What Does A Veterinary Technician Do?
Veterinary technicians assist the veterinarian in the clinic or vet hospital in caring for sick animals. Unlike veterinary assistants that don’t need to be certified or licensed, veterinary technicians need to graduate from a two-year associate degree program and have to pass credentialing exams to be able to be able to practice their profession.
The laws of the state usually determine the duties that a veterinary technician can do. Vet techs are usually called upon to perform the initial examination when pet owners bring in their pets for examination. They take vital signs and measurements and get the patient’s case history from the pet owner in case this is the first time the pet is brought to their care. They also record the symptoms presented by the animal and report this to the veterinarian so that it can be taken into consideration during diagnosis and treatment.
Veterinary technicians may perform dental prophylaxis, gavage, ear flushing, enemas and electrocardiography procedures. They may also be asked to insert catheters, apply bandages and prepare surgical sites. In cases when an animal is brought in for emergency care, veterinary technicians are tasked with stabilizing the animal with first aid treatment procedures, such as stopping the bleeding, until the veterinarian will be able to give treatment. They may also be allowed to administer intravenous medication for as long as state laws allow it.
Vet techs may also be tasked with performing laboratory tests to help diagnose an animal’s medical condition. These tests may include urinalysis, parasitology, hematology, blood chemistry, microbiology, serology and exfoliative cytology, among others. They may also operate the x-ray and ultrasound machine when diagnostic imaging tests must be carried out to get an inside look at the animal’s internal organs.
Under the supervision of the veterinarian, veterinary technicians may also perform endotracheal intubation, fluid aspiration and suture skin lacerations. In the event that a patient needs surgery, they may administer anesthesia, give assistance to the veterinarian and check regularly on the vital signs of the patient who is under anesthesia. In the event that an animal suffers cardiac arrest during surgery or even while in confinement, vet techs may, under the direct supervision of the veterinarian, administer external cardiac resuscitation procedures or drugs to get the patient’s heart to work again.
Applying casts and splints, providing oxygen therapy, physical therapy and administering antibiotics and other medications that have been prescribed by the veterinarian are also other tasks that vet techs can do. They may also inject tranquilizers, sedatives and other controlled substances for as long as they are directly supervised by the veterinarian. They may also be asked to supervise veterinary assistants to ensure the proper handling of biohazardous wastes.
In some states, veterinary technicians may perform euthanasia in animals even without the presence of the veterinarian for as long as the order has already been given by the latter to put the animal to sleep. They may also perform such procedures as thoracocentesis, abdominocentesis and others under the order of the vet.
Vet techs also keep records of the progress of the patient and maintain surgery and x-ray logs. They also keep other routine records when instructed by the veterinarian. They are also allowed to implant microchips or other electronic identification devices when ordered by the veterinarian.
Veterinary technicians may also choose to specialize in various fields after some years of work experience. They may become experts at animal dentistry, internal medicine, zoological medicine, behavioral medicine, emergency care, nutrition, anesthesia care, clinical pathology or clinical practice.
Although vet techs are usually hired by veterinarians and perform their job in clinics or animal hospitals where they deal mostly with dogs and cats, they may also be hired by zoos, government agencies and organizations that handle exotic species. When working in these places, vet techs may need to exercise a higher degree of expertise as they will be handling more dangerous and aggressive animals. Their work may encompass handling of wild animals that have been captured, performing tests to prevent the spread of animal-borne diseases and caring for endangered species. Vet techs hired by these organizations will also have to be comfortable working in the field as this work involves spending a lot of time outdoors.