How to become a Veterinarian in South Africa
A veterinarian (also known as an “animal doctor”) is a person who protects the health and well-being of animals. They diagnose and control animal diseases, and treat sick and injured animals. They also educate people on caring properly for their pets and livestock. Veterinary doctors are able to work in many different areas of specialisation. These include opening a private practice, teaching, public health, research, government service, private industry, military service etc.
It goes without saying that a good veterinarian must have a great love for animals, because you will work with them every day. You will also need to be dedicated to your job as you will most likely be getting call outs in the early hours of the morning and weekends. Those who specialize in farm or large animals, for example, must often endure working outdoors and in bad weather. Veterinary medicine is not for everyone, yet skilled, qualified and caring veterinary professionals are in great demand in the world today. As long as people have pets, they will need trained and experienced doctors to take care of them.
There are a few cons to becoming a vet, but these jobs are generally very fulfilling. You have the satisfaction of knowing that you are improving the health of and saving the lives of people’s best friends.
Veterinary science is very vast and you can branch off into many specialities. As a result, there are many veterinary jobs available. If you want to make a proper income in this industry, then you will need to specialise and open your own practice. Below we will highlight the different kinds of practices that a qualified veterinarian with the appropriate training can open and specialise in.
This is a veterinarian that specialises in birds. Due to the fact that birds have such a different anatomy to mammals, veterinarians cannot study this at a standard veterinary school. They have to attend special avian classes. This specialization can take between 1 to 4 years.
Equine (Equestrian) veterinary involves horses. These vets examine, test and occasionally operate on or euthanize the animals. Equine veterinarians often have to travel to farms, and work outdoors in various types of weather conditions. Horses are also incredibly expensive, so the level of care that is expected by the horse’s owner is often very high.
A Bovine Veterinarian specialises in large animals. They provide health management services, diagnose and treat cattle. This often takes place on site as cattle are very difficult and expensive to move. As a result, cattle veterinarians are often on the road and need a mobile practice that can travel with them. With the cattle industry continuing to expand worldwide, the demand for cattle veterinary services should continue to increase for the foreseeable future.
When you think of your traditional vet, you are thinking of a canine/feline veterinarian. These are the people you take your normal household pets to for treatment or care. These individuals specialise in dogs and cats and are the most common kinds of veterinarians.
Exotic Companion Mammal
Cats and dogs are not the only animals that people keep as pets. These veterinary specialists will see to all the other mammals that excludes cats and dogs. This can include ferrets, rabbits, mice, rats, monkeys and other small mammals that are kept as pets.
Food Supply Veterinary Medicine (FSVM)
A food supply veterinarian helps to protect the health and welfare of animals that produce animal products such as eggs, milk, meat, wool, and other protein and fibre products. Normal veterinarians monitor the health and well-being of individual animals, whereas food supply vets are more concerned with the health and well-being of an animal population as a whole. They are tasked with controlling disease and monitoring the health of groups of animals to ensure quality and safe-to-consume produce.
People practising Dairy veterinary, provide health advice, medical services and communication programs to the whole dairy supply chain. This includes farms, as well as suppliers to the industry such as national dairy organisations, processors and the stores that sell the final products. The focus is on the success factors: the cows’ health, and the profits derived from and the sustainability of the dairy supply chain.
Swine Health Management (porcine management)
These veterinarians are similar to dairy vets, but they exclusively deal with swine populations. They manage and regulate swine populations as a whole. From their feeding, right up to the meat output. This includes the diagnosis and treatment of the animals, as well as the management, eradication and prevention of swine specific diseases.
Reptile and Amphibians (herpetological)
These veterinarians specialize in all reptiles and amphibians. They care for and promote conservation and humane treatment of these animals. If you have a snake or lizard that need help, then these are the people to go to.
All of the above specializations require the individual to receive their doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and then treat animals in their field of specialization for at least 6 years before they can open a specialised practice.
As you can see, there are many avenues to go down if you want to become a vet. If you are an animal welfare advocate, then you could join a charity organisation like the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). It is a non-profit organisation that helps treat and find homes for abandoned animals.
There are a number of training institutions and associations in the veterinary field in South Africa:
Training Institutions and Associations
The University of Pretoria Faculty of Veterinary Science provides solid training if you want to become a veterinarian in South Africa. The institution is proud to have the second oldest veterinary faculty in Africa. It is the only one of its kind in South Africa and is one of 46 veterinary faculties on the African continent. The university offers an undergraduate veterinary science degree programme and a veterinary nursing diploma programme, as well as a variety of postgraduate degrees. If you want to be a vet in South Africa, then UP is a good choice. Animal health can also be studied through various courses with the University of South Africa (UNISA).
The South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) is a professional association of veterinarians in South Africa. The Association promotes the interests and activities of the professionals in the field and helps veterinarians to fulfil their role in their communities.
There are various benefits to belonging to SAVA, including keeping up-to-date with anything veterinary related. The Association helps with career related queries or complaints and provides a platform for vets to express their issues to other professionals in the industry.
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We hope that this article will help you figure out if becoming a veterinarian is right for you. A veterinary science career path can be incredibly rewarding. Looking for veterinary jobs in your area? Register your CV on Job Mail, browse through the jobs available and start applying for amazing career opportunities today!