Loving Family Animal Hospital is pleased to welcome Dr. Zachary Osterholz as the newest veterinarian to our medical team. Dr. Osterholz comes to us with a rich history of animal experience, from large farm-animal practice to small pets. While searching for the right person to add to our hospital family, we were reminded of how devoted veterinarians are to people and their pets. Years of commitment, education, and compassion go into obtaining a veterinary degree—an achievement many desire, but only a few attain. We know what it takes to become a veterinarian, and we thought you might enjoy learning about the dedication one must have to earn the title of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  

Before veterinary school: Preparing for a future of loving animals

If you ask our veterinarians, they will likely tell you they have always loved animals and knew from a young age they wanted to care for them. Most veterinarians start working toward their goal early by volunteering at a shelter or working at a veterinary hospital during high school and college to gain experience. Ambitious students choose high school classes with a veterinary career in mind, and load up on science and math courses to prepare for entrance into a competitive college. 

During college, pre-veterinary students focus on science and math, taking challenging classes, such as calculus, physics, biology, chemistry, and anatomy, to fulfill the prerequisites required for veterinary school acceptance. After three to four years of college courses, students can apply for entrance into veterinary school. Admission is extremely competitive, and with only 30 U.S. veterinary schools, multiple applications are made per available seat. To be awarded a coveted spot, applicants must complete a number of criteria, which include:

  • A minimum 3.5 grade point average (GPA) on college courses, although most applicants who are accepted have a GPA near 4.0
  • Completion of a minimum number of hours working or volunteering in a veterinary hospital to gain experience and ensure they can endure the hard work and emotional toll of veterinary medicine
  • A competitive score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  • Several letters of recommendation from veterinarians, instructors, and college advisors who can attest to their academic, professional, and personal success
  • Leadership experience through extra-curricular activities and organizations

Most veterinary schools accept approximately 100 students each year, so even highly qualified applicants often must reapply several times before acceptance.

Veterinary school: Learning to treat many species

Veterinary school is a rigorous four-year program that prepares students for general veterinary practice. Veterinary students can focus on specific tracks, such as small animals, food animals, or horses, but they all take courses to learn the anatomy, diseases, and treatments for all species. Imagine having to learn about not only dogs and cats, but also horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, birds, rodents, reptiles, and more. 

During their final year of veterinary school, students rotate through different parts of the veterinary teaching hospital to complete the clinical portion of their education. They work long hours examining patients, interpreting test results, designing treatment plans, and performing surgery under the guidance of seasoned veterinarians, in preparation for independent practice after graduation. Most veterinary schools also require students to complete an internship at a veterinary hospital prior to graduation. 

Near the end of their fourth year, veterinary students must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) to receive a license to practice veterinary medicine. Veterinary school graduates earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and are ready to join a veterinary hospital as a general practitioner. Veterinarians who choose to specialize in a specific area of veterinary medicine, such as surgery, ophthalmology, or cardiology, can go on to complete a multiple-year residency in one of 22 recognized veterinary specialties. 

Veterinary practice: The privilege of treating your pets

Our veterinarians work tirelessly to ensure your pet receives the best medical care possible. Although veterinary specialists are available, general practice veterinarians are well-prepared to diagnose and treat conditions affecting your pet’s entire body, from nose to tail. On any given day, you can find our veterinarians peering into a pet’s eyes with an ophthalmoscope, reading X-rays, interpreting an ECG tracing, performing surgery, tailoring a unique nutritional plan for a patient, or discussing behavioral concerns with a caring owner. Veterinarians are required to attend a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education classes every two years to ensure they stay up-to-date on recent advances in veterinary medical diagnostics, procedures, and treatments, although most complete many more.    

We hope this glimpse into our veterinarians’ achievements helps you appreciate them as much as we do. As Dr. Osterholz starts his career with us, stop by or call to welcome him into our loving family.