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A veterinary physician, colloquially called a vet, shortened from veterinarian (American English, Australian English) or veterinary surgeon (British English), is a professional who practices veterinary medicine by treating disease, disorder, and injury in non-human animals.
In many countries, the local nomenclature for a vet is a regulated and protected term, meaning that members of the public without the prerequisite qualifications and/or registration are not able to use the title. In many cases, the activities that may be undertaken by a veterinarian (such as animal treatment or surgery) are restricted only to those professionals who are registered as vet. For instance, in the United Kingdom, as in other jurisdictions, animal treatment may only be performed by registered vets (with a few designated exceptions, such as paraveterinary workers), and it is illegal for any person who is not registered to call themselves a vet or perform any treatment.
Most vets work in clinical settings, treating animals directly. These vets may be involved in a general practice, treating animals of all types; may be specialized in a specific group of animals such as companion animals, livestock, zoo animals or horses; or may specialize in a narrow medical discipline such as surgery, dermatology or internal medicine.
As with healthcare professionals, vets face ethical decisions about the care of their patients. Current debates within the profession include the ethics of purely cosmetic procedures on animals, such as declawing of cats, docking of tails, cropping of ears and debarking on dogs.