Costa Rica Pre-Vet Shelter Medicine

Applications are open for Summer 2023

Earn 40 vet hours working with dogs in beautiful Costa Rica!

Stray dogs at Territorio de Zaguates.The one-week Costa Rica Small Animal Medicine program is based at Territorio de Zaguates (“Land of the Strays”), a famous dog sanctuary outside of San Jose that is home to over a thousand dogs. These dogs have a permanent home at the sanctuary and receive food, medical attention, vaccines, and their famous daily hike through the surrounding jungle. 

But keeping up with the health needs of almost two thousand dogs is a lot of work! And they have a lot to teach you and your fellow students about routine care, eye and ear care, skin diseases, tropical diseases, obstetrics, nutrition, physical therapy, and more.

This program will be hard work. You will be at the dog shelter approximately 8 hours a day Monday to Friday, working and learning with your vets. 

You will also have the chance to explore some of Costa Rica, including:

  • Volcano trip 
  • Jungle ziplining adventure
  • Wildlife sanctuary tour

Who It’s For

Loop Abroad students pose with stray dogs at Territorio de ZaguetesThis program is designed for university-aged students who are interested in becoming veterinarians or working professionally with animals. Participants must be at least 18 years old. Most are 18 to 25, but we also accept full-time undergraduates over 25.

There are no pre-requisites for this program. You do not need to be in school currently to apply. Individuals of any nationality may apply.

Each group of up to 12 students will have its own teaching veterinarian and the groups will share site staff. There may be multiple Loop Abroad groups on-site at the same time. All programming is in English – no Spanish skills are required (but if you have them, you’ll definitely use them!)



Young man hanging on a zip line

  • Get to know the dogs at the Territorio de Zaguates, “Land of the Strays”, as featured in the Netflix show “Dogs”
  • Help over 1,500 rescued dogs get the medical care they need and continue to live their best lives
  • Learn about shelter medicine in a hands-on setting from experienced vets
  • Practice the skills to diagnose and treat common ailments of dogs in the tropics, including eye, ear, and skin diseases
  • Join the dogs on their famous daily jungle hike
  • Enjoy Costa Rican culture, from local food to learning some introductory Spanish
  • Explore a Costa Rican volcano
  • Visit a wildlife sanctuary
  • Zipline through the rainforest

Dates open for applications

May 28- June 3, 2023

These program sessions are covered by Loop Abroad’s COVID-19 100% Tuition Refund Policy. If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we will refund 100% of any program tuition you have paid (including the deposit).

You should expect that the program may run even if Costa Rica has COVID testing requirements to enter or is at a level 4 rating by the CDC or the Department of State.

 apply now

*Subject to 1 day +/- on the schedule, includes travel days

*Dates indicate the dates on which you will arrive and depart from San Jose, Costa Rica. This program does not have a group flight. You will be asked to book your flight to arrive and depart within a travel time window on the arrival and departure dates. In-country airport transfer is provided. Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.


More stray dogs at Territorio de Zaguetes

One-week program: Regular tuition is $2,650 for the one-week program, all-inclusive less airfare.

Available $250 discount for alumni.

During COVID-19, conservation efforts around the world have suffered as they have lost the funding and help often provided by tourists and visitors. Your participation in this program helps to support this important animal rescue in a fragile time.

Interest-free payment plans are available. Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

Tuition is all-inclusive less airfare. Airfare is not included. There is no group flight for this program*. Tuition also does not include medical insurance (the policy we suggest is under $25), passport, snacks, and any COVID vaccinations or testing required for travel.

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the deadline is March 1, 2022, at 11:59 pm Pacific Time!

If you are a US citizen receiving a Pell Grant and currently enrolled in college or university, we encourage you to apply for this scholarship! See the official website for the latest details and read about Loop Abroad students who have received this scholarship.

Veterinary hours

This program is created with students who may want to apply to vet school in mind. For your application to vet school, the program provides approximately the following hours:

Loop Abroad Students bond with the dogs at Territorio de Zaguetes

40 Veterinary Hours

Approximately 40 hours of your program will be vet-taught or vet-supervised fieldwork that would be considered veterinary hours for your application to vet school. Students can calculate their own record of veterinary hours for their VMCAS or other applications.

You will receive a certificate for 40 service hours per program week upon completion. Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.

No credit is available directly from Loop Abroad for this program. You may also be able to get credit directly from your college or university for this program. If you are seeking credit from your college or university, please contact us for any assistance needed.

Housing and Meals

All housing and meals are provided. Housing will be at a hotel in the San Jose area. Rooms will be shared by gender  – each student will have their own bed. Staff is on-site 24/7. Meals will be a mix of hotel meals (primarily breakfast), restaurant meals (outdoor seating) for most dinners, and sack lunches on the project site.

COVID Safety

All participants will need to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (which may include boosters if eligible). All participants will adhere to the Loop Abroad COVID policy which includes providing a negative COVID test within 2 days prior to travel, wearing a mask when flying and when interacting outside of your “travel pod” (your group and staff), daily symptom report, and testing if symptoms are present.

If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we offer a full refund of all tuition paid, including the deposit.

What if my program isn’t cancelled, but I can’t travel for personal reasons?

We understand that sometimes even though a program is not cancelled, an individual participant may be unable to travel due to illness or other personal reasons. In addition to our refund policy, if you must cancel your program enrollment less than 35 days before travel, for any reason at all, you can replace your program with the following virtual package.


This package includes 5 university credits from Iowa Wesleyan University (if you successfully complete the courses) and has a retail value of $5,080.

This offer is valid for cancellation of travel programs between 35 days and 1 day before the program begins, when no refunds are available for participants cancelling their travel. One virtual package available per participant; non-transferable. A participant cancelling their enrollment more than 35 days prior is welcome to select this option over their refund if they so choose.

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In this eight-day program, you will spend most of your time working at the dog shelter in our interactive learning and teaching clinic space. Your teaching vet will be able to teach you aspects of veterinary medicine focused on canine tropical shelter medicine, through a combination of field lectures, labs, shadowing, and hands-on practice and teaching.

Outside of San Jose, you’ll find Territorio de Zaguates. It’s not open to tourists or guests to stop by for the day, but once you get behind the gates, you’ll be greeted by the voices of between 1,500 and 2,000 rescued dogs who are happy to see you.

We will be housed off-site and will drive to the project each weekday. You should expect a full, busy day of clinic work and field learning on each weekend, most of which will be spent in our teaching and learning clinic on-site. This is an open-air building where your vet can bring patients from the TzD to be evaluated, examined, and assessed, as well as diagnosed and treated as needed. You will have ample opportunities for hands-on practice of examination and diagnostic skills as part of your training.

The dogs are extremely well cared for, but tropical shelter medicine always includes a prevalence of issues related to parasites (such as ticks), as well as skin and ear issued prevalent in tropical weather. Many of the dogs at TzD suffered from previous abuse or injuries before arriving, and as such are in need of physical therapy or ongoing treatment. Vaccines and wound care are another part of maintaining a healthy pack of over 1,500 dogs.

Each day will be filled with shadowing and hands-on experience as you learn how to examine, diagnose and treat issues such as:

  • Parasites and parasite-born illnesses
  • Skin disease
  • Ear issues
  • Eye issues
  • Pregnancy and neonatal care
  • Physical therapy
  • Joint issues and fractures
  • Wounds
  • Sterilization

You will also learn how a shelter in the tropics works, issues specific to shelters and shelter management, and common canine diseases and health issues in the tropics.

Your time on-project will include a mix of interactive lectures, lab work and lab training, vet shadowing, and vet training appropriate to your skill level. You will also help with chores necessary to run the sanctuary, such as feeding and cleaning, for a limited time each day. It will be hot and you will be outside almost all the time. If you love the idea of learning about shelter dogs with a vet by working in an outdoor clinic and observing your vet up-close for hours on end, this is your dream come true. If that sounds like it will be hot and boring, this is not the trip for you! Participants who invest in learning as much as they can on-site will gain a huge amount of experience and exposure in a short amount of time.

Each day, the dogs go for their “walk”, which is really a hike through the surrounding jungle. It’s a wonderful experience that you will be welcome to join. (Those who do not wish to go on the hike will have the option to skip it whenever they like).

On weekdays, you will be at the on-site clinic for a full work day. In the evenings, we will have time to relax, spend time with your group, and enjoy great outdoor activities around the San Jose area, such as a visit to a wildlife rescue center. On Saturday, we’ll spend the day on a full day tour exploring a Costa Rican volcano and going ziplining.


Every program begins with a safety orientation. We’ll discuss how to stay safe and healthy during your time in Costa Rica. We’ll also discuss best practices for staying safe with all of the different species we will be interacting with, and staff will always be on hand to further instruct students regarding safe interactions with animals.

Dog Clinic Safety

All dogs on site are vaccinated against Rabies. You will be trained in the safe handling of dogs and be supervised by your teaching veterinarian.

Dogs are kept in a number of separate runs. You should prepare each day to get dirty, and plan to wear long pants and closed-toed shoes for safety. You must be comfortable around dogs to participate in this program, and expect that dogs may jump up or may put their front paws on your legs or body. 

COVID Protocols

We will use a “Travel Pod” model – all students and staff in a single project group (maximum of 12 students) will be vaccinated against COVID and will provide a negative COVID test before travel. From that time, the group will wear face masks when in contact with anyone outside the group, which will allow them to be together as a group without face masks in classroom and shared living spaces. 

Whenever possible we will use transportation, living spaces, and clinic space that is restricted only to our students and staff. By disinfecting classroom and living spaces throughout the day, using hand sanitizer, and wearing face masks, we can help everyone in the group to stay well.




There are lots of ways to help fund your online and travel programs with Loop Abroad, and we are here to help!

Scholarships are a terrific way to cover some or all of your tuition for a Loop Abroad program. When you look for scholarships for pre-vet programs, you need to look at all your options!

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the next deadline is March 1 at 11:59 pm Pacific Time! 

The Gilman Scholarship was designed to help students of limited financial means have the opportunity to study abroad – online or in-person. Nearly a third of applicants are awarded the scholarship! This is a great opportunity to help cover your tuition.

Students can receive up to $5,000 for travel or virtual programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs, to our semester programs, or one of our 2-week programs.

Along with their application, students must submit two essays, the Statement of Purpose Essay, and the Community Impact Essay. Students must also upload their transcripts (unofficial or official). For more information on the application guidelines, please click here.

See the official website and read about Loop Abroad students who have received this scholarship. If you are a US citizen receiving a Pell Grant and currently enrolled in college or university, we encourage you to apply for this scholarship. The round of applications due March 1 will cover in-person programs or internships that start between May 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023. This cycle encompasses Summer 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, and Academic Year 2022-2023 programs.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Focused elephant imageLoop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one online program of your choice. Applications will open in early January 2023. We’re proud to add this to the list of scholarships for pre-vet programs.

Who can apply: This scholarship is open to all students age 18 and over. You do not have to be a US Citizen. You do not have to be currently in school. You do not need to be enrolled in an online course to apply. You can apply for the scholarship first and make your online course selection after you receive a decision about the scholarship. (Note: if you make any payments toward tuition and later receive the scholarship, your payments will be refunded up to the value of one online program of your choice, not including an online semester.) 

Criteria for selecting the scholarship recipient: 

We will consider financial need, commitment to conservation and/or animal science, academic performance, and ability to be a positive team member as factors in our decision. We are not looking for the applicant with the highest grades or the most animal hours. We are not looking for the applicant with the saddest story. We are looking for a student who embodies Loop Abroad’s values of teamwork, commitment to a cause, and hard work, and for a student who would not be able to otherwise afford Loop Abroad tuition (whether because of household income or recent change in circumstances).

How to apply:
To apply, you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Apply for the Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship here. The application requires a copy of your proof of household income (such as last year’s tax return).
  2. Follow @LoopAbroad on Instagram ( and make an Instagram post about the program you’re hoping to join, tagging @loopabroad and #loopabroad in the post.

Dr. Erica Ward holding a black dog and an elephant at the background and an elephant dogWhy is it called the Erica Ward Scholarship? Dr. Erica Ward is our Academic Director. We believe that she embodies the values we are seeking in our scholarship applicants: she is passionate, dedicated, hard-working, and driven to make the world a better place. Dr. Ward consistently strives to find ways that Loop Abroad can support projects in need and help its students and alumni have fulfilling academic opportunities. We have decided to name this scholarship after her to honor her continued commitment to her values and purpose. (PS – She isn’t dead. Please don’t write your essay about honoring her legacy. She is very much alive and still working here. If you are a finalist for the scholarship, she will read your essay.)

The scholarship will be credited toward tuition for the winning student toward the Loop Abroad online program of their choice. If the chosen winner has already made payments toward his or her Loop Abroad tuition, those payments will be refunded in full.

The scholarship is non-transferable. If the student cannot attend, the scholarship will be void – it is not a cash prize and cannot be paid as such. Applicants must be over the age of 18. Citizens and residents of any country may apply.


The Gilman-McCain Scholarship:

Young lady holding a blue parrotThe Gilman-McCain Scholarship is a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain from Arizona.

This scholarship is open to US citizen undergraduate students who are child dependents of active duty service members and receive any type of Title IV federal financial aid. Students can receive awards of up to $5,000 for 2+ weeks of international travel or online programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs,  semester programs, or 2-week travel programs.

The next round of applications for the Gilman scholarship opens in January 2022. The deadline will be in March. At that time, you can apply for scholarships to use on any program starting between May 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023.

Freeman-Asia Scholarships:

Smiling woman hanging on a ropeThe Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) provides scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia. This scholarship is open to both US citizens and permanent residents who are undergraduate students at a two-year or four-year college or university.

Recipients can receive up to $3,000 in awards for summer programs. This scholarship can be applied to our Thailand programs for 2+ weeks.

In order to apply, students must fill out an online application. Read the scholarship instructions here and the eligibility requirements here.

Applications for the 2021-2022 school year are closed. 

The Fund for Education Abroad:

Loop Abroad scholarships student checking heartbeat of the tigerThe Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) invests in promising students with financial needs who wish to study abroad. Potential applicants who meet our eligibility requirements may participate in any international education program that meets their academic objectives.

This scholarship is open to US citizens or permanent residents currently enrolled as an undergraduate at a college or university in the US. Scholarships range from $1,250 – $10,000.

Along with their application, students must submit a financial aid form (filled out by the financial aid office at their school), one recommendation letter, and a copy of their unofficial transcript.

Applications for Spring 2023 (programs from January- May) are due by September 15, 2022 at 12pm (noon) EST. Students may review the scholarship and application instructions here.

Scholarships of note that you can apply for through the Fund for Education Abroad include:

  • The Hiliary Echo Douglas Memorial Scholarship – for students studying abroad in Southeast Asia
  • Boston Area Study Abroad Association Scholarship – for students with schools in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.
  • Rainbow Scholarship – For LGBTQI students that participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program.
  • Malú Alvarez Global Access Scholarship- Five scholarships for semester-long programs to be awarded for study in any country.
  • NAFSA Tamara H. Bryant Memorial Scholarship- These funds are awarded to African-American undergraduate students in the United States who hope to study abroad.
  • Gateway International Group Education Abroad Scholarship- Scholarship awarded to those who are first-generation college students, or those whose home or college of study is in Kentucky. Travel Video Contest:

Smiling woman holding small wildcatThe 2020 Travel Video Contest gives students the opportunity to win a scholarship by sending in an original video discussing:

  • How COVID-19 has impacted your international education or cultural exchange experience abroad
  • Your ideal international education or cultural exchange after Covid-19

There are several prizes available ranging from $250 to $4,000.

In order to apply, students must create a 4-minute video and submit an online entry form. Tips and tricks for filming a video entry can be found here. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.

Submissions are due by October 13, 2021. Apply here.

NAFSA scholarships

NAFSA is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and they have a long list of scholarship databases (including scholarships for pre-vet programs) that might help make your program possible!

"This was a great learning experience! We were able to spend a lot of time with the vets and they were constantly answering questions and sharing their knowledge. Strongly recommend this trip!"

Andrea G., Thailand College Veterinary Service 2016

Wright State University, Dayton, OH