Veterinary Pathologist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotVeterinary pathologists study diseases in animals. They look at livestock, zoo animals, companion animals and wildlife.

According to the website of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP), veterinary pathologists study animal tissue and body fluids to diagnose disease. They might look for ways to protect animal health, or they might look for ways in which diseases spread from animals to humans.

dotVeterinary pathologists analyze cells, tissue and body fluids from both living and dead animals.

dotForensic pathology involves studying animal tissue to help solve crimes. Analyzing tissue from an animal that died in a fire might indicate if the fire was accidental or arson, explains Dr. K. Paige Carmichael. She is a veterinary pathologist at the University of Georgia.

"I spend a lot of time testifying in court," says Carmichael.

Research pathologists design and conduct experiments. Later, they analyze the data and develop statistics.

dotThe ACVP website says that veterinary pathologists have many work options. They might teach and conduct research in universities. Some work in private or government research labs, where they ensure safety in food, drugs and biological products.

Others work in wildlife conservation. Still others work in a field where they watch for outbreaks of new diseases. Others conduct pharmaceutical research looking for new drugs to prevent or combat disease.

dotPathologists must know a lot about all species. However, some veterinary pathologists might choose to specialize in a certain species, says Dr. Grant Spearman. He is president of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Pathologists. Some might work solely with frogs or birds or fish, for instance.

Those working as university professors must publish research findings and data.

Most veterinary pathologists are required to write reports. They must also communicate good and bad news to concerned veterinarians or animal owners.

dotVeterinary pathologists work in many capacities. Some are professors, teaching and researching in veterinary schools. Some conduct research with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Others are diagnostic pathologists in government laboratories.

Also, there are animal, bird, fish, companion animal specialties and toxicological pathologists who work either with an institution or in private business.

dotPeople with a mobility disability might be able to work as pathologists in some positions. It depends on the nature of the job. According to Spearman, the real difficulty might lie in getting through veterinary college first. Veterinary students are required to handle large animals like horses and cattle.

It is unlikely that someone with a severe visual disability could work in this field, since so much time is spent analyzing specimens.

At a Glance

Study disease in animals

  • You have to know a lot about all species
  • There's a wide range of places you could work
  • Start by going to veterinary school