April 14th, 2023

The Different Types of Vets

Are you thinking of becoming a veterinary surgeon? If so, then read on to learn about the different types of vets and which area you may be interested in working in once you qualify.

One of the reasons I wanted to become a vet in my early teens, was because of one of my heroes, James Herriot, a vet based in Yorkshire. Whilst reading his books, I came across lots of very lovely, funny, romantic stories about being a vet during the 1930s – 1940s. Today, we would call the type of care James administered mixed practice, as he practiced on both large and small animals.

These days there are many different types of veterinary surgeons, with some still being mixed practitioners, but over time, people have begun to specialise in specific fields.

Veterinary Practitioners

Companion animal veterinarians are those who only treat dogs and cats. This is the most common type of veterinarian. Some of the Companion Animal Vets also practice exotics medicine in animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, tortoises and sometimes snakes, but always focusing on small animal species. Of course, there are those who specialise only in exotics, who we call Exotic Vets or Wildlife Vets and who tend to practice medicine on wild animals that do not necessarily come to a place of care.

vet with dog

Equine Vets only practice on horses, and much of their practice is ambulatory, meaning that they must visit their patients in the stables or they can work in a hospital. Lastly, we have the Farm Animal Vet, who may be specialists in cattle, sheep, poultry or pigs and hold a certificate in that area.  They often go to farms as advisors to help improve milk production on a dairy farm, or make sure that mortality is low on sheep farms by checking their patient's welfare. Always remember that a well-cared for animal tends to produce more!

Veterinary Specialists

It is becoming increasingly more common for veterinarians to specialise their practice in particular fields, such as dermatology, internal medicine, surgery, and diagnostic imaging, particularly in small animal fields.

Having a special interest in dermatology and owning my first small animal practice, I have been fortunate enough to work as a referral vet for veterinarians dealing with difficult cases. It is a common practice within the profession for veterinarians to refer cases to specialists, which is ultimately a beneficial process for everyone involved. Not only do we get to help a patient with an issue, but we are also provided with the patient's entire clinical history, which assists in making a precise diagnosis.

Other Types of Vets

The field of veterinary medicine is incredibly diverse. From overseeing abattoirs and managing food safety to facilitating animal transport and partnering with governmental institutions in the identification and prevention of disease outbreaks, there is a vast range of career options. For example, epidemiologists play an essential role in responding to large-scale outbreaks, such as the foot and mouth outbreak that occurred at the start of the 21st century.

Veterinarians have a wide variety of professional options available to them, from working for the government as the chief Vet of a country up to international organizations such as the United Nations. Additionally, many choose to stay in academia and help educate the next generation of veterinarians, while research-focused roles provide opportunities to study and develop knowledge in a particular field.

There are also vets who work for pharmaceutical companies or a feed company, advising other veterinarians on how to use the products. Some people get a veterinary degree and then go into something very different.


With a veterinary degree, there is no shortage of potential opportunities. Personally, I found my career in this field highly rewarding, so I would definitely suggest it to others. The key factor to success is appreciating both animals and people, as they will both be integral to the job. Having the ability to connect and relate to people is an essential skill to cultivate in whichever field you choose.

So, these are some ideas for what you can do when you finally pass your degree at university.

What is your dream career path in veterinary medicine?

What's the difference between a vet and a vet nurse?

Find out here