What Does A Veterinary Assistant Do?

If your pet dog gets sick, you run to the veterinarian to ensure that he returns in the peak of health. In many veterinary offices, you will most likely first be greeted by veterinary assistants. They are responsible for many tasks in the veterinary clinic that help veterinarians and veterinary technicians treat and care for cats, dogs and other animals.

As the first veterinary personnel who will meet stressed and worried pet owners, veterinary assistants play a very important role in helping them cope well with caring for a sick pet that they consider as loving members of their family. Assistants answer their questions and inform them about the protocol that is followed in the veterinary clinic or hospital if a pet needs to be admitted. They may also help pet owners understand their pet’s condition and follow up on the veterinarian’s orders regarding when medication should be given and how to give it at home.

Depending on the laws of the state where they work in, veterinarian assistants can perform various responsibilities either under the immediate supervision or indirect supervision of a veterinarian or veterinary technician.

The veterinarian will first examine an animal that is brought to him. The role of veterinary assistants here is to make sure that the animal is restrained well so that it cannot bite or break free. If a severely injured pet is brought to the clinic, they assist veterinarians and veterinary technologists in providing emergency first aid.

Veterinary assistants can collect blood, urine and fecal samples from animals brought to their care to diagnose their illness like intestinal parasites or heartworms. They may also be asked to collect tissue samples which are needed in tests that diagnose more serious diseases like cancers. Once the disease has already been identified, veterinary assistants may also be responsible for administering prescribed ophthalmic, oral, topical, otic or parenteral medication. In addition, they also take care of the proper handling and disposal of biohazardous waste and materials of the clinic.

Veterinarians may also ask veterinary assistants to perform certain procedures like force feeding—medically termed as gavage—and ear flushing. They may also assist in placing a device to allow for vascular access in animals. In diagnostic imaging procedures, veterinary assistants assist in positioning the patient and administering contrast materials orally and rectally. They may also be asked to administer certain medications intravenously. Veterinary assistants may also assist in performing electrocardiography procedures in patients.

If surgery needs to be performed, veterinary assistants prepare the surgical site. They also see to it that surgical equipment and tools are sterilized and that the operating room has been thoroughly disinfected before the procedure is carried out. Hygienic surroundings are crucial in ensuring that the animals don’t contract infection while they are in such a fragile condition. Before surgery, they are also tasked with bringing the animal to the operating room and restraining them. In some states, they are allowed to induce anesthesia either by allowing the patient to inhale the drug or injecting it for as long as this is done under the direct supervision of the veterinarian. They may also be asked to assist the veterinarian during surgery by handing to them the tools and supplies needed.

Veterinary assistants may be tasked with applying bandages, casts or splints, removing sutures and if needed, helping place an endotracheal tube in the animal. They are also tasked with monitoring their condition after the surgical procedure, documenting their vital signs and recording the care provided. If they notice any changes in the condition of the patient, they report it to the veterinarian right away. For animals that have no more hope of recovery and are in very severe pain, veterinary assistants may assist in euthanasia procedures.

An important part of their job in the clinic or animal hospital is keeping the animals and their quarters safe and clean while they are on confinement. They give the animals a bath, brush their teeth, groom them and disinfect their cages. They may also perform animal massages. They also see to it that the animals get adequate nutrition by feeding them regularly. They also inform the pet owners on how to care for their pets at home following the advice of the veterinarian. They also see to it that the owner fully understands the veterinarian’s instructions regarding the pet’s nutrition and medication after an illness.

Career Spotlight: Veterinary Assistant

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