Animal care is a big business. An APPA National Pet Owners survey from 2011-2012 reported over 377 million pets were in homes across the United States. Almost 200 million of those pets are species that will at some point have to see a veterinarian for preventative and/or urgent care. In nearly every veterinary practice, from the country vet to the largest of animal care hospitals, the veterinary assistant will be there playing a vital role in patient health.
The veterinary assistant position is one that does not require a degree, although some certification can be involved. Often on the job training is what gets the vet assistant started. No matter how the assistant begins their career, there are some characteristics of the job that are included in every practice. While these duties may vary depending on the size of the practice, in some form the veterinary assistant will participate in most, if not all, of the following:
Public Relations Responsibilities:
Often the veterinary assistant is the first person the anxious pet owner meets when they bring their animal to the vet. The attitude of that assistant, projecting a cheerful and helpful persona, goes a long way to providing an optimal experience for the veterinary client. There will often be opportunities to provide information to the client, including the presentation of veterinary services that may be applicable through the assistant’s knowledge of preventative health care and related subjects.
Veterinary assistant’s become intimately familiar with the signs of illness and parasites that affect animals through their kennel duties. Exercising the animals, feeding, watering and keeping the cages clean allows the vet assistant to see the conditions of animals improve following surgeries and illness and to demonstrate first hand how proper bathing, dipping and other grooming procedures keep animals at the peak of physical health.
Laboratory/Surgical/Exam Room Responsibilities:
General housekeeping of the veterinary facilities is part of the assistant’s responsibilities, including maintenance of the designated elimination areas. General “housekeeping” will include cleaning of exam, surgery and lab areas to prevent the spread of disease, laundering of used linens, keeping public areas clean, and restocking supplies for all areas of the veterinarian’s practice. The assistant may also do simple lab tests if there is an in-house facility, along with filing lab reports and completing and processing any forms from the vet for out of house service.
General Office Responsibilities:
The basic functions of an office, from computer use to facilitate new and returning patient information, to client folders, animal vaccination schedules, and patient boarding and hospitalization. Assistant’s will also perform financial transactions for client bills and other services and material goods.
Animal Care Responsibilities:
By and large, the greatest portion of time spent during the day for many veterinary assistant’s will be in animal care. The assistant will help restrain the animal when needed, such as during the administration of shots and medications, and when the animal is being examined – and tests, such as fecal tests for worms, are administered. Understanding the most common illnesses, including physical symptoms and how such an illness could affect the animal and other animals who come into contact with it plays a part, as does knowledge of common medications.
Choosing a veterinary assistant career means that every day the assistant goes to work knowing he or she is making a real difference in the life of the animals in their care.
If you are interested in taking a veterinary assistant course, click here to see the program!