What Does a Veterinary Pharmacologist Do?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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A veterinary pharmacologist works with veterinarians and animal owners to determine the most effective treatment for ill pets or livestock. He or she makes up part of the team that decides which medication or treatment option is suitable for certain species and illnesses. A veterinary pharmacologist might also conduct drug research to find new drug therapies for animals, and teach pharmacology to veterinary students. Staying abreast of advances in veterinary medicine and regulatory laws represents an important responsibility of a veterinary pharmacologist.

If a veterinary pharmacologist conducts research, he or she typically studies human drugs and their effectiveness on animals. The pharmacologist examines side effects of chemical compounds and how drugs interact with each other to treat disease. He or she might work in a laboratory testing blood, bodily fluids, or tissues from sick animals. A veterinary pharmacologist usually advises a veterinarian on drug therapy, dosage, and treatment options.

These professionals typically monitor the prescribed treatment and stay in contact with the animal owner and vet to tract the effectiveness of therapy. If the animal does not improve, the pharmacologist can make changes in the recommended treatment plan. Customized drug compounds might be created for the size and species of individual animals.


In addition to providing drug treatment, sometimes a veterinary pharmacologist euthanizes animals. After an animal dies, he or she might perform a necropsy, called an autopsy in humans, to determine the cause of death. The information gleaned from this examination might help a veterinary pharmacologist in research on disease prevention.

Some people working in this field of veterinary medicine test and quarantine animals to prevent the spread of disease. They might advise livestock owners about sanitation and how it relates to disease. Inspection of facilities housing livestock represents another duty performed by some pharmacologists.

A veterinary pharmacologist attains a veterinary degree before taking advanced courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy. In most regions, a special license is needed to practice in this field of medicine. He or she commonly attends conferences and continuing education classes throughout his or her career.

The demand for people working in this area grew as animal rights groups brought attention to the humane treatment of animals. These activities raised the awareness of the health and welfare of pets and livestock, causing people to seek advanced medical care for sick animals. Some veterinary pharmacologists expand normal duties to include advising animal owners about the care, feeding, and well-being of their pets or livestock.


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