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"…but you are a Doctor? Right?"
"I'm a vet"
"A combat veteran?"
"A veterinarian".

(Rick and Herschel The Walking Dead)

Basic Information

A Veterinary Physician, or Veterinarian, (typically veterinary surgeon in the UK, often called a Vet for short) is a doctor who treats animals. Depending on the jurisdiction, they may have more or less medical training than one who treats humans, but almost certainly less species specialisation and, under normal circumstances, no legal authority to treat humans. As in human medicine, things vary by time and place and in some of them, veterinary practice will be distinctly "non-academic", but in the modern era and the developed world, the training and apprenticeship periods for a vet are longer than those for a physician (not least because they are expected to qualify on a near infinite range of species).

Most vets specialise to some degree - livestock (commercial farm animals), equine (horses) and small animal (domestic pets) are typical fields … more exotic specialisations can be rare, so if you keep unusual pets, be prepared to struggle to find a vet who knows much about them (although most will know someone they can call). One of the hardest rows to hoe is probably being a zoo vet, which involves responsibility for a wide range of animals which are often expensive and hard to replace.


2. Novels: All Creatures Great and Small and sequels by James Herriot; reminiscences of an English country vet living in the 1930s.

Game and Story Use

  • If animals play a significant role in your campaign; if the PC's ride mounts, for example, or if one has a familiar; the health of those animals may become important in the game. Giving a character some veterinary knowledge may be useful.
  • Or, if one of their animals falls ill, they may have to seek out a professional who knows how to treat it.
  • Like Herschel, they may also be the nearest thing going to an actual doctor.
    • In some limited circumstances they may actually be better - the Discworld character "Donut Jimmy" (aka. "Doctor" James Folsom) is a racehorse vet at least as competent as the majority of the city's licenced doctors and, given that he works for organised crime, a well incentivised reputation for keeping his patients alive…
  • May be an interesting candidate for the role of black market doctor one way or another.
  • Even if they don't practice on humans, some of their kit can still prove useful - their drugs, for example, are often stolen or diverted for human use (vet grade antibiotics, sedatives and the like being entirely effective on humans) and even their medical equipment can be used: veterinary MRI machines and X-rays have been known to serve for humans, especially those too obese for standard kit.
  • In gateway fantasy or wainscot fantasy, non-human sapients, beastmen or otherwise, might be as well off with a vet as with anyone over-specialised in human biology.
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