Veterinary Anesthesiologist Career Profile

A cheetah undergoing health check
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There are a number of key individuals who make up the veterinary healthcare team. These include the veterinarian who deals with primary and urgent care, the veterinary surgeon who may do more advanced surgical work, and the vet technician who conducts medical and non-medical services in the clinic. Others include the vet hospital manager, the vet assistant and finally, the veterinary anesthesiologist. This member of the team provides sedation and pain management for animals during surgical procedures and diagnostic tests.

Here's a look at the veterinary anesthesiologist's job duties, career options and salary. The outlook for the profession is also listed below.

Duties

Veterinary anesthesiologists are veterinarians who specialize in administering anesthesia to animals to manage pain during surgery or treatment. Because animals react differently to certain procedures than humans do — in that they may not be very cooperative with diagnostic or therapeutic procedures — anesthesia is administered in a broader range of instances, making the anesthesiologist's job that much more important.

The duties of veterinary anesthesiologists include evaluating patients before treatment, developing a sedation plan, administering anesthesia and other pain relief agents, performing diagnostic tests, giving fluids, monitoring vital signs, operating specialized monitoring equipment, updating medical charts, supervising veterinary technicians and support staff, and providing consultations on cases when requested by other veterinarians.

Veterinary anesthesiologists involved in academia may have additional duties and responsibilities such as giving lectures, advising students, supervising laboratory sessions and hands-on training activities, administering exams, working in the university teaching hospital, and supervising students that are participating in a veterinary anesthesiology residency. Some veterinary anesthesiologists are also involved in conducting and publishing anesthesiology-related research, providing continuing education programs for vets or vet techs, giving client education lectures, or making equipment purchase recommendations to veterinary clinics and private practitioners.

Career Options

The majority of board-certified veterinary anesthesiologists are employed by veterinary teaching hospitals at universities, but they may also opt to work in private practice. Private practice employers may include small animal hospitals, large animal hospitals and emergency clinics.

Some veterinary anesthesiologists also specialize further by offering anesthesiology services exclusively for small animals or exclusively for large animals. Others may offer additional pain management relief services for their clients, such as acupuncture or massage therapy treatments.

Education & Training

Veterinary anesthesiologists must first become licensed Doctors of Veterinary Medicine before seeking additional specialty training in the field of anesthesiology. Candidates for board certification must complete at least three years of veterinary anesthesiology work (including a residency) in addition to having at least one year of additional experience working in general clinical practice. They must also publish at least one study relating to the field of veterinary anesthesiology in a professional journal and submit a well-documented case log before being considered eligible to sit for the board certification exam.

The American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA) was founded in 1975 and is responsible for administering both the written and oral components of the certifying exam for anesthesiology board certification in the United States. The ACVAA currently has over 250 board certified diplomates worldwide practicing in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

In Europe, the European College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ECVAA) administers the certifying exam for veterinary anesthesiology. The ECVAA was established as an independent organization in 1993 and was inaugurated in 1995. It currently has 196 board certified diplomates in practice worldwide.

Residencies for veterinary anesthesiology are available at many U.S. schools. The following are registered residencies with the ACVAA: Colorado State, Cornell University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, Tufts University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of Pennsylvania, University of Tennessee, University of Wisconsin, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and Washington State University.

International residency programs are also available in Switzerland, at two schools in Australia and at four schools in Canada.

Salary

Board certified veterinary anesthesiologists tend to work most frequently in academia, taking teaching positions at veterinary schools. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average wage for all post-secondary teachers was $76,000 in 2017. The top ten percent of post-secondary teachers earned more than $170,160 (board-certified veterinary anesthesiologists would be a part of this higher salary bracket).

The BLS also reported a median annual wage of $90,420 for all veterinarians in the 2017 survey. The lowest ten percent of all veterinarians earned less than $53,980 while the highest ten percent of all veterinarians earned more than $159,320. Again, as board certified specialists, it would be expected that veterinary anesthesiologists would earn higher end salaries. Unfortunately, the BLS does not separate the veterinary specialties into individual statistical groups.

Career Outlook

The BLS projects a positive outlook for the growth of the veterinary profession and related animal health careers. Job growth in the field of veterinary medicine is expected to grow much faster than average, at a rate of 19% between 2016 and 2026.

Pet owners have shown an increased willingness to spend top dollar on the care of their animals, particularly on top notch veterinary services, so the demand for board-certified specialists should continue to be strong. Veterinary medicine has also been expanding and advancing, with more vets offering different kinds of services — many that are comparable to human healthcare.

With the extensive requirements necessary to become board certified in veterinary anesthesiology and an extremely limited number of qualified anesthesiologists in the field, job prospects for this career path should remain particularly solid.