Veterinary Student Essential Supplies (by Year)

It’s been 6 years since I graduated from veterinary school, but I still remember making decisions about what books, resources, and technology I needed for each year. While each veterinary school, and veterinary student, is unique this list, organized by year, is a great guide to some of the essentials that will help you successfully navigate your 4 years of veterinary school.

Year 1

Your first year of veterinary school isn’t likely to be much different than a credit packed year of undergraduate classes. You will need all the tools that helped you successfully take notes and study before entering veterinary school plus a few extra supplies as you begin learning the art of a good physical exam.

  • Laptop/Tablet: A computer and internet access are an important part of veterinary school. Many lecturers will have slides that you can pull up on your computer. Some may also have interactive questions for you to answer online. Additionally, your computer may be a great way for you to record and organize notes.
  • Notebook and Pens/Pencils: Personally, I learn best when I handwrite notes. If this is you also, make sure to purchase several notebooks to fill with your notes from each course.
  • Highlighters: If you have any paper notes, highlighters are a great way to help you focus on important information. You can also color-code different topics by highlighter color.
  • Planner: Whether you use a physical planner or an electronic calendar, write down all the important dates. There is a lot of information that you will have to learn in year one, so free up some of your important memory space by writing down dates of exams and social activities.
  • Books: You can be a minimalist when it comes to purchasing books for veterinary school. But the two that I absolutely needed year one were my dog anatomy guide, which we used in the anatomy lab, and my biochemistry textbook, which had problem lists in the back that we were expected to complete.
  • Stethoscope: Don’t worry too much about which stethoscope you chose for your first year. In fact, you might want to choose a less expensive one as stethoscopes can become lost or stolen over the course of 4 years in a busy hospital. A basic Littman stethoscope should work just fine.
  • Pen Light: You will also use this for basic physical exams, which you will learn how to perform in your first year of veterinary school.
  • Thermometer: You will want a dedicated thermometer to use for physical exams also.
  • Watch: Choose a watch that you can count seconds with. This will come in handy when you are taking heart rates and respiratory rates.
  • Backpack: You are a student after all and will need an efficient way to carry all of these items around on campus.
  • Scrubs/Labcoat: You will want a dedicated set of scrubs and lab coat for your anatomy labs. And then another pair for any labs/activities working with live animals. Your school may have certain color requirements for your scrubs.
  • Coveralls: As a first-year veterinary student you will be working with all of the animals on campus. This includes livestock. Coveralls are required by many veterinary schools for large animal labs.
  • Boots: Rubber boots are a good idea for both anatomy lab and trekking through muddy pastures.

Your veterinary school should provide you with a tailored list for your first-year curriculum, but these are some generic first-year items.

Year 2

The essentials for year two are very similar to year one. In addition to the items listed above, this may be a good year to sign up for a student membership to VIN and Plumbs.

  • VIN: VIN stands for Veterinary Information Network and is a great resource for veterinary students and veterinarians alike. There is a lot of searchable information on this site. This resource is free for students.
  • Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs: This is the main pharmacology drug book for veterinarians. Since you are learning all about pharmacology in your second year, this is the perfect time to purchase a subscription. Currently Plumb’s online only cost $4.95/ year for students. (But read the fine print to make sure it doesn’t auto-renew at the full veterinarian price.)

Year 3

For most veterinary students, this is your final year in the classroom. So you will need very similar essentials as you did in year 1 and 2. But this is also the year to really begin studying for your veterinary boards: the NAVLE. So the biggest thing you need to purchase this year is a good NAVLE Prep Software.

There are two main companies that most vet students choose: Zuku and Vet Prep. You can’t go wrong with either one. I personally used Zuku and liked it, but I didn’t hear anything negative about Vet Prep either.

And before you purchase, you can sign up for Vet Prep’s free daily question to start studying even earlier.

Year 4

This is the year when most veterinary students begin their clinical rotations. As such, your essentials may change slightly depending on what type of clinical rotations you are taking. But the following are general essentials for most 4th year veterinary students.

Also, we are assuming that you still have your stethescope, pen light, watch, and scrubs set and ready to go.

  • Small Notebook: A small notebook that can fit in your clinic coat pocket is a must-have. You will need to record plenty of notes about the patients you are seeing and will need to have them ready and at hand to go over cases with your clinicians. A small notebook works great for this.
  • Pocket Calculator: For calculating drug dosages and fluid rates, nothing beats a small calculator for convenience. Your online Plumb’s subscription can come in really handy at this point also.
  • Books: My favorite two books for help with working up cases (at least on the small animal medicine side), are Ettinger’s Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine and Blackwell’s 5-minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline. Regardless of the books you choose, you will likely use books more often this year than in any year before. Your previous 3 years of class notes may also come in handy as you formulate differential diagnosis lists and come up with treatment recommendations.

Additional Resources

These lists are a good place to start when considering the essentials that will help you be successful during all four years of veterinary school. But, if you are looking for more resources, consider checking out the following websites.

Dr. Kate

The writer of this blog, Dr. Kate, has been practicing veterinary medicine since 2014. She works at a small animal practice, focusing on dogs and cats. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her two dogs. You can find out more about her adventures with her pups on

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