Veterinary practices

Veterinary practices have evolved over the years to meet the changing demands of the public. In the middle of the last century most of the work related to agricultural and working animals. In the latter part of the last century there was a dramatic increase in companion animal work. The requirements and expectations of pet owners have also changed and so veterinary practices have had to modify their services to meet these changing needs. 

Emphasis on pet health care

Improvements in human health care have been mirrored in the veterinary field. People demand the same advances in health care for their pets as they demand for themselves. This has resulted in a massive investment in facilities and staff training to cope with these changes.





Prevention rather than cure

Traditionally a veterinarian would have waited in the clinic and treat sick and injured animals as they arrive. Now many clinics have positive preventative health care programmes to ensure pet health rather than treat disease. These commonly involve the active participation of trained veterinary nurses as advisors. To find out more about the important positive healthcare matters you should consider for your dog, follow the link to the Taking good care of your dog section.

Veterinary Nurse

These changes have resulted in the development of the Veterinary Nurse profession.

These are not mini-vets but highly qualified professionals. They are an essential component of the clinic’s team and provide veterinarians with essential support in the medical care of your pet.

They are very knowledgeable, and in many clinics will interact directly with pet owners to give useful advice on a wide range of health care matters.


Good health means good behaviour. In many clinics nurses organise "puppy parties" which, among other things, help to encourage the socialisation of puppies. Click on Puppy development to find out more about socialisation.  

In the UK, the veterinary nursing profession has evolved significanty since its inception in ........, such that there is now a full university degree course and specialist diplomas in addition to the standard qualification. Find out more in the "careers in the veterinary field" section .


Trend towards specialisation

As the range of species and conditions treated has increased there has been a corresponding trend towards specialisation. Specific Diplomas and Certificates mean that veterinarians can refer cases to acknowledged specialists. Purely referral clinics exist side by side with traditional first opinion clinics.

These might be large private or university hospitals with with specialist staff and surgical facilities that can cope with a range of problems. The photo opposite shows the operating theatre at the Cambridge University Veterinary School.



Alternatively they may be small clinics with a veterinarian who specialises in a particular field. The photoo opposite shows Sarah Heath< A UK veterinarian who runs a specialist behaviou clinic in the UK. Find out more about the services offered in the are all the practices the same? section.





Night clinics

Traditionally, all practices provided their own 24-hour cover.

In recent years, many practices (especially smaller ones) have found this increasingly difficult to manage - a situation very similar to that in human medicine.

In the UK, this has led to the introduction of Night Clinics that often service the "out of hours" emergencies for a number of surrounding practices.

The specific arrangements may vary and it is important that you check how your own veterinarian deals with such emergency cases.

Pets and family health

The importance of the human-animal bond is now being fully. Find out more about this by following the link to Benefits of a dog in the family.

Such considerations will affect the way veterinary practices function. It will certainly influence their philosophy, and so may be an important factor for you in your initial choice of a veterinarian.

A veterinarian is no longer simply involved in animal health but rather in family health.

Indeed one could expand this “one medicine” philosophy to include community health.
Having a dog is good for family health (find out more by linking to Benefits of a dog in the family), and this is more likely to be achieved if the dog is fit and healthy itself.

However, there are Risks to your family that should be considered. You need not panic about this - simply by being fully aware of the potential hazards one can recognise risk situations and take the appropriate preventive steps.

The degree of risk of dog bites to children is something that the public often mis-understand. Media hype tends to suggest that the root of the problem is dogs of specific breeds biting people in the streets. While so-called status dogs may be an important issue, approximately 80% of bites occur in the home and are inflicted by the family pet. This is truly an accident in the home, and prevention requires education of all the family (children and adults) about recognising and avoiding risk situations, leading to a change in the behaviour of the potential victim. Find out more about this important issue by following the link to the Dog Bites section.

Therefore, although veterinarians are committed to ensuring the welfare of the animals in their care, it is natural that they are also at the forefront of the Blue Dog programme – a project to reduce the incidence of dog bites in children.

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