Career Development

What Does a Veterinary Assistant Do?

Find out what a veterinary assistant does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a veterinary assistant.

Veterinary assistants are the hands-on workers in veterinary clinics and hospitals. They help veterinarians, doctors, and other veterinary professionals care for animals by performing a variety of tasks such as feeding, bathing, exercising, grooming, and restraining animals.

Veterinary assistants may also be responsible for cleaning cages, kennels, and other animal enclosures; preparing food and water bowls; taking notes on animal behavior or health issues; and assisting with surgical procedures.

Veterinary Assistant Job Duties

Veterinary assistants have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Preparing patients for examinations, diagnostic tests, and surgery, including shaving or clipping fur, applying antiseptic creams, and wrapping bandages
  • Administering medications to animals, including giving injections, administering pills, or feeding pets oral medications
  • Preparing equipment for examinations, such as cleaning and sterilizing instruments, preparing bandages, and setting up equipment such as X-ray machines or ultrasound equipment
  • Feeding animals by hand, measuring food portions, and monitoring diets for health problems
  • Recording medical histories of patients, including information about vaccinations, previous treatments, and current health status
  • Helping veterinarians conduct physical exams, diagnose illnesses, administer treatments such as intravenous fluids, and assist in surgery operations
  • Cleaning kennels, cages, and other animal enclosures to keep them sanitary for animals being treated for illness or injury
  • Communicating with pet owners about treatment options and next steps in the healing process
  • Preparing animals for surgery by shaving or scrubbing them and applying disinfectants to skin surfaces that will be exposed during surgery

Veterinary Assistant Salary & Outlook

Veterinary assistants’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the size of the veterinary practice, and the geographic location of the job.

  • Median Annual Salary: $27,500 ($13.22/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $64,500 ($31.01/hour)

The employment of veterinary assistants is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

As pet owners continue to treat their pets as members of the family, demand for veterinary care will increase. In addition, the aging population should lead to an increase in the number of pets owned by senior citizens. As these pet owners age, they may need help caring for their pets.

Veterinary Assistant Job Requirements

Veterinary assistants typically need to have the following qualifications:

Education: A high school diploma or GED is required to become a veterinary assistant. Some veterinary clinics prefer to hire candidates who have completed an associate’s degree program in veterinary technology. These programs are offered at community colleges and technical schools and take about two years to complete. Courses in these programs include anatomy, physiology, animal care, medical terminology, kinesiology, radiology, veterinary ethics and veterinary record-keeping.

Training & Experience: Most veterinary assistant positions require candidates to have at least six months of experience working in a veterinary setting. This training can be part of a degree program or a paid internship. Training often includes learning how to perform basic tasks, such as cleaning and feeding animals, and shadowing a veterinary assistant.

Certifications & Licenses: While certifications are not usually required for a veterinary assistant role, they can be useful in finding a job and increasing your employability.

Veterinary Assistant Skills

Veterinary assistants need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Veterinary assistants often work in teams with other veterinary staff, so it’s important to be able to communicate effectively with your coworkers. You may also be required to communicate with pet owners, so it’s important to be able to speak to them in a way that makes them feel comfortable and confident in your abilities.

Empathy and compassion: Veterinary assistants often work with animals that are sick or injured. It’s important to have empathy and compassion for the animals and their owners. You can use these skills to help you when working with animals and their owners. For example, you can use empathy to comfort an animal and their owner when an animal is injured or when an animal has to be put down.

Organization: Veterinary assistants often have to manage multiple tasks at once, so it’s important to have good organizational skills. You can use your organizational skills to keep track of pet files, patient information and other records. You can also use your organizational skills to keep the treatment room and exam room clean and organized.

Time management: Veterinary assistants often have multiple tasks to complete in a short period of time. Having good time management skills can help you prioritize your tasks and manage your time efficiently. This can help you complete all your tasks on time and help you work more efficiently.

Multitasking: Veterinary assistants often have several tasks to complete in a short period of time. This means that you should be able to multitask effectively to complete all of your tasks in a timely manner. For example, you may be asked to answer phone calls, update patient files and clean exam rooms all at the same time.

Veterinary Assistant Work Environment

Veterinary assistants work in a variety of settings, including private veterinary clinics, animal shelters, zoos, and research laboratories. They typically work a 40-hour week, although they may be required to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. Veterinary assistants who work in private clinics or animal shelters may be required to work overtime when animals are brought in for emergency treatment. Veterinary assistants who work with research animals may be required to work with hazardous materials and may be exposed to zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

Veterinary Assistant Trends

Here are three trends influencing how veterinary assistants work. Veterinary assistants will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growing Use of Technology in Veterinary Practices

The veterinary industry is increasingly using technology to improve the care that they provide to animals. This includes the use of electronic medical records, which allows for easier communication between veterinarians and their clients.

As technology becomes more prevalent in veterinary practices, veterinary assistants will need to be familiar with these systems in order to provide the best possible care for animals. They will also need to be able to troubleshoot any problems that may occur with these systems.

More Specialization Within the Field

The veterinary assistant field is becoming increasingly specialized as more and more people enter the profession. This is due to the increasing demand for veterinary services, which has led to a shortage of qualified professionals.

Veterinary assistants who are able to specialize in specific areas, such as surgery or emergency care, will be in high demand and can expect to earn higher salaries. In addition, they will be able to develop skills that will make them more valuable to potential employers.

Better Communication Between Veterinarians and Their Patients

The veterinary industry is changing rapidly, and one of the most significant changes is the increased emphasis on communication between veterinarians and their patients.

This trend is being driven by the fact that pet owners are becoming more educated about animal health and are looking for ways to better understand what is happening with their pets. As a result, veterinary assistants will need to be able to communicate effectively with both pets and their owners in order to provide the best possible care.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

A career as a veterinary assistant can be both rewarding and fulfilling. It’s a great way to get started in the veterinary field, and it offers many opportunities for growth. As a veterinary assistant, you’ll have the chance to work with animals, learn about their health care needs, and help veterinarians provide excellent patient care.

You’ll also have the opportunity to develop your skills in areas such as animal handling, grooming, and restraint; medical procedures; and laboratory testing. Additionally, you may have the chance to take on additional responsibilities, such as assisting with surgery or working with patients in recovery.

Related: How to Write a Veterinary Assistant Resume

Advancement Prospects

Veterinary assistants may advance to become veterinary technicians after completing a 2-year veterinary technology program and passing a state-administered examination. Some veterinary assistants may choose to become practice managers, responsible for the business aspects of a veterinary hospital. Others may open their own pet-sitting or dog-walking businesses. Some may become animal control officers or inspectors for the government.

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