Becoming a zoo vet

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Zoo veterinarians maintain the health and welfare of animals in captivity, which is a highly rewarding, yet challenging role.

Whether you're already a qualified vet looking to specialise in zoological medicine, or about to begin studying and are exploring your options, here is a brief overview of what's involved in becoming a zoo vet, and what you need in order to qualify.

Qualifications and experience

Zoo veterinarians undergo the same training at undergraduate level as those who will treat domestic animals. This means completing an undergraduate degree in veterinary science and medicine, and registering with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

You will then need to continue training and studying in order to specialise in zoological medicine. However, you will start off by working with domestic animals in a general veterinary practice – this is where you will establish your core skills and learn how to compare and contrast various animal species.

Voluntary wildlife work will also provide exposure to other, more unusual species that would not necessarily be brought into a general veterinary practice for treatment.

Further training

As well as building up several years' experience treating domestic animals, you will also need to complete a postgraduate degree in wildlife health and medicine.

The European College of Zoological Medicine (ECZM) offers routes into a few specialist areas of zoological medicine, including zoo health management, avian, small mammal and herpetology.

The college encourages those intending to specialise in this field to take part in one of their residency programmes – several of which are available from ECZM all over the world.

What's involved in the role of a zoo vet?

There is a lot more involved in the role of a zoo vet than you may realise. Myriad situations arise, where you would need to treat animals in a variety of ways, from removing parasites to castration.

Preventative treatment is also part of the job, from administering health screenings and carrying out x-rays, to dentistry and taking blood samples.

You will also be required to train other vets, partake in conservation projects and publish academic papers.

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