Veterinary Anesthesiologist Career Profile

A cheetah undergoing health check
••• David Cayless/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Veterinary anesthesiologists provide sedation and pain management for animals during surgical procedures and diagnostic tests.


Veterinary anesthesiologists are veterinarians that specialize in administering anesthesia to animals to manage pain during surgery or treatment. 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 Anesthesiologists (ACVA) 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 ACVA currently has over 220 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 in 1995 and currently has 123 board certified diplomates in practice worldwide.

Residencies for veterinary anesthesiology are available at many U.S. schools including programs at Colorado State, Cornell University, U.C. Davis, University of Florida, University of Georgia, Purdue University, Tufts University, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, and Washington State University. International residency programs are also available in Switzerland and at three schools in Canada.


Board certified veterinary anesthesiologists tend to work most frequently in academia, taking teaching positions at veterinary schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average wage for all post-secondary teachers was $70,790 in 2014. The top ten percent of post-secondary teachers earned more than $149,820 (board-certified veterinary anesthesiologists would be a part of this higher salary bracket).

The BLS also reported a median annual wage of $87,590 for all veterinarians in the 2014 survey. The lowest ten percent of all veterinarians earned less than $52,530 while the highest ten percent of all veterinarians earned more than $157,390. 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 a bit faster than the average rate for all professions over the decade from 2014 to 2024 (at a rate of about 9 percent). 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.

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.