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The Life of a Large Animal Veterinarian


NORTH DURHAM: While a vast majority of veterinarian students lean towards the small animal side of medicine, there is still a growing demand for large animal veterinarians, especially in rural communities.

Large animal veterinarians have a very different job from small animal vets who typically treat cats, dogs, and birds. Large animal veterinarians spend most days travelling from farm to farm treating injured or ill animals, whereas small animal vets often treat animals from their office.

“I can’t imagine being stuck in an office all day, in the winter sometimes being a small animal veterinarian looks attractive, when your freezing outside, but I’d say the summers more than make up for it. Actually being outside and getting to go out and see people's farms is something I enjoy,” said Erin Branigan, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Large animal vets spend a lot of time at farms and often the same ones when farmers own a lot of livestock.

“The best part of large animal medicine for me is forming relationship with clients, I think, we, on average, see our clients more times in a year then a small animal vet would, because our clients have more animals,” said Rachel Shanahan, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Erin added, “You get to know your clients really well, kind of by going onto their turf. The fact that you're there at their farm and not in an office, also makes it so, you can focus on them more.”

She said the job is also a lot more physically demanding because of the size of the animals she treats. However, Erin doesn’t mind too much because of her passion for horses and farm animals alike.

“I get to see horses everyday, which is awesome,” Erin said. “I love being outside and the physical aspects of [treating large animals.]”

Another part of being a large animal vet is the element of surprise. It’s hard to tell what you are walking into after receiving a call about an animal, Erin said.

“Never knowing what you are going to show up to is kind of exciting and crazy.” She said, “It definitely has a lot of challenges, but it is an important job and an important aspect of agriculture is the veterinarians who help the animals stay healthy.”

Erin and Rachel encourage those who have a passion for large animals and their well-being to consider large animal medicine.

“It’s a tough lifestyle, but it’s a lot of fun,” Erin said.

People living in the Port Perry area, who are in need of a large animal veterinarian, can contact Port Perry Veterinarian Services by phone, at 905-982-1243, or by email at

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