The world of veterinary science is more varied than you might think and there are many roles and career paths outside of ‘vet’. Veterinary field jobs include veterinarians (what most people refer to as simply a ‘vet’), but there are also roles including veterinary assistant, lab technician, animal behaviourist, veterinary surgeon, and many more.
Each of these jobs is highly rewarding and covers a wide range of duties and a veterinary assistant is no exception. A person in this role will carry out a variety of day to day tasks and it’s unlikely that any day will be the same. If you’ve been thinking about becoming a veterinary assistant, or want to know more about the role, see our guide below to find out more about some of the common daily tasks involved.
What is a veterinary assistant?
A veterinary assistant helps to care for animals under the supervision of a veterinarian or vet technician. The role involves general animal care (feeding, bathing etc) and more specialised duties such as helping with the treatment of sick or injured animals. Some vet assistants may also perform administrative duties within the vet practice.
How do I become a veterinary assistant?
The training for a veterinary assistant isn’t as intensive as what’s required to become a vet or a veterinary surgeon, but assistants are a highly valued member of the team so it’s important that anyone undertaking the role is fully qualified.
The most common way to enter the profession is by completing the Level 2 Diploma for Veterinary Care Assistants. This can be studied at a college, or by working remotely online. The programme usually takes one year to complete and there are no formal entry requirements (however, you’ll need to check with any college you apply to). Those taking the online learning option will need to be either employed by, or volunteering at, a veterinary practice.
Even if you are attending college, any work experience or employment in the field will be highly beneficial, so check your local vet practices to see if they can help you gain some experience. In terms of personal qualities, veterinary assistants need to be patient and empathetic, have excellent communication skills and a reasonable level of physical fitness. The job may sometimes involve lifting heavy equipment or animals so it’s important to be prepared.
Day to day tasks
No two days are the same when it comes to working in a veterinary practice, and that’s what makes the job of a vet assistant so exciting! The main focus is (naturally) the wellbeing of the animals, which makes this role perfect for any animal lover. If you’re thinking of entering the profession and want to know more about what you might be doing day to day, read on to find out more.
Exercising and grooming
Inpatient animals will still require daily exercise (where possible) and grooming to ensure they stay as fit and healthy as possible. Some veterinary practices have their own outdoor space for dogs to exercise and play or you might be required to walk them round the local area. Long haired animals will also need daily grooming to prevent their fur becoming matted, especially if they’ve had an operation which makes it harder for them to groom themselves.
General daily care
This covers the general care of any animals in the practice, including daily feeding, bathing and cleaning out cages. You may also need to weigh animals and make a note of things like their temperature or blood pressure. You’ll need to be comfortable interacting with all different species of animal, from dogs and cats, to small rodents, reptiles and birds.
It’s likely that you’ll have to administer medication too, either by mixing it in with food or placing it directly in the animal’s mouth. Any pet owner will know that this can be tricky, so be prepared for some resistance!
Monitoring inpatient animals
This involves keeping an eye on the general behaviour and health condition of any inpatient animals and reporting back to the vet if necessary. Some animals may need additional treatment or extra care so it’s important to keep detailed records of behaviour, as well as practical information like the animal’s temperature.
Preparing theatre equipment
This includes sterilizing equipment like scalpels and ensuring that the operation room is clean and hygienic for use. This involves cleaning examination tables and all surfaces in the room, including floors.
Restraining animals for treatment
Safely restraining animals during examination or treatment is a very important aspect of the role. This ensures that the animals are kept calm, reduces the chances of them injuring themselves and helps the vet to examine them thoroughly. You’ll need to know how to safely hold animals so that they can’t struggle and help to soothe them if they appear frightened or distressed.
Some veterinary assistants may perform additional administrative duties, such as scheduling appointments, calling owners with updates on their animal’s health and keeping accurate records and logs. You may also need to reassure worried owners or explain any issues like lack of appointments.
Owners will often be searching for treatment advice or information about preventative healthcare, such as neutering or flea treatments. It’s important for veterinary assistants to be knowledgeable about these procedures and reassure owners about what’s best for their pet.
You may also be asked to help with more general advice surrounding nutrition and healthcare. This could include how to help a pet lose weight, when to start puppy training or what to do if an animal is having behavioural issues.
The veterinary field can be unpredictable, so vet assistants may need to help out in an emergency at the last minute. This means that you’ll need to be flexible and able to step in at short notice if required. You’ll also need to be able to keep calm under pressure and adapt to emergency scenarios when necessary.
If you’re looking for a veterinary assistant job, get help from the professionals at VetPro Recruitment. Our highly experienced recruiters specialise in matching job seekers with a role to suit them and our extensive database of vacancies can help you find that dream role in no time. We’re also on hand to offer expert advice, from writing your CV, to ensuring that you nail that interview when the time comes.
If you’re a veterinary practice looking to recruit new staff, we can help with that too. We thoroughly screen everyone on our database to ensure that we match you with the most suitable candidate every time. We understand that everyone has different requirements, which is why we pride ourselves on a personal service that’s tailored to your needs. Whether you’re a jobseeker or an employer, if you need help finding a vet care assistant job, recruiting a veterinary nurse or finding that perfect practice for your vet skills, we can help. For more information about any of our recruitment services or to start your job search, give us a call today or visit our website.