisional admission into this school. The have an opportunity of studying undergraduate programs. In courses such as animal science, equestrian studies, pre-veterinary medicine. As well as a master’s degree in health management and environmental safety.

You can find more information about the school and available courses here.

Cornell University

According to U.S News, Cornell is one the best universities in the U.S for people interested in vet studies. This school offers courses covering the basics of veterinary medicine. As well as doctoral degree in veterinary medicine. To get more information, visit Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine the official website.

Auburn University

Auburn University is one of the highly ranked vet schools in the U.S. Getting admitted is competitive as other vet schools on the list. This is because they are one of the best in the U.S and a lot of students have something positive to say about the institution. For more information about their programs, requirements and other details. Visit the College of Veterinary Medicine site.

North Carolina State University

This is another top university in the U.S where you can study large animal veterinary. It is unique in such a way that you will be permitted to combine your studies to get an MBA or a Ph.D. in addition to your doctorate of veterinary medicine. You will get to study at the famous North Carolina State Veterinary Hospital in your fourth year.

For more information about admission requirements, visit here.

Texas A&M College Station

This vet school stands tall among other highly ranked veterinary schools mentioned in this article. The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program was established in 1916. The four-year program covers three years of classroom and lab instruction. While the a full year is dedicated to clinical rotations in the teaching hospital. If you would like to find out more information about the school, go here.

Ohio State University

Do you want to study in a school where you will get an opportunity to enjoy some exciting sporting events. While pursuing your animal veterinary program? Ohio State University offers you that full package. This is one of the highly ranked vet schools in the U.S. It is home to the home to the Ohio State Veterinary Center, which treats more than 30,000 patients yearly. You will get a chance to work there as a student.

For more information about getting admitted and other questions you may have, you may visit college’s official website.

Michigan State University

According to World Report and U.S News, this is one of the best universities to study vet medicine. The College of Veterinary Medicine of Michigan State University offers graduate and undergraduate programs in several disciplines. They include: environmental sciences, integrative biology, integrative toxicological sciences. Plus large animal clinical sciences, and comparative medicine. Go here for more information.

University of California – Davis

University of California doesn’t only rank as one of the best in the U.S, it is one of the one of the highly ranked universities globally. It is one of the best vet schools for large animals in the United States. Gaining admission into this vet school, as with others mentioned in this article is competitive. There are exams, interviews, and requirements you need to meet before you can apply. You have to fight for your spot. For more information, visit here.


New graduates are required to obtain professional licensing before practicing as Veterinarians. Every state and government bodies that hire veterinarians require a passing score on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination for licensure. Additionally, some other states conduct their own licensing exam for vets. Although, according to the BLS, a vet working with a state or federal government agency doesn’t require a state license.

But, it is important to clarify that not all states have reciprocity policies. Which means that they may choose not to recognize veterinary licenses issued by other states. Thus, a large animal veterinarian who has their clientele in more than one states. They may want to consider getting licenses in other states to avoid getting into trouble.

Residency and Certification

Although completing a residency is not a prerequisite to get licensed. A lot of vets often decide to complete extra clinical training after graduating. This can be crucial for people who want to specialize in livestock care.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes several veterinary practice specializations. Vets who undergo extra training are eligible for professional certification. This is usually in their area of specialization. Take for an instance, a veterinary surgeon specialized in large animal care may get a certification in large animal surgery.

How Much is a large animal veterinarian salary?

The average annual salary for a veterinarian, according to the BLS was $90,420 as of May 2017. What this means is that about 50 percent of vets earn more than this figure and the other half earn less. The top 10 percent earners were reported to have made around $159,320 and the bottom 10 percent made a little below $53,980.

It is important to note that salary varies by region. According to the BLS, Hawaii is the state with the highest annual average salary for vets. As of May 2017, the average annual salary of a veterinarian in Hawaii was $198,340. Washington DC came a distant second with an average salary of $125,100. The salary in other states is significantly lower than these top two.

This is a survey of veterinarians conducted by It revealed the relationship between years of experience and salary:

0-5 years: $72,000

5-10 years: 83,000

10-20 years: $89,000

20 years: $93,000

Should you start as a large animal veterinarian assistant?

If you are considering a career in this profession, what is the best place to start? Considering the fact many of the best veterinary schools in the U.S require some real-life experience with large animals before one can be be considered for admission. Anyone who want to boost their chances of getting admitted will consider starting as a veterinarian assistant. Doing this also affords one the opportunity to learn from certified professionals.

Duties of a veterinarian assistant:

A veterinarian assistant works at Animal hospitals, clinics, research laboratories, universities. While veterinary technicians handles jobs such as getting animals ready for surgery. Administering medication, vaccines, and treatments, providing emergency first aid care.

A veterinary assistant provides support by cleaning equipment, feeding, monitoring exercises. They are also involved with grooming patients, and getting surgery suites ready. Additionally, they handle clerical and administrative work.

A veterinarian assistant earns an average of $25,000 annually. You’ll need an Associate’s degree to practice.

If you decide to pursue your interest in large animal veterinary. Starting as an assistant could have a huge positive impact on your ascension in the field of veterinary medicine. It helps you build your relationship with co-vets, patients as well as their owners.

Professional Associations

Like most professions do, vets have many associations, protecting their interests. The American Veterinary Medical Association is one of the most popular veterinary bodies. It has well over 80,000 members. There are other groups for large animal vets. They include the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. (AABP) And the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP).

Job Prospects

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veterinary profession is expected to expand at a rate of 9 percent through 2024. This projected growth is faster than the average for every other position reviewed in their salary survey data.

But, for large animal vets, this won’t be a problem as most vets decide to specialize in small animal practice. This means that the demand for large-animal vets will continue to be on the rise in the marketplace, especially in rural areas.

Other Considerations

The work of a large animal veterinarian is unique in different ways. There are special requirements that one needs to be to able to do well in this profession. First on the list is physical strength. Handling large animals can be physically demanding. While all vets are at the risk of getting attacked by animals, the degree of injuries a vet suffers from a large animal can be deadly. Large animal vets need to be watchful and sensitive to the mood of their patients at all times. They also need to be prepared to move quickly if the animal attacks them.

Veterinarians need to have their health in shape and ensure they go for regular check-ups. This is because vets are usually exposed to body wastes and pathogens carried by sick animals. Vets need to take measures to reduce their exposure to some of the potentially deadly viruses and bacteria that can be found on large animals.

Vets often need to develop a stress management technique. To effectively deal with the physical, mental and emotional stress they frequently go through. Many of them, when dealing with their patients and their owners. Some of who might be emotionally connect to their animals.

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