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Vet tech holding a tabby cat

Life of a vet tech

It takes hard work and a diverse skill set to keep a veterinary hospital operating at peak efficiency. Each day veterinarians rely on their techs to help with many client and clinical responsibilities like appointment-setting, billing, and receptionist duties, as well as prepping the appointment rooms, cleaning equipment and instruments, administering basic meds, feeding and caring for overnight patients, and assisting in radiology and surgery.

While it’s difficult to define a “typical” day in the life of a vet tech, there are some common touchstones, at least in small to medium-sized practices, where duties are shared among several techs per shift.

Before The Clinic opens

The vet tech’s routine begins about an hour before the practice opens to clients. First, we check on all the overnight stays. Then we clean the cages, walk the dogs, and feed all animals that are permitted food (some may be fasting prior to surgery, while others may be receiving their nutrition intravenously). While this is happening, the desk staff reviews the day’s upcoming appointments and checks any messages that may have come in overnight.

Next, we start accepting animals for the day’s surgeries. Routine procedures include spay/neuters and dental procedures. This usually happens before office hours start. The tech locates the file for each surgical patient, labels the carrier with owner's last name, and place’s animal in a cage in the kennel area.

Morning Appointments

Once the doors open, things can get busy quickly. Sometimes a tech will be in the exam rooms helping the vet wrangle, weigh, and position an animal for examination. Other times they may be assisting in an early surgery or helping out in reception and intake.

Surgeries

Surgical preparation varies based on vet's expectations, but when I worked in a medium-sized urban practice, the techs calculated all doses of sedative and/or anesthesia. Typically, I would sedate the animal, intubate it, arrange it on the table, shave the surgical area, and lay out all the surgical tool packs of sterilized tools. I'd also set out the gown, gloves, and mask for the vet.

When the procedure was complete, I would stay with animal until it was sufficiently alert to extubate. Then I’d move the animal to a cage for recovery and prep the surgery suite for the next patient. As a tech I was also responsible for cleaning all surgical tools and preparing them to be autoclaved (sterilized) again.

Afternoon Duties

After lunch it’s time to clean cages (again) and to feed the animals that are able to receive food. Depending on the flow of appointments and walk-ins, a tech might find themselves assisting in exam rooms, discharging any animals that are ready to return home, or inventorying/ordering supplies.

As the day’s appointments wind down, it’s time to clean the facility—top to bottom. That usually entails a thorough vacuum and mop and a check that all instruments and supplies are cleaned and packed away. After a final check with the vet on duty and a final round of feedings for the kennel animals, it’s time to lock up for the night.

Overnight Checks

Because I lived near the animal hospitals where I worked, I was sometimes asked to do overnight checks on some of the animals with special needs. For example, a diabetic cat may need its insulin and an extra feeding, or a surgical recovery patient might need a drain emptied or a dressing changed. These would typically be brief “stop-in” checks, and I’d need to initial a patient’s chart to certify that the needed care had been provided.

Editor’s Note: The veterinary technician is a vital part of any vet’s office. Here’s what you need to know about becoming a vet tech.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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