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Here’s to Vet Techs: Unsung Heroes of Every Vet Clinic

Veterinary technicians have a crap job at times (literally), but they are the driving forces that keep your vet’s office running smoothly.

Your vet tech can give you pointers on how to trim your pet’s nails at home. Photo: accdistrict

Who would like to sign up for a dirty job that requires a lot of skill and training, natural know-how, lots of stress, plenty of face time with the public, very little down time, long hours and low pay?

That would be your local veterinary technician.

Hats off to these dedicated workers!

Veterinary Technicians: A Dirty Job

I know what you’re thinking when someone says “dirty jobs”:

  • Sewer workers
  • Porta-Potty cleaners
  • Plumbers
  • Gastroenterologists

These professions top the list. Hmm, I’m sensing a theme here: poop.

Whether in the bowels of a city, the bowels of our bathrooms or our own bowels, most people associate “dirty jobs” with some form of excrement.

Let’s add our beloved pets to the list. All pets poop, and someone has to deal with our little buddies’ bodily fluids. That someone is often the beloved veterinary technician.

Vet techs have to clean up all kinds of poo and vomit as part of their glamorous job.

Add the following to the gross-out list:

A quick poll of my own technicians was unanimous: Maggots topped their list of biggest gross-outs. (I fondly recall an anal gland abscess bursting in my face. That’s a heavy runner-up to maggots.)

Vet Techs Have a Stressful Job

If you’re a good vet tech, you obviously love animals.

Vet techs not only have to spend a lot of time with their animal patients, but they must also keep the clients, the veterinarians they work for and their co-workers happy.

That’s a tall order.

The Problem Client

A small percentage of clients are mean or uncooperative with vet techs, and this is enough to ruin anyone’s day.

These same people are probably nasty to all service personnel: waiters in restaurants, the lady at the dry cleaners, their own pharmacy assistant or the receptionist at their own doctor’s office.

If you’re usually a pain in the neck, be nice at your vet’s office. It may feel better than you think.

When a tech is trying to help someone who brings in a pet, giving valid, educated advice, many clients still say, “I want to talk to the doctor.”

Our techs work hard. They are knowledgeable and thoughtful. When you are reasonable and respectful to them, they will treat you the same.

Let’s say a client calls up and asks to speak to the veterinarian. It is the vet tech’s job and responsibility to find out what the call is about and pull the pet’s record if necessary.

Sometimes clients refuse to talk with vet techs, even when it is not a highly personal or upsetting matter. This is rude and disrespectful to technicians.

If you keep your question a secret, it will be harder to get an answer from the vet.

The Wishy-Washy Veterinarian

Not only do vet techs have to deal with difficult clients, but they have to deal with veterinarians, too!

Vets, like everyone else, come with a rainbow of personalities. Take the famous vet “on the fence” dilemma:

  • “Wait, take the X-rays first.”
  • “No, hold on. Maybe get the blood results first.”
  • “Oops, I didn’t tell the client I also wanted a heartworm test.”
  • “Oh, I forgot to tell you I wanted a chest film too.”
  • “And you lifted the 100-pound dog off the table already? Sorry.”

In a busy hospital, vet techs are asked to accommodate all kinds of creatures great and small, human and non-human, vicious and sweet. They are special people.

The Problem Co-Worker

Remember that icky excrement I was talking about?

Imagine Blubby is dropped off in the morning and unleashes a load in his kennel immediately upon arrival. Maybe Mrs. Inna Hurry was too busy to walk him. And he is admitted for what ailment? Bloody diarrhea.

Some of your co-workers always seem to be conveniently missing whenever there’s a truly dirty job to address.

It’s not even 8 in the morning yet, and Mrs. Inna Hurry was too frazzled to give you a proper history when she dropped Blubby off.

Then she forgot to put her cellphone number down on the admit sheet, so the vet is blaming you for not being able to get in touch with her. And now Ms. Gel Manicure, your co-worker, is nowhere to be found to help with the bloody Blubby poo-poo cleanup.

Repeat quietly this mantra:

  • “I love my job.”
  • “I love my job.”

Top Vet Tech Stresses — And Rewards

Dealing with difficult people and unpleasant tasks is part of many people’s workday.

With a vet tech, however, add real, palpable stress to that job equation.

In the course of an average day, I may call upon a vet tech to:

  1. Monitor risky anesthesia
  2. Perform a dentistry
  3. Aid in a difficult surgery
  4. Help with a fractious animal
  5. Assist in a euthanasia
  6. Set an IV catheter in a tiny kitten
  7. Take blood from a ferret
  8. Clip a macaw’s wing
  9. Call back an extremely difficult client
  10. Put up with my stress

Of course, vet techs have many reasons to love their jobs too:

  1. Helping to heal wonderful patients
  2. Being thanked by grateful and appreciative clients
  3. Cuddling puppies and kittens and baby bunnies
  4. Feeling accomplished about their special skills
  5. Having a job with never a dull moment
Vet techs have a dirty job.
Vet techs have a dirty job. Photos: Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD/Petful

12 Reasons to Love Vet Techs

1. Phone Assistance

Vet techs are an invaluable asset when it comes to answering your questions on the phone.

The vet is always consulted and made aware of your concerns about your pet, but a vet technician can give you a lot of guidance and information on the phone.

Your immediate concerns will be addressed, recommendations will be made and the technician can assess the urgency of your pet’s condition.

2. Home Care

Many clients believe they understand their discharge instructions only to discover that when they arrive home, confusion abounds.

A few minutes with a vet tech can ease your mind and ensue the home care plan is working. Ten minutes with a vet tech is better than 10 hours of worry at home.

3. Ear Care

Whether it is simple ear cleaning or administering ear flushes and medications after an ear infection diagnosis, a vet tech can help make sure you’re getting the job done well at home.

4. Pill Administration

Before your frustration goes through the roof trying to administer medicine to your dog, get a lesson from your friendly vet tech first.

5. Subcutaneous Fluids

“SQ” fluids can be given at home to treat a number of conditions, with chronic renal (kidney) failure topping the list.

We always give an initial demonstration of this procedure before you try it at home, but you may need more help.

Enter the vet tech, who can always give you more information on best practices.

Having trouble giving your pet injections? Vet techs can demonstrate how to do it the right way. Photo: navalsurfacesforces

6. Injections

Treating your pet for diabetes with insulin injections is the most common reason to give injections at home.

They’re simple, quick and painless — but some people are squeamish about needles.

A vet tech can help you administer the insulin correctly and give you confidence when it comes to needles and injections.

7. Dental Care

Buying the veterinary toothpaste is only the first step — you need to use it!

If dental care is not going smoothly at home, bring Smiley in for a little lesson with the vet tech.

8. Incision Care

Vet techs check a lot of post-op incisions, spay and neuter incisions, lacerations, ear hematomas, growth removal incisions — you name it.

If you have any concerns about how an incision is healing, have it checked by a vet tech.

She can tell you if the incision is healing according to plan, help with incision care if needed or have it checked by a vet.

9. Wound Care and Bandage Changes

Various wounds all heal differently. Many wounds, even after being treated by the vet, need more follow-up care.

Your vet tech can give you advice and the wound care your pet requires.

Besides technical knowledge, vet techs can provide counsel for clients considering euthanasia for their pet:

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10. Anal Glands

Expressing anal glands requires skill.

Some people try to learn and perform this smelly task at home. Most people are not successful.

Likewise, most dogs do not need routine anal gland expression. Few pooches need a little extra help — but if they do, your vet tech can help.

11. Toenail Clipping

If you want to try at-home pedicures, your vet tech can give you some tips so that you only clip the nail tips and not your pet’s skin.

From teaching comforting restraint techniques to using the proper nail clippers and showing how to hold the foot and where to clip the nail — and how to stop any bleeding if you are a bit over-exuberant — a simple demonstration is worth a thousand trial-and-error attempts at home.

12. Coat Clipping

You know the warning: “Do not attempt this at home.”

Trying to clip around a pet’s more sensitive areas or matted fur behind the ears — or really anywhere on the body — can end in an injury.

Your vet tech can give your longhaired cat or dog a “sanitary clip” in about 1 minute, making a clear channel for the poop to end up where it belongs and not stuck to your pet’s privates.

Final Thoughts on Vet Techs

Need even more reasons to love vet techs? Dr. Belinda Parsons, BVSc, CVA, put together a list of 50 reasons why vet nurses (vet techs) are awesome.

Now, you may think you’re taxing your vet tech to the limit with these demonstration requests and inquiries. But believe me: No question is silly, no concern should go disregarded, and your vet tech is the ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure.

vet-cross60pThis pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Oct. 11, 2018.

If you have questions or concerns, call your vet, who is best equipped to ensure the health and well-being of your pet. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.