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Who Works at Your Cat’s Veterinary Office?

By Rose Springer

Who Works at Your Cat’s Veterinary Office?

When you take your cat to the vet, there may be a number of people working there, other than the veterinarian. These individuals can include a veterinary assistant and a veterinary technician, among others. Don’t know the difference? Below, veterinarian Trisha Joyce of New York City Veterinary Specialists explains the roles that these individuals play in the typical office of an animal doctor.

Veterinary Receptionist
There typically is a difference between the receptionist at your veterinarian’s office and the one at your dentist’s, for example. The former likely has a love of animals and some degree of on-the-job training that allows him or her to determine whether your pet needs immediate care. Veterinarians often choose their receptionists carefully, as they are the first to greet every patient that walks in the door. “They are the folks that get your information, find out what’s wrong, and decide if the animal needs immediate care,” says Joyce. They do not need a higher degree, but often use the job as a stepping-stone in order to gain experience and move up in the field.

Veterinary Assistant
Veterinary assistants are trained by veterinarians on the handling and restraint of animals. “Almost anything a veterinarian does with an animal requires two people,” says Joyce. “You can’t place a catheter or draw blood by yourself.” Veterinary assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians to keep an animal still during a variety of procedures. They are also often tasked with the housekeeping of the office. “They walk animals, clean cages, do laundry,” says Joyce.

Veterinary assistants receive on-the-job training and are not required to have any particular level of formal education. Some are happy to remain assistants, while others take the job as a means to an end. It can be a good a way to build a resume before applying to veterinary school, admission to which is very competitive.

Veterinary Technician
Veterinary technicians, or vet techs, come in two varieties: licensed and non-licensed. Licensed veterinary technicians spend two years in school and come out with associate’s degrees. After finishing school, they must pass a credentialing exam in order to obtain their license. “It’s very specialized study,” explains Joyce. “They get a good understanding of disease and are trained in doing invasive procedures like inserting catheters.”

Non-licensed veterinary technicians are trained on the job and their skill level varies according to experience. “You can have a fabulous one who’s been working for 25 years and really knows her stuff, or a high school kid who just likes animals,” says Joyce. She acknowledges that the latter can be less than desirable, and notes that it pays to ask your veterinarian whether the techs in her office are licensed, especially if they are assisting in complicated procedures involving anesthesia.

Veterinary Technologist
A veterinary technologist attends a four-year college, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Despite this difference in training, they perform the same duties as the technicians in the clinic. “We group technicians and technologists all into one category,” says Joyce. “If you’re going to a four-year college and decide you’re interested in working with animals, it’s a degree you might choose -- though not too many colleges actually offer it. What it really comes down to in the office is still licensed versus non-licensed.”

After completing a bachelor’s degree, a veterinary student attends four more years of school to earn a degree in veterinary medicine. The fourth year is generally spent working in a hospital or medical practice. Veterinarians are trained in basic science like anatomy and physiology as well as other care like nutrition, diagnostics, surgery and dentistry. It is increasingly common for veterinarians to continue training for at least a year after graduation, and more than that if they want to specialize. “You can spend as long doing your training as you would in med school,” says Joyce.

Rose Springer is a frequent contributor to The Daily Cat and The Dog Daily. She lives in New York City.  

Tags: cat health

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Posted on March 18, 2012

Abeer says: Holistic vets are more expensive' than eoavcntionnl vet because they do not make the huge mark up on vaccines and medications (one eoavcntionnl pill of thyroid meds is $1-2, but costs the vet no more than $.02, if that). There is alot of scientific evidence to support alternative medicine, (and it has been around hundreds of years before eoavcntionnl was invented, and yes it was invented). The only reason there are not double blind studies, is because the pharmaceutical companies wont fund them like they do chemical medicines. Because if they did, they would lose a huge amount of money. On the matter of the calendars, I think it is a wonderful idea. I have seen too many vet's who think they are so much better than us regular' people just because they have a degree. They have their noses stuck up in the air, and won't bother even explaining the side effects of these medications and vaccines (and yes, there are side effects). It is great to see vets who are regular people, like me. They seem to be having so much fun too. Not being a stick in the mud. (I couldn't even get my vet to smile.)You seem to be on a witch hunt here. How much time have you actually spent observing at an alternative practice before you made this decision that all vets who don't seem to be under the mind control of the pharmaceutical companies, are bad? (Did you know that the only nutrition that vets are taught in school, is which bag of science diet to feed? Not the importance of actual nutrition.) What is your close and personal experience in alternative medicine that is basing this, what seems to be unjustified, non-supported, biased and snap judgement? Hmm? Integrative vets have gone through the same schools as eoavcntionnl vets, they just have gone above and beyond that schooling, to study for many more years to learn the Alternative' modalities. Conventional medicine is not all bad. It is just over-used and mis-used sometimes. Just like with humans, the center of our health is nutrition. If I eat McDonalds and prepackaged foods all the time, I would be as unhealthy as animals are there days. (Bagged food was not introduced until the war, because they needed a cheap food for their animals to eat. Before that, they ate what ever the families were eating.) With nearly half of all dogs passing from cancer, the cancer rate in cats nearly doubling since the distemper vaccine was made a yearly thing, I think we need to look beyond the blinders that were placed on our faces. We don't have to be one extreme or the other. We need to all come together for the health of our animals, and our own health. This type of aggression, stress and hate is extremely unhealthy for us. High blood pressure and heart attacks to name a few.

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