Veterinary Medicine

Subject Overview

What is Veterinary Medicine?

Veterinary Medicine is a central, crucial part of modern biomedicine. Whether vets are caring for companion animals, optimising agricultural production, honing the abilities of animal athletes, improving animal welfare, or engaged in conservation, they all spend their time doing one thing – applying their understanding of basic biological processes to enhance animal and human health and wellbeing.

Because of this, veterinary medicine is an extremely varied discipline, bringing together theoretical and practical skills in demanding and rewarding ways. To appreciate the complexities of being a vet, one only has to consider the skills required to manage a broken leg in an aggressive cat with pre-existing diabetes and Cushing’s disease, and which belongs to an impoverished owner!

What kind of skills will I gain if I study Veterinary Medicine?

There are three main types of skills vets must acquire.

First, they must have a thorough understanding of the scientific basis of health and disease in animals, and also understand how this relates to human health, too. All veterinary students learn the anatomical, physiological, molecular, genetic, pathological and pharmacological underpinnings of their future career – indeed, this usually takes up much of the first half of their training at vet school.

Second, vets need an array of practical skills and knowledge to do their job. Obvious examples are the intricacies of diagnosis, medicine and surgery, but just as important are animal handling and management, and a detailed understanding of animal-related industries.

Finally, vets are professionals, and this carries with it yet another range of skills. Vets must be aware of the legal and ethical framework under which they work, focus on the diverse and far-reaching social aspects of what they do, and understand the importance of economic and management factors in their everyday activities.

What qualifications do I need if I want to study Veterinary Medicine at university?

There are three types of qualification which vet schools seek in potential veterinary applicants.

First, academic achievement in science/maths subjects is very important. Would-be vets should seriously consider studying Chemistry and two other science/maths subjects in their last two years at school, and aim to achieve high grades in all of them. Some, but not all, vet schools prefer Biology to be one of the ‘other’ science subjects.

Second, applicants should acquire some work experience before they apply. Some veterinary schools have very strict requirements about how much and what sort of work experience is gained, whereas others, such at Cambridge, are more interested in how applicants discuss whatever work experience they have at interview. Consult individual vet school websites for details.

Third, enthusiasm for the varied world of Veterinary Medicine is extremely important. It is true that applicants signify considerable enthusiasm by applying for a five or six year course, but you should also explain your commitment in your application. In addition, UK vet schools usually interview applicants before admitting them, so you should be prepared to discuss your scientific and clinical interests!

What kind of career will I have if I study Veterinary Medicine?

Veterinary Medicine provides a gateway to a wide variety of careers. All UK veterinary graduates become members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which allows them to practise as vets in the EU, and many other countries around the world – in any animal species. Many vet graduates spend much of their career in veterinary practice, often honing their clinical skills with further postgraduate training, but many other career options are available. Many vets follow research careers in universities and institutes, some work for governments, charities or other non-governmental organisations, the armed forces, or in a wide variety of commercial settings. Whatever your interest, Veterinary Medicine prepares you for an enormous range of future careers.

  • Breathing Disorders in Short Nosed Dogs

    Brachycephalic syndrome is of current interest in the veterinary world and press due to the soaring popularity of the extreme brachycephalic (literally ‘short-headed’) dog breeds, such as pugs, French bulldogs, bulldogs worldwide, and concerns about the welfare of these dogs.

  • Bats, bat viruses and One Health in Africa

    This topic will focus on bats and their viruses, particularly in Africa.

  • Vet Bills

    Veterinary care is often viewed as expensive, to the extent that vets are sometimes even seen as greedy. Obviously, vets can partly overcome this problem by clearly explaining costs in advance of any treatment, but still the perception persists.

  • Pregnancy Immunology

    If you are doing Biology at school, you will probably have learnt about the immune system, and a little bit about pregnancy, too. However, one thing which may never have crossed your mind is that pregnancy causes a potential conflict with the immune system. Why?

  • Genetic Variation and Evolution

    This topic straddles material that falls into two important areas of your A-level syllabus: genetics and evolution. The link between these topics may not be clear to you, and so this module will guide you through some of the complex ways in which these topics are related.

  • Haemostasis, Coagulation and Thrombosis

    This Biology topic focuses on three inter-related areas - haemostasis, coagulation and thrombosis.

  • Vaccines and Public Health

    You probably don’t remember getting your first vaccinations, but your childhood immunizations have provided protection from measles, pertussis, diptheria, polio, and other diseases that were once common. This topic explores the science behind existing vaccines, the risks and benefits associated with vaccines, and the challenges in designing improved and new vaccines for a variety of diseases.

  • Doctor doctor I've got an Itis

    The suffix “itis” seems to find its way into many medical terms. Have you ever thought about what exactly it means?

  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry

    The production, synthesis and development of pharmaceuticals are a key application of chemistry.