Veterinary science: Vocation for animal lovers

With a multiplying number of people adopting pets, going the Dr. Dolittle way could transform into a satisfying and increasingly rewarding career option.

It is unlikely to be recommended by high-profile career counsellors. But for the growing community of compassionate animal lovers, in both urban and rural areas, going the Dr. Dolittle way could transform into a satisfying and rewarding career option.

Traits required to be a good vet

Interest in tending animals can be sparked at a young age, when a family pet is taken to a veterinarian or a vet visits the family farm. Individuals interested in veterinary medicine as a career path are expected to have enquiring minds, sensitivity, an interest in the biological sciences, and a love and understanding of animals. Professional veterinarians tend to work long and irregular hours in animal hospitals and clinics. Those in a large animal practice also work out of specially equipped trucks or cars and may drive considerable distances to farms and ranches. Inevitably, veterinarians have to be prepared to work outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Eligibility

To be admitted into an undergraduate study programme in the veterinary sciences, one should have completed 17 years of age by the month of December in the year of admission and the Plus Two or equivalent examination with English, physics, chemistry, and biology and any other elective subject, averaging at least 50 percent in the five subjects.

Each vet college prescribes different criteria for admission which could be based on academic merit (Plus Two averages) or performance in an entrance examination conducted by the college. Moreover most state governments conduct common entrance tests (like Maharashtra’s MHCET) for admission into government veterinary colleges. The Veterinary Council of India also conducts an all-India common entrance examination every May.

Courses in veterinary science

The bachelor of veterinary science and animal husbandry (B.V.Sc and AH) course is of five years duration. The syllabus in the pre-clinical phase includes physics, chemistry, biology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and allied subjects; and animal husbandry, veterinary medicine and surgery, and veterinary hygiene and pathology in the clinical phase. Practical exposure to real life situations and field experience are inherent to the curriculum.

For higher studies in veterinary science, the Masters degree programme — M.V.Sc (two years duration) offers several specialisation options: anatomy; animal nutrition; genetics and animal breeding; animal reproduction; microbiology; parasitology; pathology; pharmacology; physiology and biochemistry; surgery; poultry science; food, hygiene and veterinary public health; dairy cattle production etc. The minimum eligibility to enroll in an M.V.Sc programme is a B.V.Sc and AH degree.

Undergraduate and postgraduate study programmes in veterinary science and animal husbandry are offered by specialist colleges in almost every state of the Indian Union. However inter-state admissions are difficult because most colleges impose domicile restrictions, except for 15 percent of seats which are reserved for those who top the All India Common Entrance Examination.

Veterinary colleges in India

The very first veterinary college in India was established in Mumbai in 1883, followed by colleges at Kolkata, Chennai, and Patna. In 1936, Madras Veterinary College introduced its B.V.Sc degree programme. After independence, several state governments promoted veterinary colleges under the jurisdiction of their departments of animal husbandry and affiliated to state universities. In 1958, postgraduate programmes in veterinary science were introduced at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar. Subsequently, Masters and Ph D programmes in veterinary sciences and animal husbandry were started in several veterinary colleges of the country. Today, every state across India hosts at least one veterinary college.

Career opportunities

With the Indian economy growing at 18–19 percent plus per annum, employment opportunities for veterinarians are on the upswing. Jobs are available in government veterinary dispensaries and polyclinics, dairy units, poultry and stud farms, sheep and goat farms, piggeries, abattoirs, zoos, wild life sanctuaries, and pharma companies. Coterminously commercial private sector firms offer excellent pay and perks to veterinary scientists in their research and development labs. Moreover in urban India, with a multiplying number of people adopting pets, private clinics are mushrooming and veterinary practice is becoming more lucrative.

Another new development is the several animal rights organisations which have sprung up. For example, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) works in close coordination with policy makers and educates people about animal rights. Other NGOs in this field are the All-India Animal Welfare Association (AIAWA), Karuna for Animals in Distress, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) etc. With animal welfare organisations multiplying belatedly, veterinarians are in great demand.

Rewarding career option 

“Working as a vet is psychologically very rewarding. Although this is not the profession for those who want big bucks, with peoples love for animals and awareness of their needs increasing, one can make a comfortable living out of private practice,” says Dr. Leena Dalal, a graduate of the highly reputed Bombay Veterinary College who also acquired a Masters in animal surgery in the mid-1980s.

Marriage and raising a family distracted Dalal from her mission of helping and comforting animals. But 13 years ago she started doing honorary work for AIAWA, and five years ago she inaugurated her own state-of-the-art clinic in Churchgate, south Mumbai.

According to Dalal, vets in rural areas are also doing well and plenty of government jobs are available for vets today. “Commercial organisations in the private sector offer good prospects to vets in their product research and development labs while horse breeding, stud farms, and race courses offer enviable pay packages,” says Dalal.

Quite evidently, Dalal has no regrets about her career choice. “Personally, I thoroughly enjoy being a vet. It is a gratifying profession as animals make nicer patients than humans. The joy one gets out of caring for animals is inestimable. But only those who genuinely love animals and delight in them should enter this profession,” she warns.

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