When working with animals, the good, the bad and, unfortunately, the sad, can all be a part of a normal work day. Veterinary assistants and technicians who work in veterinary facilities, from private practices to laboratories and research centers – even zoos – experience nearly every range of care during the course of their work day. Morning may start with the birth of a litter of puppies, adoring human parents present for every minute, while the afternoon can bring the sadness of an owner saying his or her final goodbyes to a much-loved companion.
There are some areas, however, that are pretty universal throughout the work day for the average veterinary assistant and veterinary technician:
Poop. It has to be said. When working with animals, there is always poop involved and veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians are – pardon the pun – right in the thick of things.
There’s a lot of work required when looking after animals. Some are sick, some are recovering from surgery, and others may be in quarantine for one illness or another. All of these types of conditions take a toll on the animal and keeping their areas clean and sanitary, while primarily for the animal’s comfort, is also required by the rules and regulations that govern most facilities. Stopping the spread of disease and preventing further pathogens from harming the animals and the humans who care for them is absolutely vital.
At the other end of the spectrum – quite literally in fact – are some of the best parts of the job. Kisses. Doggy kisses, kitty kisses, and even more amazing – the sweet, sweet smell of puppy breath.
This may be one of the main reasons people who love animals become vet assistants, techs, and veterinarians. There is a lot of interaction with the animals during a work day. While there will be times that are tough, there will be many incidents where the pet is brought in for routine examination or blood work and a little affection goes a long way when it comes to animals.
It’s never boring. Each day has a routine, but there’s almost always one incident or another that will bring something different to the day.
From an emergency surgery to a late day delivery of a litter of kittens, veterinary assistants and technicians learn to multi-task and respond quickly to an urgent situation. While preventative health care is a large part of many veterinary practices, they are also the primary source of emergency care when an animal has been injured. A dog hit by a car needs those who are treating him or her to know what is needed and when it’s needed to provide the best treatment and the most positive outcome.
It’s versatile. With every client, the vet assistant and the technician provides a different service.
For the new pet owner, the assistant or technician will offer basic information about the care of their particular pet – dogs need exercise, cats need fresh water daily, rabbits shouldn’t eat too much lettuce – while for the pet owner with an older animal, proper nutrition for an aging body, supplements that can help joints, and the proper dosage of pain medication may be discussed. The veterinary assistant or technician may then move on to caring for an animal who has just come out of surgery or dispensing medications to animals in the kennels at that facility.
It’s as much about the people as the pets.
While vet assistants and techs can and do work in animal shelters, a greater percentage work with the people who own the pets. Just as these people come in all shapes and sizes, they come with every range of personality. They are also there with an animal they love and sometimes they are there to hear bad news. Compassion is a vital element in working with animals – both for the animal itself and – as importantly – for the pet owner. Some kind words can really help when an owner has just been told their animal has a terminal disease and it’s not unheard of for those who know an animal through their practice to shed a tear or two at the end of that pet’s life.
The jobs of the veterinary assistant and the veterinary technician are so wide ranging it’s hard to list every responsibility. The core is caring – for the animals and the owners – during every age of an animal’s life. Keeping the facility clean, disease prevention, examinations, medications, surgeries and emergency services, the assistant and the technician in a veterinary practice are there on the front lines, helping the veterinarian do what they all do best – care.
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