Animal allies

Communication barriers: A vet should be a good observer as animals are unable to communicate their problems

The lowdown

Veterinarians, or vets, are physicians/surgeons for animals and practitioners of veterinary medicine. They are trained to take care of health and management of animals, including pets, domestic animals, laboratory animals, avian species, aquatic animals and wild animals like the big cats and other animals kept in a zoo. While treating an animal, experience counts far more than hi-tech machinery and medical tests. Keeping the animal calm is another concern. A vet first checks with the owner about the pet’s temperament and then proceeds to touch the animal. Even then, an aggressive animal may have to be muzzled and leashed before treatment begins. In case of a zoo or a large dairy operation, big animals are first confined to a small enclosure so that they are unable to cause injury to the vet – and only then does the doctor examine them. Though the curriculum in India covers all aspects of animal treatment, including psychology, a vet still needs to sharpen his/her skills through practice in chosen areas. Job opportunities are good, both in the government and private sector

The average day of a veterinarian:
9am: Open clinic
9.30am: Examine the pets, conduct check-ups and prescribe medicines
11am: Instruct assistants on pet grooming
1pm: Lunch
2pm: Read medical journals
4pm: Resume examining pets
6pm: Consult with pet owners
7pm: Wind up
He/she is also obliged to attend to emergencies at odd hours

The payoff
In the government sector, a vet can earn around Rs. 45000-Rs. 50000 per month in pay band three with non-practicing allowance. In the private sector, salary starts at Rs. 30,000-Rs. 35,000 per month, which will rise with experience and designation. After ten years of experience in the profession, one can earn Rs. 1 lakh per month or more. Money is better in the sales and marketing department of pharmaceutical companies or pet food firms, but your performance speaks more than your knowledge does. In private practice, your income entirely depends upon your clientele and performance. In a posh area, where pet clinics also double as grooming centres, a client could be willing to pay thousands for a 30-minute job

* You must have deep affection for animals and patience, this make animals feel comfortable
* Be ready to work in rural settings. This could be necessary if you want to do research or work in a government set-up
* You should be a good observer — as your patients will not be able to communicate their problems
* Be fearless. A vet should not be scared of an animal, no matter how ferocious it is

Getting there
You will have to finish BVSc & AH (bachelor of veterinary science and animal husbandry) from a university recognised by the Veterinary Council of India. For specialisation, go for MVSc in one of these areas — medicine, surgery, biochemistry, genetics and breeding, biotechnology, pharmacology and toxicology, pathology, physiology, nutrition, animal product technology, immunology, etc. After MVSc, you can work in research or academics at centres of repute like the Indian Veterinary Research Institute or a state university

Institutes and URLs
* Bombay Veterinary College
* Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Hisar
* Dr GC Negi College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Palampur

Pros and cons
* You have many avenues before you, besides private practice — government job, NGO or research 
* The money is reasonably good from the start
* A lot of the job options in rural areas

There is tremendous scope in this field. With a gamut of options available, there is every reason to let the animal lover in you turn into a professional  -- VK Gupta, vice president, Indian Association of Veterinary Pathologists


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