Educational Requirements and Duties of a Veterinary Technician

A love of animals is the primary prerequisite to work in a veterinarian’s office. A veterinary technician must acquire a two year associate’s degree and achieve a passing grade on the National Veterinary Technician exam. Additionally, the various states have different exam requirements that must also be passed before credentials are issued. However, a veterinary assistant can obtain employment in a veterinarian’s office without such credentials. Therefore, it is possible for almost anyone who loves animals to find a way to work with them regardless of his or her background.

The duties of a veterinary technicians can vary, but usually include tasks such as performing routine lab tests, drawing blood from injured or sick animals, and collecting, skin and urine samples. Technicians may also be called upon to administer blood products, drugs or fluids as prescribed by the veterinarian on duty. They also maintain inventory and medical records. A vast array of administrative tasks are also completed by most veterinary assistants.

The American Veterinary Medical Assoc. must approve the schools that offer an education in the field of veterinary science. One can also enroll in online classes to prepare for employment in this field. However, it is important to understand that there are additional requirements such as clinical experience that must be satisfied before one is qualified to begin seeking employment. Clinical requirements can be fulfilled by employment at an animal hospital or through working as a volunteer at an animal shelter. In addition, videotapes must be submitted to the school which show the student’s interaction with animals before a degree is bestowed. The curriculum for students attending traditional classes also includes clinical experience.

Special certification is available for technicians who have demonstrated the appropriate skills. These include nutrition, surgery, equine nursing, neurology, oncology, internal medicine, cardiology, dentistry, critical and emergency care and anesthesiology. These can be divided even further into sub-specialties such as production animals, exotic animals, canine and feline. While veterinary assistants are not required to by law to prove a formal education, there is a Veterinary Assistant program that has been approved by the AVMA for those who successfully complete their educational in this field. Large practices may demand this type of certification for their workers; however, this will vary from practice to practice.

Veterinary technicians also assist the veterinarian with physical examinations and surgical procedures. They perform tasks such as taking the animal’s temperature, pulse, and respiration rate. They dress wounds, apply splints, flush ears and perform catheterizations. Their duties may also include provide numerous dental services. Both associates and technicians must be comfortable working with a variety of animals and regard the animal’s physical well-being as a basic right.

Employment can also be found in zoos, circuses, breeding facilities, large farms, animal shelters, and training or teaching venues. Outdoor and traveling positions are also available and salaries vary tremendously depending on a wide variety of factors. Those who obtain a four year degree can seek credentials as a veterinary technologist. Although performing similar duties, such individuals receive higher salaries and have the authority to make more decisions than those who hold a lesser degree.

Those who love animals and wish to work with them for a living should pursue a career in veterinary medicine. A great need exists for veterinary technicians and associates and because it is a relatively young discipline, opportunities will most likely grow significantly in the future.

Another question we’re frequently asked on How to grow your veterinary business is:

What can I do to sell more products in my reception area?

Our view is this:

Looking for ways to increase sales of the products you sell within the reception area of your veterinary practice is an excellent idea as this is one way to increase the average transaction value of your clients.

Here are three strategies you can start implementing immediately which will increase sales of products within your reception area:

1. Give your staff up-sell/cross-sell scripts

Did you know that when McDonald’s introduced the phrase “Would you like fries with that?” they doubled their worldwide profits? This phrase is the perfect example of a cross-sell script, in other words a script that your staff can learn which they use to get clients to purchase something other than the thing they originally came into the practice for.

McDonald’s also introduced the another phrase “Would you like to super-size that?” which is an example of an up-sell script, in other words a script your staff can use to get your clients to buy a more expensive version of the thing the originally came in for.

So how can you use them in your practice?

Well you can use generic scripts and product specific scripts.

A generic script could be a simple script your reception desk staff can use when they are taking payment from a client such as:

“Rocky has been such a good boy today, would you like to reward him with a tasty chew? They’re only a dollar and I can add it to your bill if you like”

An example of a product specific script could be script used when a client buys an external flea treatment such as

“We really recommend a non-stripping shampoo with that flea treatment might I suggest this one?”

Or if a client has bought a small bag of dog food you could have a script such as:

“Did you know that the 17.6 lb bags are much better value for money, we can carry it to your car for you if you’re worried about the weight.”

Think which products have up-sell opportunities and which ones have cross-sell opportunities. Then create simple scripts your reception staff can use but don’t introduce too many at once or you’ll just confuse them.

2. Increase the number of facings.

It has been proven across many veterinary practices that if you have two product facings and you increase that to three product facings you should increase your sales of those products by 50%. If you have the space to do then do it!

3. Better Shelf Signage

Many practice either have very poor shelf signage or, even worse, no signage at all. Rather than assuming your clients will know that the paper bags stacked up are dog food why don’t you make them think about buying some? For example, above the diet food put a sign that is large enough to be seen from every point of th waiting area with the words “Does your dog need to lose a weight?” or above the dental chews “Does your dog’s breath smell?” or above the shampoo “Does your dog itch?”. When you make your clients think they will become engaged with your products rather than oblivious to them!

These are very practical things you can implement you just have to take action and do it!

Tips to Keep Veterinary Costs Down

Having a pet can be an exciting experience, but it can also become an expensive venture. One of the biggest factors that can contribute to an expense of a pet is veterinary care. Even though you may not be able to control unexpected injuries or illnesses in your pet, there are some factors you can control. Preventative care is the best way to help keep veterinary costs down. This can involve keeping your pet on parasite preventatives, having yearly wellness exams, keeping up with vaccines, maintaining a healthy diet, and having your pets spayed or neutered.

Heartworm prevention is probably one of the most important parasite control products for keeping veterinary costs down. Treatment can be very expensive for pets that contract heartworm disease. Not only is treatment expensive it also is very risky for the pet. Monthly heartworm prevention is highly effective for avoiding this disease. Flea and tick preventatives are important as well. Fleas bites can sometimes produce a hypersensitivity response leading to a condition called flea allergy dermatitis. This can require treatment with antibiotics and steroids to help relieve symptoms. Fleas can also transmit an intestinal parasite called tapeworms which requires a de-wormer for treatment. Ticks can transmit several blood borne diseases that can require long term treatment for pets. Some common tick diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis.

Despite the initial cost for an office visit, having a yearly exam by your veterinarian can save you money in the long run. There are several medical issues that can be discovered on a physical exam. Finding some of these issues early can make treatment easier and less expensive. One example is finding a skin mass early on that can be removed with a simple surgery versus later when larger in size. Consequently removing the mass requires a more complicated procedure. Another example is discovering a heart murmur on the physical exam. If the murmur is found early it can be potentially be managed with medications. If the murmur is found when the patient is in congestive heart failure, treatment may involve expensive intensive care.

Vaccine protocols can vary depending on risk of exposure and the lifestyle of the pet. Whatever protocol your pet adopts, it is important that these vaccines are performed in a timely manner. Unvaccinated or pets that have gaps in their vaccination schedule are at the highest risk of developing diseases that are the most costly to treat. Make sure you discuss with your veterinarian what vaccination protocol is best for your pet and that they are performed on time.

Whether you have your pet spayed or neutered can play a role in the veterinary costs. If you don’t plan to use your pets for breeding you should have them spayed or neutered. With intact females you may have to deal with accidental pregnancies, infection of the uterus (pyometra), and there is an increased risk for mammary tumors which often require surgery. With intact males you may have to deal with increased risk of prostate disease, and testicular cancers. These circumstances can lead to a high veterinary bill if you wish to address these issues.

When it comes to what you are feeding your pet, the common causes for increased veterinary visits includes frequent switching of a diets and feeding “people” food. As a result signs of dietary indiscretion may occur which may include diarrhea and vomiting. To avoid increased costs of veterinary bills please feed your pet a consistent diet and avoid feeding off your plate.

Finally, financial preparedness can help buffer any unexpected veterinary costs. You should set up an emergency veterinary fund where money is set aside at regular intervals if possible. This is much like setting money aside for a college fund for a child. Also it is helpful to be aware of organizations that will provide financial assistance for veterinary cost. Many of them have specific requirements to be met before assistance can be given. Here is the list of several of these organizations:

Angels for Animals
Brown Dog Foundation
Canine Cancer Awareness
Care Credit
Cats in Crisis
Extend Credit
Fairy Dog Parents
Frankie’s Friends

The websites of the above organizations can be found with a simple Google search. Even with the best care it may be difficult to avoid veterinary costs. Hopefully the points in this article will help keep these costs to a minimal. Also they may help maximize the care you need to provide to your pet if the circumstances require it.