Who is a veterinarian and what does it take to be one?
A veterinarian spends 6 years in the university to attain that title. 100 level is basically made up of basic science courses of physics, chemistry and biology- zoology or botany.
Subsequent levels see them study anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, virology, immunology, entomology, protozoology, helminthology, pharmacology and toxicology, theriogeniology and obstetrics, dentistry, optometry, internal medicine and surgery.
After the Pre-Clinicals , a Veterinarian proceeds to clinics after the 4th year and they do clinic rotations in small animal internal medicine (dogs and cats), large animal internal medicine (ruminants, horses, all wildlife), microbiology, theriogeniology and production, surgery, parasitology, ambulatory medicine and poultry.
Also like in human medicine, the final degree is unclassified and you either pass and graduate as a doctor or you fail and re-sit or repeat.
Upon graduation you automatically become a member of the Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN) and register with the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) and you are then issued a license and a VCN Number identical to you only. Licenses are renewed each year.
During service, (NYSC) Vets DO NOT teach. They are posted to Vet clinics or establishments like abattoirs and they are paid an allowance same as a human medic and usually above regular corps members. They can also do locum private practice to earn more.
Are there any similarities between the veterinary medicine and a human medicine?
Asides from the fact that veterinarians and medics are referred to as Doctors, a lot of people may not know that animals share similar body anatomy and physiology with humans. Almost all muscles present in humans are present in animals. The basic physiology and functioning of humans and animals are also the same with even more complexities and variations in animals.
It is worthy to also note that almost all procedures carried out on humans are also done on animals. Veterinary establishments and teaching hospitals are able to do surgeries and procedures like radiography (x-rays), ultrasonography (ultrasounds), CT scans, ECG, EMG, and similar tests. Laboratory tests involving blood, stool, urine, biopsies and the likes are also carried out on animals.
Human and animal diseases are also similar and treated alike. Almost all drugs used in humans are also used on animals. Though not all are licensed for use in animals and not all animal drugs are licensed for human use, drugs are often shared between both professions.
All other fields of dentistry, optometry, gynaecology, orthopedics and the likes are also similar.
Is Veterinary Medicine a difficult course to study?
The answer is more of a Yes than a no.
The reasons are numerous. You should know that all institutions that offer the course has veterinary medicine as the course with by far the highest number of credit units to pass before graduation in any Nigerian university. This means that the work load of a Veterinary Doctor is a humongous.
A vet student is required to study anatomy, physiology, reproduction and medicine of different species ranging from domestic animals like dog, cattle, chicken, horses to lions, tigers, crocodiles, ostriches e.t.c.
The absence of supporting professions in Nigeria like veterinary nurse, pharmacists and dentists also mean a veterinarian does a lot of pharmacology/toxicology, microbiology , optometry and even dentistry.
The risk involved in animals means additional techniques are taught. On graduation, a veterinary graduate is a certified physician/surgeon and can carry out complex surgeries from Caesarian sections, orthopedic surgeries, graft and basic plastic/cosmetic surgeries and the likes. A veterinarian is also thoroughly trained to determine cause of death at post mortem and is a trained gross pathologist. It goes on…
Do they use basic medical tools?
A veterinarian is a jack of all trade in medicine and knows a lot and YES, stethoscopes, thermometers, surgical wears and kits and other kits are also used.
Is Veterinary Practice Lucrative in Nigeria?
Nigeria is still growing and the profession like many others has challenges.
In Government, Veterinary officials are employed at the same entry level and paid the same salary as Human medics.
In the academics, a Veterinarian usually earns more than the average lecturer based on certain hazard and risk allowances.
In private practice however, it is a lot tougher for a Vet as Nigerians are only beginning to learn to value animals. Even at that, a number of vets have been successful as private practioners.
Vets are millionaires from handling Fulani cattle and large farms with birds, and other commercial farms.
A Vet’s knowledge also means that various pharmaceutical companies employ vets as reps. Pet feed companies, poultry feed companies, banks with agric loan schemes, colleges of agriculture and NGOs are others.
NAFDAC (vet drug dept.), the Nigerian Armed Forces (Military horse units and bioterrorism unit), Police / Civil Defense (Police Dog Unit), Prisons (Prison farms) are amongst vet employers.
A vet is always employed on one or two levels above a normal degree holder. All universities with veterinary medicine have teaching hospitals and are employers of labour. In the last 2 to 3 years, many federal institutions are opening more vet schools in addition to what was available (over 8 veterinary schools before) and are looking at the future prospects (UNILORIN, UNIJOS, UNIBEN, some Universities of Agriculture and Private universities). No school wants to be left behind.
Countries in Africa e.g. South Africa, Botswana , Kenya survive on wildlife and animal farming. Oil is falling, agriculture is on the rise.
Self employment is the inn thing, Veterinary knowledge makes you a potential farmer and business man/woman as you can raise your own animals. Only a Veterinary and a Pharmacist license is recognized for drug imports for animals and humans respectively.
Do Vets only treat animals?
No! Veterinarians are also core indirectly human health providers. Most countries have animal and human health agencies working side by side under the One Health Initiative. Over 70% of diseases in humans in the last decade have come from animals and Vets play huge roles in curing these zoonoses.
Today in some EU countries, even in human hospitals for every few number of human doctors a Vet Dr. is attached(e.g. 5:1) to assist with handling zoonotic diseases (i.e. disease from animals).
Vets are also needed in health agencies and public health institutions like WHO, CDC, FAO, OIE and the likes both home and abroad.
In Nigeria, each state has a veterinary clinic and each abattoir in a state has one or more veterinarian attached to inspect slaughtered meat and prevent disease transfer to humans. Diseased animals are condemned or diseased body parts removed to prevent disease, so a veterinarian is out there saving our lives everyday. You will be surprised at how many diseases like tuberculosis a Veterinarian encounters each day and prevents from general circulation. Thus, ensuring only wholesome animal products are available for human consumption.
Asides these, food processing agencies, food quality assurance, environmental health and sanitation and water process inspections and supervision are roles veterinarians handle.
Public health, Disease surveillance, monitoring and eradication are other roles.
Many significant medical researches done in Nigeria emanate from Veterinary medicine. Today, the world approaches medicine as ONE HEALTH: Human health, Animal health and Environmental health. That is the only way to succeed in health issues.
In conclusion, Veterinary medicine is a noble profession. The title is DVM (doctor of veterinary medicine) and you are a doctor in your own right, respected in the society and can make a lot for yourself. No job is a bed of roses, nor perfect but certain professions give you self-dignity, respect and can make you comfortable. Paths are made by walking!
This article was originally written as a rejoinder on Nairaland. You can read it here. Many thanks to Dr. Adah Ogwuche for the permission to repost this article.
Dr. Adah Ogwuche is from North Central Nigeria. A graduate of veterinary medicine from Ahmadu Bello University and with a Masters in Veterinary Public Health from University of Glasglow, Scotland, United Kingdom.
He has spoken in a couple of forums including Building Bridges in Medical Sciences (BBMS) conference at the university of Cambridge in 2016.
He can be reached via his social media handles:
Facebook and LinkedIn: Adah Ogwuche