Phi Zeta was originated in 1925 by a group of senior veterinary students in the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University. With the assistance of a group of faculty members, including the Dean of the College, Dr. Veranus A. Moore, the Society was formally organized, and Dean Moore was elected as the first president of the Alpha Chapter. The Society of Phi Zeta was organized in 1929 at a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, and Dean Moore became the first president of the Society.
Also in 1929, a charter was granted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Beta Chapter was established. In 1931, the Executive Committee approved the petition of a group from Iowa State College, and the Gamma Chapter was established. Since then twenty-four chapters have been chartered, bringing the total number of chapters to twenty-seven.
Auburn University established the Epsilon Chapter, the fifth Phi Zeta Chapter, in 1948.
Chapters of the Society may be formed at any recognized veterinary medial college or at any other institution of higher learning.
The organizers of the Society, when seeking a suitable name, sought the help of a learned Greek scholar, Professor George P. Bristol of Cornell University. Professor Bristol suggested a Greek word, which in the Latin form is spelled PHILOZOI and means "love for animals." The abbreviation of Phi Zeta was adopted as the name of the society.
The emblem consists of a pendant formed by the letter Phi superimposed by the letter Zeta. The design was the work of Louis Agassiz Fuertes, the great naturalist and artist.