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Veterinary medicine is the medical science concerned with diagnosing, treating, and preventing animal disease and injury. Doctors who practice veterinary medicine are known as veterinarians.

Veterinary medicine also includes aspects of animal husbandry, animal rearing, breeding, nutritional research, and product development.

The scope of veterinary medicine could potentially extend to all species of animals, domesticated and wild, although many veterinarians specialize in one or more species.

Zoologic medicine, which involves the healthcare animals in a zoo or in the wild, is a specialty veterinary specialty. With an emphasis on wildlife conservation in recent years, this has become a significant field.

A significant challenge to veterinary medicine is adequately attending to the diversity of animal species, which is why many veterinarians restrict their practice to one or more species. Some veterinary practices focus solely on one species, such as cats or horses, while a larger number of them address the veterinary needs of companion animals, generally known as pets, which may include cats, dogs, ferrets, and various birds, rodents, and reptiles. Others might specialize in livestock or working animals.

Recognized veterinary specialties include anesthesia, animal welfare, animal behavior, dentistry, dermatology, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, oncology, laboratory research, microbiology, nutrition, ophthalmology, pathology, pharmacology, poultry veterinarians, preventative medicine, radiology, sports medicine and rehabilitation, surgery, orthopedics, soft tissue injury, theriogenology, toxicology, veterinary practitioners, and zoology medicine.

Veterinary care is generally led by a veterinary physician, although the work is often augmented by veterinary nurses, veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, or other paraprofessionals.

As recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the governments of countries throughout the world, there are about four hundred and fifty veterinary degree programs worldwide, and only about one-third of them designate the awarded degree as a doctor's degree. Generally, there are two phases to the veterinary training program. The first phase comprises classroom study and laboratory work in the pre-clinical sciences, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, toxicology, nutrition, microbiology, and public health. The second phase focuses on clinical sciences and includes classroom study of infectious and non-infectious diseases, diagnostic and clinical pathology, obstetrics, radiology, anesthesiology, surgery, and hands-on clinical experience at a veterinary teaching hospital. Internships and residency programs are often available for graduates to gain clinical proficiency in one or more veterinary specialties. Advanced degree programs may also be available.

The English word "veterinarian" was derived from the Latin verb veheri, which means "to draw," as in "pull," since it was first applied to those who cared for any animal that works with a yoke, such as cattle or horses, in ancient Rome.

Although the origins of the word are in ancient Rome, the practice of animal medicine dates back to the time when dogs were first domesticated, around 12,000 BCE.

There is evidence of veterinary practice in ancient China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and India long before it found its way to Greece and Rome, all of which predates its development in Europe.

For a period of time after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE, and the rise of Christianity, much of the prior knowledge of veterinary science was lost, as the early Christian Church confiscated and destroyed much of the literature on the subject of veterinary medicine, and no new works were introduced in Europe. The medieval Christian Church held that animals were not worthy of medical treatment because they had no immortal soul.

It wasn't until the late 12th and early 13th centuries that Europeans began to pay attention to the health of animals once again. This interest was largely confined to horses and cattle, as they were used in warfare, transport, food, and agricultural pursuits.

During the Age of Enlightenment (1715-1789), veterinary medicine began to garner serious interest, although new veterinary practitioners had little or no knowledge of the contributions of the Chinese, Sumerians, Indians, or Egyptians, believing that the veterinary practices of the Greeks and Romans were the earliest in the field.

The first veterinary educational institute in Europe was founded in 1762 by Claude Bourgelat, a French veterinary surgeon. On the accomplishments of this school, the French King Louis XV established a Royal School of Veterinary Medicine in 1765. The first in the United States was the Veterinary College of Philadelphia, established in 1852.



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