veterinary technician

What Are Veterinary Technicians?

Next week, October 14-20, is National Veterinary Technician Week!

Veterinary technicians are the people in scrubs who assist veterinarians while maintaining the well-being of the patients. They have a demanding job that requires a lot of versatility. Some of their duties include, but are not limited to:

  • Initial exam of an animal to determine the nature of its injury or illness
  • Drawing blood and performing required tests
  • Treating injuries
  • Taking and developing X-rays
  • Assisting the veterinarian in surgery
  • Cleaning up and sanitizing all areas before and after procedures
  • Maintaining inventory of medical supplies
  • Advising pet owners of care and feeding
  • Providing updates about animals to the veterinarian
  • Maintaining documentation for each animal

Being a veterinary technician typically requires an associate’s degree in veterinary technology or animal science, although more research-oriented practices might require a bachelor’s degree.

A veterinary technician’s duties are usually determined by state law. They are generally the people who greet you in the exam room, take your pet’s vital signs, and check their gums and ears. They’ll take a case history, and record symptoms to report to the veterinarian.

Veterinary technicians can perform basic medical duties such as flushing ears, cleaning teeth, administering fluids, and applying bandages. A vet tech can stabilize an animal during an emergency, performing first aid when necessary. If state law permits it, a vet tech can also administer intravenous medication.

In the laboratory, veterinary technicians can perform a host of testing. These include some of the following:

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood chemistry
  • Hematology
  • Microbiology
  • Parasitology
  • Serology

They can do an ultrasound, and some can administer anesthesia during surgical procedures. They can also keep track of an animal’s vital signs during surgery. Some intubate and aspirate fluid. Some even stitch up lacerations and remove stitches when healed.

Veterinary technicians can put a cast or a splint on a broken limb. They can oversee physical therapy and otherwise assist in the patient’s recovery, advising the owners and injecting whatever pain medication has been prescribed.

They maintain patient records and inject microchips when requested.

On the saddest day of a pet owner’s life, the veterinary technician is there, to provide comfort and even, in some states, administer euthanasia. A good veterinary technician can help make the procedure as painless as possible for the animal, while helping the owner through the ordeal.

Some veterinary technicians move on to specialize in certain areas. These may be internal medicine, behavioral medicine, animal dentistry or zoological medicine. Other specialties include clinical pathology or emergency care.

One normally thinks of a veterinary technician as working in a veterinary clinic. But, they also find positions in zoos and other organizations that handle wildlife or exotic species. These specialties may require more years of education, due to the increased risk factor. Wild animal sanctuaries and zoos are a diverse and unusual workplace.

A veterinary technician may need to familiarize himself or herself with a gamut of various species, and all the habits and health issues related to a species of interest. Specialized professions may include extensive work in the field. The clinic environment may give way to animal control facilities, wildlife preserves, diagnostic laboratories or wildlife rehabilitation facilities.

Veterinary technicians can wear many hats. They cover a plethora of responsibilities. The person who takes on this demanding job must have a host of qualifications, and the most important one is kindness.