Pet owners might not think much about how that unwanted scrap of food thrown from the dinner table can affect their favorite pet, like a dog. However, those extra calories can begin to add up as unwanted weight, and have a negative impact on their pet’s health. Veterinarians are often too busy to discuss concerns like this with pet owners, but veterinary nutrition technicians can step in to help. They can provide guidance in handling dietary matters and help owners understand that good nutrition is imperative to animal and pet health.
In fact, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention notes that 54 percent of cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This may be because these pets are not getting enough exercise, may be eating the wrong kinds of or too much food, or because a medical issue has gone undiagnosed. Veterinary nutrition technicians can play a role in helping bring these animals back to health and recommend exercise programs, identify better sources of nutritional food, and educate pet owners about better care of their animal.
Veterinary nutrition technicians do not need to learn about nutrition for animals on their own, although plenty of continuing education programs do exist. Indeed, veterinary nutrition technician schools can provide vet tech students with an education about keeping pet and animals healthy and meeting their nutritional needs. Veterinary nutrition technicians can turn to organizations like the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition to stay up-to-date on upcoming seminars and to read recent articles on relevant topics, such as promoting longevity in pets. The organization also puts on an annual nutrition and research symposium that may be of interest to veterinary nutrition technicians.
Veterinary Nutrition Tech Career Outlook
Job opportunities for veterinary technicians working in the U.S. are expected to increase significantly from 2010 to 2020, according to 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It is predicted they will be grow by 52 percent during this time and result in the creation of 41,700 new vet tech positions. This growth is expected to take place for many reasons, one of which includes that veterinarians are becoming increasingly busy and need help in carrying out some of their duties. Nutritional care of animals may fall to the wayside, and veterinary nutrition technicians can be called in to help – not just with pet diet and health, but also with overall pet nutrition.
Veterinary nutrition technicians could find employment in veterinarian offices, but also working in large animal shelters or even in wildlife rescue centers where specific animals lost or injured may need help being nourished back to health. Veterinary technician nutrition specialists can also look to the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians to find leads on jobs or at the
American Veterinary Medical Association job board that features a variety of employment opportunities available for vet techs and veterinarians.
Veterinary Nutrition Technician Salary Data
Pay for vet techs may vary due to experience on the job and also because of specialty. For example, the website SimplyHired notes that the average salary for vet techs working in the U.S. as of September 2013 was $33,000. However, those working as veterinary nutrition technicians earned an average pay of $40,000, according to the site. Pet nutrition specialists earned $68,000, Simply Hired indicates, but this may be because they often have more education (like a master’s or doctoral degree) and may be employed by pet food companies to work on difficult projects like product formulation or research.
The veterinary nutrition technician salary is not tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that agency does provide salary information for vet techs overall. In fact, it indicated that as of May 2013, the average median nationwide income for veterinary technicians was $30,290, which is somewhat close to that specified by SimplyHired. Of course, there are variations within salary. The BLS notes that those vet techs in the highest 10percent earned up to $44,030 while those in the lowest 10 percent earned as little as $21,030.
Graduates of veterinary nutrition technician schools need to obtain licensure or become registered to work in their state. Typically, the first step following graduation from a vet tech program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association is to take the Veterinary Technician National Examination. This computer-based test offered through the American Association of Veterinary State Boards assesses the skills of entry-level vet techs. Results are sent to state licensing agencies such as a state veterinary board and applicants who have passed the VTNE and met other state requirements, may be on their way to becoming a registered vet technician (RVT), licensed vet technician (LVT) or certified vet technician (CVT).
Veterinary nutrition techs may then want to consider enrollment in the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. The organization offers active, associate and student memberships, provides news about upcoming events, opportunities for continuing education and publishes the bi-monthly NAVTA Journal. In addition, vet techs can also seek veterinary technician nutrition certification through the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians. However, to seek this certification vet techs need to have at least three years of clinical or research based experience, 40 hours of continuing education, five case write-ups and meet other qualifications to be considered.
Veterinary nutrition technicians will be working both with pets and pet owners in their career. As such, they may need to possess many of the typical qualities, such as manual dexterity, strong communication skills, and compassion, indicated by the BLS as important for a successful vet tech career. However, veterinary nutrition technicians may also need to be persuasive to be able to convince pet owners to make changes in their pet’s diet, try new techniques to obtain improved health, or to integrate supplements into their pet’s dietary regime.
Education & Experience
Students generally need to complete a two-year associate of science degree to start a vet tech career in nutrition. Students can look for specific programs offering specialties in nutrition or may simply focus as much of their coursework as they can on nutrition. Students do want to be sure their program is accredited by the AVMA and that nutrition is offered as part of the core curriculum. Windward Community College in Hawaii is one such vet tech program that provides nutrition as part of its education. On the other hand, the University of Wisconsin at River Falls offers a five-year bachelor’s degree in vet tech animal science that offers a specialization in nutrition as well as in many other fields. However, no matter what vet tech training program students choose to pursue, they should be sure to focus any internship, externship or volunteer experience toward their specific vet tech field of interest.