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: FULL

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.

Gilman Scholarship

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition. The deadline is October 5, 2023, 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

30 Veterinary Hours and 10 animal experience 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.


For programs starting after August 20, 2023, COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended, but they will no longer be required.

All participants must follow the Loop Abroad COVID policies, which include testing negative 2 days before travel, reporting symptoms if they arise during the program, masking or testing if asked to by staff, and isolating if you test positive.

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.

Note: zipline equipment has a safety weight limit of 250lbs.


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 9 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 March 2023 Deadline application will open in mid-January 2023 for applicants whose in-person programs or internships start between May 1, 2023 to April 30, 2024. This cycle encompasses Summer 2023, Fall 2023, Academic Year 2023-2024, and Spring 2024 programs or internships. The application deadline is Thursday, March 9, 2023 at 11:59pm Pacific Time, and the advisor certification deadline is Thursday, March 16, 2023.

Loop Abroad “Vet Squared” Initiative

Loop Abroad has committed $10,000 in annual funding to program participants joining us from a military background. If you are active duty military or are a veteran, and are considering a career in veterinary medicine, we hope you’ll consider applying to join a Loop Abroad program.

Scholarships of $500 – $1,000 are available for in-person programs. Scholarships of $1,000 – $3,000 are available for select self-paced virtual programs, which can cover the full cost of a virtual program.

Please find more details here.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Focused elephant imageLoop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one travel program (up to 2 weeks) of your choice.  Applications for 2023 are now CLOSED. Applications for 2024 will re-open in January 2024. 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 have to complete an application to Loop Abroad in order to be selected for the scholarship. The scholarship winner must be able to complete the Loop Abroad enrollment paperwork, requiring a doctor’s signature, and must meet all safety requirements of program enrollment.

Note: if you have already applied to Loop Abroad and been accepted, you can still apply for this scholarship. If you have made any payments toward tuition and later receive the scholarship, your payments will be refunded.

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).

Scholarship details:

This scholarship covers tuition to one Loop Abroad program with a duration of 1 to 2 weeks in the summer of 2023. It is not transferable to other individuals or future semesters. It does not include airfare, travel or medical insurance, passport, college credit fees (optional), visa (if required), or any optional incidentals during your program. Please understand that a full tuition scholarship does not make travel completely free: passport, airfare, and other expenses depend on the program location.

Once a scholarship winner is chosen, the winner will need to complete full application paperwork for Loop Abroad. The winner must then also complete the enrollment paperwork, which includes waiver forms and a medical form signed by a doctor indicating that you are able to safely participate in a travel program.

The scholarship winner agrees that Loop Abroad may publicize the awarding of the scholarship, including the recipient’s information such as name and current university. The scholarship winner will be subject to all regular rules of participating in a Loop Abroad program.

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. You do not need to mention that you have applied for a scholarship.

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 program of their choice.

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.

ALL PARTICIPANTS IN LOOP ABROAD TRAVEL PROGRAMS MUST BE VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19. All participants are subject to other COVID requirements, such as providing a negative COVID test taken within the 2 days prior to travel. If you are unable to meet these requirements, you may use your scholarship toward a Loop Abroad online program of your choice within the 2023 calendar year.

Loop Abroad reserves the right not to grant a travel scholarship for the 2023 year if there are no qualified applicants who have applied by the deadline.


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 deadline for this scholarship is March 9, 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.

All student applications for Academic Year 2023-2024, including the following terms: Summer 2023, Fall 2023, Academic Year 2023-2024, Spring 2024, and Calendar Year 2024, are expected to open in February 2023.

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.

Smiling woman holding small wildcat Aging Matters Scholarship continues to bring more awareness to the key issues we face as an aging population. For the 8th consecutive year, we will be awarding an annual college scholarship to an individual that best demonstrates to us why “Aging Matters” to them. A $1500 scholarship will be given annually to a selected college student that currently cares for an aging loved one, works within the senior community, or intends to pursue a career that will have an impact on the elder population. Any existing student (or incoming freshman), in good academic standing, at a 2 or 4-year accredited college can apply for this scholarship. The recipient will demonstrate a unique and admirable understanding and desire to show us that “Aging Matters” to them.

All applicants can get more information and apply online here. Applications are due May 15, 2023.

First Trip offers scholarships for students who are studying abroad for the first time. At the time of writing, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Belize programs would be eligible for these $1,500 scholarships. Find out more and apply at Applications are rolling and suggested to be submitted at least 3 months before your program. They also have funding available for passports ($130) as well as some other supplemental awards.