Should You Consider Becoming a Veterinary Ophthalmologist?

By First Financial Bank
Specializing in Veterinary Ophthalmology may be a path to higher income and more job satisfaction for you.

As a veterinarian, there are many paths to success, especially as owner and operator of your own general veterinary practice, clinic, or hospital. You also know the challenges of being a general practice veterinarian: the stress of long hours and retaining staff, while having all the right tools and skills ready to address the wide variety of patients and patient issues that present themselves.

One way to enhance your veterinary practice while increasing revenue is to specialize. Are you fascinated by how the eye works? Have you considered ophthalmology? It can be an excellent path to consider, but there are trade-offs in time and cost to achieve the right credentials.

Why Consider Setting Up a Veterinary Ophthalmology Practice?

A veterinary ophthalmologist may treat any animal of any species. Veterinary ophthalmologists diagnose and treat various eye diseases, disorders and \trauma, including performing surgeries. If you are intrigued by the functions of the eye and are looking to focus on its functions, ophthalmology may be for you. One day you may treat a cat with cataracts and then a horse with eye trauma. The practice of ophthalmology can be appealing due to both the expertise required to practice, while working with a variety of animals.

Also, the salary of a veterinary ophthalmologist is higher than that of a general practitioner. The national average salary for a veterinary ophthalmologist is approximately $120,841 per year, depending on where you practice. Veterinary ophthalmologists can earn as high as $300,000 a year, but the percentage of veterinarians earning that amount is small.

How to Become a Veterinary Ophthalmologist

To become a veterinary ophthalmology specialist in the US, an individual must fulfill all of the following:

  • Become a licensed veterinarian, which requires completing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree.
  • Complete an American Board of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ABVO) approved veterinary ophthalmology residency of 2-4 years.
  • Pass a rigorous series of knowledge and skill-based examinations in veterinary ophthalmology in order to achieve board certification as a member of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO).
  • Remaining an active member of the ABVO requires fulfilling continuing education requirements.
How long does it take to become a veterinary ophthalmologist? Beyond your general DVM requirements, you’ll be looking at approximately 3-5 years of additional study.

Should You Add Veterinary Specialty Ophthalmology Care to Your Practice?

The veterinary eye care market is expected to experience a Compound Annual Growth Rate ( CAGR) of 3% from 2022-2027. The growth of veterinary ophthalmology is due to the rising adoption rate, increasing pet insurance, and age-related eye disorders such as diabetes, glaucoma, and cataracts. Whether to start with veterinary ophthalmology or add the specialty is dependent upon these factors:

  • Your interest, skills, and goals in offering these services
  • The additional cost of education requirements
  • The additional cost of specialty equipment
  • The hiring of qualified assistants
  • The time necessary to complete the rigorous requirements

Additional Specialty Ophthalmology Equipment

Unlike a human ophthalmologist, your patients won’t listen when you say, “put your chin here” and “stay still” during an exam. You’ll need specialized equipment to support your practice as a veterinarian ophthalmologist and offer those services in your clinic. Some of those pieces of equipment may include:

  • Slit lamp biomicroscopes
  • Rebound and applanation tonometers
  • Indirect ophthalmoscopes
  • Ocular ultrasonography, including high definition
  • CT and MRI
  • Electroretinography
  • Flash and fundus photography

If you add ophthalmology to an already existing veterinary practice, you may have to make infrastructure changes to accommodate surgical procedures, including your surgical suite.

Veterinary Ophthalmology-A Path Forward

Any career decision or change brings opportunity and risk. Pursuing veterinary ophthalmology requires commitment, time, and money. Consider the pros and cons of adding this profitable and rewarding specialty to your practice. The benefits are likely to make the journey worth it if practicing veterinary ophthalmology is important to you.

Want to discuss expanding or adapting your practice? Let’s talk.

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