Veterinarian’s Oath

Photo Credit: Shirley Zindler

I recently reread the Veterinarian’s Oath. It’s been modified only slightly since I first pledged to honor it when I graduated from veterinary school in 1982.

Given that you, my readers, interact with veterinarians on a regular basis, I thought you might be interested in reading the Veterinarian’s Oath. Here it is.

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

If I had a magic wand, I would add something about caring for the emotional well being of the client (the person holding the leash or cat carrier). How do you feel about this oath? If you held the magic wand, what would you change?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a very happy new  year,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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11 Comments on “Veterinarian’s Oath

  1. Veterinarians truly shepard our pets and their owners through some very difficult times. This reminds me of one of your earlier posts which questioned the correct term for owning a pet. I recall that you didn’t like the term “owners” in reference to our pets. I would dare to say that your followers might agree that our pets “own” us. We give them free rent, food, medical coverage with zero co-pays and we are happy to do it. In other words, they own us. Back to the original magic word – you shepard our pets as from sickness to health and shepard their subordinates (us) as well.
    Happy New Year

  2. The thing I have seen is that vets at times are positive they are correct and are not willing to ask for the opinion of others. To me the biggest plus there is – is to be able to say that “I don’t know it all but I am sure willing to ask someone to help me find out”. I do agree with you about needing to be aware of the clients as well as the dogs. Grief counseling, as someone mentioned, is not a bad idea.

  3. I love your addition to the oath, Dr. Nancy, and agree with Donna’s comment. Also, I would add: In the best interests of my patient, I will voluntarily request consultation with a veterinary specialist to ensure the proper diagnosis and treatment for a patient’s recovery.

  4. This is so interesting to me. I’m curious about how, for example, a USDA veterinarian working in a slaughterhouse could possibly abide by an oath such as this. Of course, not every animal lover is vegetarian, (heck, not every veterinarian is an animal lover) and maybe the veterinarian in a case like that is more interested in public health, but if part of the vow includes “the prevention and relief of animal suffering” then the oath and the job are incongruous. And what does “the advancement of medical knowledge” apply to? Non-human animals, humans or both? How does a veterinarian in a vivisection lab justify what they do (even if it benefits non-human animals?) I’m not looking for an argument about the benefits of animal research (or lack thereof); just curious about the ethical questions as they relate to this oath, and again, “the prevention and relief of animal suffering” phrase really stands out to me.

  5. I would add a statement speaking to the mutilation of animals for the expressed purpose of meeting an antiquated breed standard (cropping and docking) and I would add a statement that prohibits the recommendation of compulsory training techniques and/or devices (electronic collars, prong collars, choke chains, etc.). This would come under the heading of “preventing and relieving animal suffering,” would it not?

  6. Dr. Nancy, thank you for sharing your oath. All vets carry such responsibility to care for people’s pet “children” to the best of their ability. The responsibility is huge. Then add in the “pet parent” relationship with all the emotions. My magic wand would include “the emotional well being of the human client and the animal patient.” The animals are very outspoken about their emotions.

    Elaine Garley, HTACP
    Animal Bridges
    Animal Communicator and Holistic Practitioner

  7. I work with a 501c3 Dog Rescue and recently had a veterinarian refuse to share vaccination records of a dog because the previous owner didn’t pay their bill. This subjects the dog to over-vaccinating in order to obtain proof of vaccinations. To me, this veterinarian is NOT following their oath and is more concerned with money than the well-being of the dog. The rescue had nothing to do with the dog’s previous owner not paying her bill, which took place months before we accepted the dog into our rescue. Apparently, it is legal for this vet to do this.

  8. Thanks for publishing this, Dr. Kay,
    Most people know all about the Hippocratic Oath, but most don’t know that veterinarians have solemn pledges to uphold as well.

    I would like to see something in the oath about the human-animal bond.
    Happy holidays – and a great 2016 – to you and yours.
    Ellen Price
    Pet Sitters International

  9. I would add “Above all do no harm and do NOT overvaccinate”.

  10. I think you are right about caring for the pet owner as well. Particularly with end of life decisions. Grief counseling in veterinary care for both pet owners and the veterinarian. I know euthanasia is not easy on either end. One of the most common questions we see in our groups is “when do you know it’s time?”. Thank you for reposting the oath for all to read. It is quite a heavy responsibility. ~ Upright Canine Brigade. An advocacy group for dogs and pet parents with canine megaesophagus .