Veterinary technicians and assistants: the unsung heroes

If you think all the veterinary technician does is hold your pet still while your veterinarian takes care of the important things, the truth is veterinarians simply cannot practice medicine — without hardworking, well-trained, compassionate technicians, what I’m about to share might surprise you.

Veterinary technicians (as well as assistants and client relations coordinators) are critical to the day-to-day function of veterinary practices, and play vital roles in preserving animal health and welfare. National Veterinary Technician Week, first celebrated in 1993, takes place in the third week of October each year, and provides an opportunity to recognize veterinary technicians’ contributions.

Veterinary technicians wear many hats. For example, veterinary technicians are critical in anesthesia. While pets are under anesthesia, specially trained technicians monitor sedation to allow veterinarians to make adjustments quickly if necessary.

Veterinary technicians are also an essential part of the team when your pet is in for dental care.

Those pearly whites you see in the end — and the doggy breath you don’t smell — don’t begin to reveal the work and skill that go into a dental cleaning. Working alongside your veterinarian, technicians get your pet's teeth x-rayed, cleaned and polished, including under the gums.

Some technicians are trained in laser therapy, helping pets that have chronic arthritis pain. Vet techs draw blood, and on patients who are often far less cooperative and far more hairy than in human medicine. They also work as radiology technicians, carefully and precisely positioning wiggly, often painful patients for important imaging that the doctor evaluates. Veterinary technicians work with their teams to provide the best nursing care possible for your pet. They are continuously providing client education materials, communication and support.

Veterinary technicians not only draw the samples, they work in the laboratory. All the samples taken from your pets are set up to be viewed on a microscope or run on machines that take special training to operate. Your technician is hard at work, behind the scenes, getting the veterinarian all the data he or she needs to diagnosis and treat your pet.

These are just the tasks that veterinary technicians in a small animal clinic perform. Think about all the invaluable support they provide in zoos, on farms and large animal operations! Although we value veterinary technicians every day of the year, we take this week to honour their commitment to compassionate, high-quality veterinary care for all animals. From pet owners, veterinarians, and pet lovers worldwide, thank you veterinary technicians.

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