They’re smart. They’re kind. They’re passionate. They take multitasking to a new level. They sacrifice their own well-being and dedicate themselves to helping others. When they see trouble, they swoop in to save the day.
No, we aren’t talking about super heroes—at least not the kind you’re probably imagining. We’re talking about a different kind of super hero. We’re talking about veterinary technicians.
In human medicine, there are nurses, anesthesiologists, laboratory technicians, X-ray technicians, surgical assistants, phlebotomists, dental hygienists, nutritionists, and more. In veterinary medicine, the veterinary technician covers all of those roles. Here’s a look at the many duties veterinary technicians handle so your pet stays healthy.
What is a veterinary technician?
Trained specifically to take care of animals, veterinary technicians earn an associate’s degree after taking classes in the areas of animal anatomy and physiology, nursing care, pharmacology, anesthesiology, surgical assistance, diagnostic imaging, dentistry, laboratory diagnostics, and more. They must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam and take regular continuing education courses to keep their knowledge up-to-date.
The many roles of veterinary technicians
- Nurse — Veterinary technicians ensure the animals in their care are clean and comfortable. They administer medications and work with veterinarians to develop treatment plans.
- Anesthesiologist — Veterinary technicians have knowledge about anesthetic drugs and techniques to keeps pets comfortable and safe before, during, and after surgical procedures. They can calculate anesthetic drug dosages and administer injectable and gas anesthesia after approval by the veterinarian.
- Phlebotomist — Whether the animal is dehydrated and anemic, won’t sit still, or has matted fur, a vet tech can draw her blood or place an IV catheter.
- Dental hygienist — Veterinary technicians perform dental cleanings and take dental X-rays to ensure teeth are healthy below the gum line. They prepare the teeth to be thoroughly examined by the veterinarian. When extractions or other procedures are needed, vet techs assist the veterinarian and ensure the animal recovers comfortably.
- Surgical assistant — Veterinary technicians intubate patients before anesthesia and prepare all surgical instruments and equipment. They also shave hair from the surgical site and aseptically scrub it to prevent infection. During procedures, vet techs monitor vital signs, including heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature, and anesthetic depth. They also monitor pain levels of pets during recovery and alert the veterinarian if pain medications are needed.
- X-ray technician — Vet techs are experts at positioning animals for X-rays, providing just the right view so veterinarians can make accurate diagnoses. In larger or specialty animal hospitals, veterinary technicians might also operate ultrasound machines, MRIs, and other imaging equipment.
- Laboratory technician — After collecting a variety of samples, veterinary technicians run the appropriate laboratory tests to help determine a pet’s diagnosis. They can examine feces for parasite eggs and urine for the bacteria that can cause a urinary tract infection. Veterinary technicians operate blood analyzers to test for anemia, organ dysfunction, or infection. They also evaluate skin scrapes for microscopic mites and ear swab samples for bacteria, yeast, and ear mites.
- Nutritionist — Veterinary technicians research quality pet foods and understand how different foods can help pets with various health conditions. They can talk to pet owners about ways to help animals achieve their optimal weight.
- Groomer — If you’ve ever taken your pet to the vet for a nail trim or ear cleaning, or if you’ve had your dog’s anal glands expressed at the vet, chances are good it was a veterinary technician helping your pet to look and feel her best.
- Translator — Medical terminology can be overwhelming. Vet techs can break down the jargon—whether it was read online or came straight from the veterinarian—so it’s easier to understand and digest.
More than anything, veterinary technicians serve as voices for those who don’t have their own. Here at Belmont Animal Hospital, our veterinary technicians work hard every day to provide the highest quality care for our patients. Thank you, veterinary technicians of Belmont Animal Hospital!