Only 3 weeks after being adopted by the Swinson family, Bear, a mastiff mix, saved his family by alerting them to the flames that were engulfing their home. Although you can read more of his story on sites like LifeWithDogs.com or on shows like Animal Planet’s Emergency Vets, some people wonder who takes care of the animals that put their lives on the line for their owners. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants work together to make sure that all animals, heroes or not, are given the highest level of care to ensure they have long and happy lives.
Although most people think of veterinarians as the key pet caregivers, there are other options for those who wish to work closely with animals. Both veterinary assistants and veterinary technologists work with veterinarians to make sure that animals are diagnosed and treated for illness quickly and efficiently, so that they can have longer life spans. The benefit is that both of these jobs allow people to have personal connections with their patients, but allow the veterinary professional to jump right into the field without an extensive amount of educational investment.
Veterinary assistants have the important job of making sure the veterinary office and procedures run smoothly. They often answer phones, clean up office spaces, administer medication and collect and process laboratory samples. Most veterinarians like to hire assistants who are familiar with animal science and have a background working with different types of animals. Usually, getting an Associate of Arts (AA) in Animal Science is sufficient for this position, as the AA in Animal Science is a broader, more theoretical degree than the Associate of Science (AS).
Veterinary technology is a more hands-on field and requires a significant understanding of the science and anatomy of animals. Veterinary technicians are the equivalent of nurses in a veterinary office. They often provide anesthetic, bandaging, dentistry and surgical assistance to a veterinarian. Some veterinary technologists are also trained in radiological techniques for identifying cancer, taking blood and inserting catheters. This job usually requires at least an AS in Animal Science, although a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Animal Science, as well as state licensure, is a requirement in many states.
Often responsible for administering medication, performing x-ray and ultrasound procedures, and assisting with surgery, vet techs are the nurses of the veterinary world.
Veterinary assistants help run the veterinary office, scheduling appointments with pet owners, maintaining medical records, and medically assisting the veterinarian and vet tech.