Veterinary parasitology deals with providing comprehensive diagnostic support for the detection and treatment of parasitic infections in animals.
Parasites are all around us—they can be acquired through the environment or via animal vectors such as ticks and flies. Most parasitic infections in animals can also be transmitted to humans, especially children and the elderly. No matter how careful a person may be in taking care of his pets or livestock, they can still be susceptible to subtle parasitic attacks. Parasitic infestations on livestock, for instance, can cause serious consequences in the economy and public health when not properly managed. Thus, it is the fundamental responsibility of the veterinary parasitologist to accurately diagnose these parasitic diseases, and develop methods on how to efficiently protect animals from these threats.
Want to know more about this profession? Read on to find out!
Veterinary parasitology is the study of the origin and development of parasitic infections in animal hosts. It also deals with the taxonomic classification, including morphology, life cycle, and living needs of parasites that can infect both domestic and livestock animals.
Some of the divisions under vet parasitology, include, but are not limited, to:
• Veterinary protozoology (study of unicellular parasites, such as the amoeba)
• Veterinary helminthology (study of roundworms, tapeworms, and flukes)
• Veterinary entomology (study of veterinary-important insect vectors of parasites)
Parasites are organisms that utilize other species such as plants and animals as hosts. These hosts provide the environment that parasites need in order to survive. In fact, the parasitic lifestyle has been extremely successful that the number parasitic species far exceeds the number of free-living species.
Veterinary parasitology is a very dynamic field of study. This is because parasites and their hosts are ever changing—locked into a continuous struggle for survival. Thus, it is essential to understand the mechanics used by both parasite and host to gain advantage against each other.
As a result, veterinary parasitologists not only help in the veterinary practice of improving animal welfare and breeding, but they also contribute significantly to our understanding of how our biological world functions.
To become a veterinary parasitologist, you must first apply and be accepted to an American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA)-accredited veterinary school in order to complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. It takes about 4 years to complete this degree in which you will be required to sit through exams that provide the necessary certification to pursue a doctorate in veterinary parasitology. The essential exams are the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) or Medical College Medicine Admission Test (MCAT).
Proficiency in mathematics, computer science, and statistics is required in the field of veterinary parasitology. A keen attention to detail and good communication skills are also critical in order to become effective in this line of work.
According to the report made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinarians are posed to be one of the top 30 fastest growing professions by 2020, with a strong growth rate of nearly 36%. This growth rate is much faster than the average rate compared to all other professions. Based on the same report, veterinarians have a median annual salary of $82,900 as of 2010. The lowest paid ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of a $50,480 each year, while the highest paid ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of over $141,680 each year. Specialists like veterinary parasitologists are expected to earn more due to their advanced training and education.
There are so many career options within the branch of veterinary parasitology. This includes the fields of research, the academe, and the food and agriculture industry. These sectors depend upon the crucial work of veterinary parasitologists in providing diagnostic and precautionary measures for the health and safety of animals and humans alike.
Parasites remain one of the most important constraints to animal health, welfare, and productivity. Not only do parasites present an annoyance and discomfort to our pets, they also carry diseases that can prove fatal to both domestic and livestock animals, which may ultimately affect humans as well.
Fortunately, most parasitic infections can easily be diagnosed through physical and laboratory exams, without the need for more invasive procedures.
Veterinarians who specialize in veterinary parasitology are the experts that can detect, identify, and provide support for the treatment of parasitic diseases in animals. They help prevent these harmful diseases from causing disastrous consequences to the economy and public health.