Vet Tech Appreciation Week Continues With 2 Guest Blogs
This guest blog was written by one of our Lead Adopt & Shop Volunteers, Keeli Tebeau.
Animal health care has come a long way since Dr. Walter Collins developed the curriculum for veterinary technicians in the 1960s. For all you animal lovers and aspiring vet techs, I share my continuing journey of working in the animal care industry.
MY INSPIRATION: MAYA PAPAYA MIMOSA
When my family decided to share our life with a dog, we visited many animal shelters in both L.A. and Orange counties. We adopted an owner-surrendered 5-month-old Border Collie-Sheltie mixed-breed puppy…and the fun began! Once settled into our home with her new pack, our little Maya Papaya Mimosa taught us how to be a good dog-friendly family. We provided training and puppy socialization, dog park and dog beach outings, city walks and nature hikes, local car rides and interstate road trips, veterinary care and grooming, and toys and agility training. In return, Maya gave us unconditional love, and she shared her enthusiasm and expertise in carrying out her household “jobs”: backyard critter patrol, “announcing” the mailman and visitors, “helping” to set out the trash bins every week, and waking us up at daybreak.
One winter night, at age 5 years, Maya was slow to return to the house from a potty break, and she screamed in pain with each step. Frightened, I carefully looked her over and found nothing bleeding or obviously broken. I left a message with her vet’s office and researched home remedies. The next day, radiographs revealed soft-tissue injury, mild arthritis, and the onset of hip dysplasia—a condition common to herding breeds. Maya had sprained her back, probably from twisting herself against the backyard tree while chasing a squirrel. At age 5 she was entering middle age, plus she was seven to ten pounds overweight. The vet explained that, among other health benefits, weight loss would help to ease the gravitational pull on her back and hips. Her prescription meds included muscle relaxers, Rimadyl, and glucosamine/chondroitin, and the supportive therapy was rest, low-impact walks, and keeping warm during the cold months.
The veterinary team’s handling of this scary situation gave me peace of mind, and I outlined a plan for a healthier lifestyle for my dog. Over the next several months I got her weight down, offered her raw vegetable and fruit treats (she really liked zucchini and apples), and saved running and jumping for the spring and summer months. Maya thrived on this new plan, and I enjoyed my active role in her health care. Wanting to understand my dog’s healthcare needs on a deeper level, I decided I wanted to be part of an animal health care team.
The first step of my journey into animal health care was to research AVMA-accredited programs and read industry forums. As I learned more about the veterinary industry I decided that I wanted to work with animals. After I enrolled in an online program I looked for opportunities to put my new knowledge to use. In a tough job market, I found local volunteer with animals opportunities where I could gain hands-on experience; this work gave me great personal satisfaction, while increasing my knowledge and skills. I eventually found employment as a recovery technician at a spay & neuter clinic and as a veterinary assistant at an animal hospital.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
After preparing the recovery area, my primary responsibility as a recovery tech is to monitor the patients recovering from surgery: extubate them and watch their breathing, stimulate them awake, log their heart rates and temperature, and give fluids or medications as instructed. Secondary responsibilities include administering vaccinations and microchipping pets, applying flea & tick treatments, and trimming nails. Additionally, I perform physical examinations on pre-surgical animals, assist the induction and surgical teams, prepare surgical packs, tend to the walk-in vaccination clinic patients, and interact with pet owners. I like to meet all of the animals before surgery so that they’re familiar with my voice and won’t feel too alone or scared when they wake from the anesthesia.
My responsibilities as a veterinary assistant include restraining animals for treatment, assisting the induction and surgical staff, preparing packs and equipment for surgery, monitoring patients recovering from surgery and dental procedures, preparing prescriptions, educating and interacting with pet owners, bathing the pets, and general cleaning (lots of cleaning!). One day, the vet’s own dog had eaten a wooden toy and had to have the stomach contents surgically removed. I assisted the surgeon by fetching interesting items and opening sterile packs during the procedure…and holding the bowl of chewed-up wood bits!
HOW TO BECOME A VET TECH
To become a registered veterinary technician (RVT) in California, one needs to complete an Associate degree in veterinary technology, pass the national vet tech exam (VTNE), and apply to the state board. Completion of continuing-education courses is a requirement for maintaining the RVT state credential. Entry-level jobs as a kennel attendant or veterinary assistant are good foundations to understanding the requirements of working with animals. Volunteer work with Found Animals Foundation or animal shelters is a good way to gain experience working with animals and learning basic care and restraint techniques, plus it is a rewarding way to give back to the community.
I have always had an interest in medicine, and my dog Maya was my inspiration to study veterinary technology. Sadly, Maya left us earlier this year (on the exact day we brought her home), after giving us nine glorious years; it is in her honor that I continue to work toward providing quality care to our four-legged friends. I find the work greatly rewarding, I enjoy increasing my knowledge and skills, I find satisfaction in veterinary nursing, and I am committed to providing excellent health care for companion animals. I want to take this time to thank the Found Animals Foundation for the wonderful work they do, and to their volunteer program team for giving me the opportunity to work with animals in a meaningful way.
Part II This guest blog was written by Spay4LA volunteer turn staff member, Camille Frasier.
Once the day starts on the Spay4LA spay & neuter mobile there’s just no stopping it! It begins with getting the bus safely to the designated location which can sometimes be a challenge in Los Angeles. Once it arrives, there is always a big crowd of people waiting, eager to get their animal sterilized. At the end of the day when they come to pick up their animal they are always appreciative and many people shower us with thanks. Some things that stand out about my experience are the puppies, boxes of puppies, on more than one occasion, have been left just a few feet from the bus. People bring and leave their animals at our location, hoping that we will find a good home for them. Recently, we found a kitten, about 2 days old, umbilical cord still attached, in a nearby trash can. Some of these sad stories do have happy endings and forever homes have been found for animals, but we cannot save them all and that is hard. I’ve done my share fair of fostering and at the end of the day I’m satisfied that I do all that I can for the animals, that’s why I wanted to be a vet tech.
Any shout outs you’d like to make for these hardworking vet techs? Leave a comment below