“Oh, you’re a veterinary technician? I’d love to play with puppies and kittens all day, too. 

When are you going to become a veterinarian?”

Veterinary technicians answer many questions about what they do in their day-to-day jobs. The well-meaning general public does not understand how much schooling vet techs undergo, their job duties, or their career goals. To sum up, a veterinary technician is essentially a nurse for animals, but also a radiographer, microbiologist, pharmacist, clinical pathologist, anesthesiologist, surgical assistant, and many other specialized medical professionals all rolled into one. 

While many vet techs have no desire to become veterinarians, some use their vet tech experience to gain admission to veterinary school. However, vet techs and veterinarians are two completely different veterinary professionals who have pursued different education and career paths to reach their dreams. Contrary to popular belief, vet techs are the ones who have the most hands-on patient-care tasks, whereas veterinarians form treatment plans, and discuss diagnoses and treatments with pet owners.

Not only do vet techs get to do the “fun” things, such as placing IV catheters, taking X-rays, and analyzing urine samples, they also assist in the heartbreaking moments, such as knowing a stray animal is too sick to save, offering a shoulder to cry on during a cancer diagnosis, or holding a pet’s paw during euthanasia.

An in-depth look at vet techs

Although the Veterinary Nurse Initiative is currently working to standardize credentialing requirements and to improve public and professional recognition for vet techs, pet owners still need help to understand the importance of these valued team members. Let’s shed some light on what our vet techs do to care for your pet:

  • Radiology — If your pet needs an X-ray, a team of vet techs and assistants ensures the picture quality. A vet tech will measure your pet to calculate the settings needed for a crystal-clear image, and position your pet for the X-ray, relying on her anatomical knowledge to identify the correct landmarks to ensure she gets the right body structures in the picture. Once she takes the X-ray, she will process the image and check for quality and proper positioning. Occasionally, X-rays are taken without sedation, and our skilled vet techs can calm and comfort any pet into relaxing and lying still for her X-rays.

  • Microbiology — Vet techs skilled in microbiology aid pets suffering from ear infections, itchy skin, or diarrhea. After scooping out a chunk of debris from an ear, taking a swab of a scab, or picking up a fecal sample, a vet tech will prepare the sample for examination and then check for bacteria, yeast, protozoa, or parasites. Correct identification of the organism causing disease is critical in making your pet healthy.

  • Clinical pathology — Your pet’s bodily fluids are an excellent indicator of hidden disease. A vet tech will collect your pet’s blood or urine to analyze for anemia, infection, organ dysfunction, or crystal formation.

  • Pharmacology — Every medication is potentially a poison. Our highly educated vet techs understand the importance of knowing how each medication works, including how the drug is metabolized, its side effects, and any interactions it may have with other medications.

  • Anesthesiology — Administering and monitoring anesthesia can be stressful, but our trained vet techs know how to keep your pet pain-free and unconscious while undergoing surgery. They know the normal parameters for pulse and respiratory rates, blood pressure, temperature, eye position, heart rhythm, and jaw tone for a pet under anesthesia. Our vet techs never leave your pet’s side during recovery until she is fully conscious, ensuring her comfort and safety.

  • Phlebotomy — Although drawing blood from humans can be difficult, finding a vein on a tiny, dehydrated, upset kitten is more challenging. But, our vet tech superheroes manage this feat. They can also place an intravenous catheter in said tiny kitten, the most obese of Labradors, or the furriest of shelties.

Our veterinary technicians, who work diligently to provide the best patient care, are the backbone of our team, and we ask that you join in celebrating them during National Veterinary Technician Week. The third week in October is set aside to honor our skilled, compassionate vet techs—they especially enjoy treats—but recognition for the difficult tasks they perform every day is nice, too.   

Now that you know the incredible feats our vet techs perform daily, schedule your pet’s next appointment so you can see them in action.