Veterinary Medicine: What do all the Acronyms Mean?

December 3, 2021

For Veterinarians

December 3, 2021

When you take your pet to the veterinarian, you may have noticed the letters after their name and wondered what they mean. These letters indicate the school the veterinarian attended, and the specialties they have completed. All veterinarians have earned a professional academic degree from an institution for higher learning that provides teaching and research opportunities. They take an oath to use their knowledge and skills to benefit society by protecting animal health and welfare, preventing and relieving animal suffering, conserving animal resources, promoting public health, and advancing medical knowledge.

VMD vs DVM—Degrees awarded to veterinarians in the United States

Veterinarians in the United States are awarded either a DVM or a VMD degree, depending on the school they attend.

  • VMD — VMD stands for Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris. This degree is awarded only to veterinarians who attend the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The veterinary school was founded in 1884 as an outgrowth of the university’s School of Medicine. Since the medical school awarded their graduate physicians the Medicinae Doctoris (MD), the veterinary school used a similar Latin format for their degree.
  • DVM — All other veterinary schools in the United States award a DVM, which stands for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Degrees awarded to veterinarians abroad

Several countries, such as Canada, Israel, Thailand, and Hungary, also award a DVM to their veterinarians, but other countries use different names for their veterinary degrees. Some of these include:

  • BASc — China has a Bachelor of Agricultural Science.
  • BVMS — Iraq, Great Britain, and Murdoch University in Australia have a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. All other Australian veterinary schools award a BVSc (Bachelor of Veterinary Science) degree.
  • CMV — Norway has a Candidates Medicinae Veterinariae.
  • DCV — Argentina has a Doctor en Ciencias Veterinarias.
  • DEDV — France has a Diplome d’Etat de Docteur Veterinaire.
  • DMV — Italy uses DMV, but their degree stands for Dottore in Medicina Veterianria.
  • IASV — Cambodia has a Ingenieur Agricole Specialite Veterinaire.
  • LV — Spain has a Licenciado en Veterinaria.
  • LW — Poland has a Lekarz Weterynarii.
  • MV — Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil have a Medico Veterinario.
  • MVZ — Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico have a Medico Veterinario Zootecnista.
  • SVM — Ukraine has a Specialist Veterinarnoj Medicini.
  • T — Austria and Germany have a Tieraerzt.
  • VV — The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic has a Veterinarnyi Vrac.

According to the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME), veterinarians should use only the professional degree that was awarded by the school of veterinary medicine where they earned the degree. The courtesy titles of “Doctor” or “Veterinarian” can be used by all veterinarians.

Specialty degrees in veterinary medicine

The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes 22 veterinary specialties, or Diplomat certification. Veterinarians must complete many years of rigorous training after veterinary school, and meet examination requirements to be awarded Diplomat status. These board-certified veterinary specialists work with primary care veterinarians, human medical professionals, research scientists, and public health officials to benefit animals and the public health. According to the PVME, a veterinarian can identify themselves as a specialist only if they have been awarded certification and maintained this status, as recognized by the AVMA. These specialties include:

  1. American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP)—Veterinarians who are ABVP-certified have proven knowledge and expertise above and beyond the requirements to practice veterinary medicine. Certification can be obtained in the following fields:
  • Avian practice
  • Beef cattle practice
  • Canine and feline practice
  • Dairy practice
  • Equine practice
  • Exotic companion mammal practice
  • Food animal practice
  • Reptile and amphibian practice 
  • Shelter medicine practice
  • Swine health management

  1. American Board of Veterinary Toxicology (ABVT) — Veterinarians who are ABVT-certified inform and educate the public and health professionals about toxicological hazards to pets, livestock, and wildlife.

  1. American College of Animal Welfare (ACAW) — ACAW’s mission is to advance animal welfare through education, certification, and scientific investigation.

  1. American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) — Veterinarians who are ACLAM-certified perform roles such as animal resource managers, scientific advisors, researchers, and teachers, and they assist others achieve regulatory compliance.

  1. American College of Poultry Veterinarians (ACPV) — Veterinarians who are ACPV-certified define and implement the gold standard for poultry health and well-being.

  1. American College of Theriogenologists (ACT) — ACT’s mission is to promote animal wellbeing, reproductive health, responsible breeding and genetic practices, and efficient management of breeding-age animals in agriculture, veterinary practice, zoos, preserves, and ecosystems.

  1. American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA) — Veterinarians who are ACVAA-certified are experts at assessing and mitigating anesthetic risks, delivering anesthetic and analgesic drugs, maintaining and monitoring the anesthetized patient’s physiological well-being, and providing superior perioperative patient care, including pain management.

  1. American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) — Veterinarians who are ACVB-certified advance the behavioral health of animals through clinical practice, research, and science-based behavior education.

  1. American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology (ACVCP) — ACVCP’s primary objective is to advance the veterinary clinical pharmacology discipline as a clinical specialty, and assure that those who practice in the field are competent.

  1. American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD) — Veterinarians who are ACVD-certified are specialists in diagnosing and treating animal skin, ear, hair, nail, hoof, and mouth disorders.

  1. American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) — Veterinarians who are ACVIM-certified are dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people by discovering and disseminating new medical knowledge, and increasing public awareness of advances in veterinary medical care. Certification can be obtained in the following fields:
  • Cardiology
  • Small animal internal medicine
  • Large animal internal medicine
  • Neurology
  • Oncology

  1. American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM) — ACVM’s main objective is to further educational and scientific progress in the specialty of veterinary microbiology. Certification can be obtained in the following fields:
  • Virology
  • Immunology
  • Bacteriology/mycology
  • Parasitology

  1. American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) — ACVN’s primary objective is to advance veterinary nutrition and increase competency by establishing the certification requirements in veterinary nutrition, encouraging continuing professional education, promoting research, and enhancing new veterinary nutrition knowledge dissemination.

  1. American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) — ACVO’s mission is to improve animals’ quality of life by preserving and restoring their vision through education and science.

  1. American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) — Veterinarians who are ACVP-certified advance animal and human health by diagnosing diseases, serving on drug discovery and development teams, and performing research that advances our knowledge of diseases, leading to new methods to treat and prevent illnesses. Certification can be obtained in the following fields:
  • Anatomic pathology
  • Clinical pathology

  1. American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (ACVPM) — Veterinarians with an ACVPM certification practice preventive medicine, and protect national and international public health.

  1. American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR) — The ACVSMR was developed to meet the unique needs of athletic and working animals, as well as all animals needing rehabilitation, including those recovering from surgery and suffering from debilitating diseases. Certifications can be obtained in the following fields:
  • Canine
  • Equine

  1. American College of Veterinary Radiology (ACVR) — ACVR’s mission is to promote excellence in patient care by providing leadership, innovation, and education in veterinary diagnostic imaging and radiation oncology. Certifications can be obtained in the following fields:
  • Radiation oncology
  • Radiology
  • Equine diagnostic imaging

  1. American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) — The ACVS’s mission is to advance the art and science of surgery and promote excellence in animal health care through research, education, and public service. Certifications can be obtained in the following fields:
  • Small animal surgery
  • Large animal surgery

  1. American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM) — Veterinarians who are ACZM-certified serve as zoo and wildlife veterinarians, teachers, researchers, and government officials to foster high quality medical care for non-domestic animals. 

  1. American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC) — Veterinarians with an ACVECC certification use their advanced skills and veterinary literature knowledge to help critically ill animals overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

  1. American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) — Veterinarians who are AVDC-certified demonstrate specialist knowledge and expertise in veterinary dental medicine, and play a major role in oral disease prevention and treatment. Certifications can be obtained in the following fields:
  • Veterinary dentist
  • Veterinary equine dentist

Now, the next time you see letters after a veterinarian’s name, you will be able to decipher what college they attended, and what specialties they have completed. But, no matter which fancy letters follow their names, veterinarians worldwide work tirelessly every day to ensure every pet receives the best possible care. 


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Disclaimer: Our content is for informational purposes only — it’s not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.