A Day in the Life of a Shelter Vet Tech
October 08, 2012 at 9:00:42 am | Posted by Cassie R. in Pet Care, Volunteer With AnimalsTweet
Veterinary technicians (or vet techs for short) are one of the many unsung heroes of animal welfare. They play an integral role in keeping the pets healthy and happy during their stay at the animal shelter. Unfortunately, not many people know what a vet tech is or what they do. Here are just a few of the duties that shelter vet techs do on a daily basis:
Support the Veterinarian – On any given day, a single shelter veterinarian may be responsible for the health of several hundred animals in the shelter — not an easy task to do alone! Vet techs support the veterinarian in every aspect of their job. These duties range from basics like cleaning kennels or handling animals for medical examinations to more complex tasks such as assisting in surgery, prescribing treatment (based on predetermined protocols), and even managing the veterinarian’s time and ensuring that the vet is on task.
Run Interesting Tests – Most of the animals in the shelter system come in stray, meaning that staff have little to no information about the pet’s history. For the animals that come in with any medical issues, vet techs are often responsible for determining what ails the animal. Like the Sherlock Holmes of veterinary medicine, techs analyze all the clues. This process frequently includes doing skin scrapes, taking blood and urine samples, smelling body odors/fluids, and the oh-so-glamorous fecal float tests.
Medicate the Shelter Pets – Have you ever struggled with medicating your pet at home? Try to imagine how tough it can be to medicate dozens of animals while working at the animal shelter on a daily basis! Vet techs help monitor the health of the shelter population and they are responsible for medicating many of the pets. Some animals can be more difficult than others, so techs have to get creative about how they administer medications. Whether it’s hiding pills in meatballs for dogs, humanely shoving pills down throats for cats, or hiding glucosamine supplements in a carrot for the occasional goat, shelter vet techs make sure to get the job done!
Customer Service and Medical Advising – Each and every pet in the shelter system has their own medical history, and shelter techs will regularly discuss the animal’s individual needs with potential adopters. Techs will advise families on how to best care for their newly adopted pets with pet adoption basics. Almost all new owners will be educated on how to care for a freshly spayed or neutered pet, but techs will also advise on other circumstances such as various infections, skin conditions, diet, and any medications that may be sent home with the pet. Shelter vet techs may also be called upon if any adopters have health concerns for their pet, sometimes even weeks after the pet has been adopted.
Attend to Medical Emergencies – Many animal shelters are open admission, which means that they will take in almost any animal in their jurisdiction. This includes the sick, injured, and even sometimes wild, so the vet techs at the animal shelter have to be prepared for anything! As soon as staff reports an emergency situation, the shelter techs spring into action with gurney, nets, and even sometimes protective gloves in hand. Techs deal with a wide variety of emergency situations, such as pets hit by cars, animal cruelty cases, animals stuck in random objects, and every other possible injury you can imagine. These situations are not always limited to cats and dogs, shelter techs may come to the rescue for wild animals like egrets, cotton-tail rabbits, and even mountain lions (depending on the shelter’s location of course). These unsung heroes do their best to stabilize the emergency cases and then, if needed, send them to more appropriate care facilities.
Hardest Job of All – One of the toughest decisions to make as a pet owner is when to finally let go of your best friend. Deciding when it is time to let go of a shelter pet’s life commonly falls into the hands of the vet techs. Techs have to take into account the shelter’s resources (such as space, budget, and man-power) as well as the animal’s quality of life when they make recommendations for euthanasia. Because every vet tech is committed to the health and happiness of all pets, this decision is never made lightly and can often take an emotional toll on the vet techs and other shelter staff.
For all the difficult decisions that they have to make and for all the good they do for the animals, we are proud to celebrate National Veterinary Technician Week! Here’s to you, the unsung heroes of the animal welfare world!
Are you interested in becoming a vet tech? Volunteering with animals is a great way to start your career!
Do you have an interesting vet teach story? Share it in the comments!