Animal shelters around the country employ certified veterinary technicians to aid the animals in their care. These techs are an integral part of the animals’ lives and happiness during their stay and are responsible for many aspects of shelter maintenance and services. Veterinary technicians are considered to be as important to animal shelters as registered nurses are to a doctor or hospital, and jobs for these individuals are on the rise. 1
Administer medication to shelter animals
One major responsibility of shelter vet techs is to administer the medication some animals there need. These technicians are expected to care for a variety of animals, depending on the shelter’s intake population, from cats and dogs to horses, goats and other larger animals. Different animals have different dispositions and shelter animals are no exception. Many arrive wounded from living outdoors or being neglected by their previous owners. Shelter vets have to be creative when it comes to giving pills or other medications to their furry patients. Some wild animals can be a threat to the safety of the vet because they are not used to human contact.
Assisting the veterinarian
Veterinarians on staff at an animal shelter are often in charge of caring for dozens of animals. Vet techs are an important addition to the group in a shelter because they can assist with cleaning kennels, administering medication, aiding during surgery and helping the vet with time management. Vet techs also are the first point of contact for the animal at the shelter and are responsible for starting a written history including recording basic measurements and any symptoms that might be manifested. Veterinary technicians can also be trained in prescribing medication to animals that do not require extensive tests or surgery. 2
Advising people who are adopting
Because on-staff veterinarians are usually busy treating the population of animals in residence, vet technicians often meet with future parents of the shelter pets. They can be expected to advise these adopting individuals on the health history and current needs of the animal they are interested in taking home. Having an understanding of how to communicate an animal’s health needs to someone with limited experience is an important responsibility in this role. Oftentimes techs are required to answer questions after an animal has been adopted.
One of the more difficult responsibilities of shelter vets and technicians is helping a pet owner through the process of letting a sick or injured pet go. Techs must be able to assess the treatment resources at the shelter, from space to manpower, as well as the quality of life of the at-risk pet. This decision can take a serious emotional toll on pet owners as well as shelter staff, so it is imperative that a technician is able to help them through that process.
Manage medical emergencies
Many animal shelters offer emergency care to any animal species that they adopt, meaning they have an open admission policy. Sometimes animals that arrive for care are injured, sick or even wild. Veterinary techs at shelters are expected to deal with a variety of emergency situations because shelters in different locations deal with many different animal species, some of which may not even be pets. Animals who are stuck in objects, have been hit by cars, or were abused or neglected are all part of a tech’s roster, so being prepared for anything is another necessary skill.
Assess a patient’s health with no history
The majority of animals brought to a shelter have no previous history with a vet, and this requires the veterinarian or technician to do some detective work into the animal’s age, health and history. This could involve taking samples or examining skin scrapings, fecal matter or urine tests for insight. Maintaining a strong network of knowledgeable techs and vets within shelters helps them communicate and work together to find the best treatment plan.
1 “Where do veterinary technicians work?” Carrington.edu, Oct. 1, 2013, http://carrington.edu/blog/veterinary/veterinary-technicians-work/
2 Ciesielski, Artur, “What does a vet tech do?” Vet Tech Guide.org, http://www.vettechguide.org/what-does-a-vet-tech-do/
3 R., Cassie, “A Day in the Life of a Shelter Vet Tech,” Found Animals.com, October 8, 2012, https://www.foundanimals.org/blog/animal-shelter-vet-tech-appreciation/