Behind the Scenes with a Vet Tech

veterinary technician with cat in an exam room

In honor of National Veterinary Technician Week, which takes place during the third week in October, go behind the scenes to discover all that veterinary technicians do to keep your pet happy and healthy.

veterinary technician with a dogRecording patient histories, preparing for surgery, taking X-rays, drawing blood, placing catheters, giving anesthesia, performing dental work, handling phone calls, administering medications, stabilizing critical patients, filling prescriptions, educating clients…

This sounds like the duties of several different professions — maybe a nurse, doctor, radiologist, phlebotomist, anesthesiologist, customer service rep, and teacher. But believe it or not, these responsibilities are all handled by a single person: the veterinary technician. And all those duties can make up a typical day.

“We do this job because of a deep love of animals and helping owners take care of their pets.”

Chief Operating Officer

Alyssa T.

Certified Veterinary Technician, Pennsylvania

An Average Day for a Vet Tech

veterinary technicians wrapping a cat's leg

The “average” day for a veterinary technician varies wildly. “Oh man, an ‘average’ day. I feel like that is non-existent!” laughs Maegan P., a certified veterinary technician (CVT) from Minnesota. “Most days it includes doing all of the responsibilities listed above.”

“In veterinary medicine, we have no ‘average days,’” agrees Amanda U., who lives in Pennsylvania and has been a CVT for six years. Her day typically starts by opening the hospital and preparing exam rooms for appointments. Throughout the day, she and other vet techs can be found assisting veterinarians during appointments, administering vaccinations, and handling client phone calls and questions.

“In between appointments we clean the hospital, fill medications prescribed by the veterinarians, call clients for updates on our patients, run or prepare lab work samples — the list is endless,” she adds.

No matter which practice you step into, you can be sure it’s a busy one. Sarah L., a CVT and vet tech manager from Alabama, says their five exam rooms stay full throughout the day. “We not only see your typical vaccine checkup visits, we see emergencies, some exotics, snakebite patients needing antivenin, patients that need blood transfusions, and patients that need emergency splenectomies,” she shares. They also see a number of surgical cases each day, including up to 10 spays and neuters and several major surgeries that might involve orthopedic surgery.

For the Love of Animals — and People

Many vet techs get into the field because they love animals, but they’ve also discovered that it’s rewarding in other ways too. “We do this job because of a deep love of animals and helping owners take care of their pets,” says Alyssa T., a CVT who is especially drawn to sick cases.

veterinary technician with a dog

“[It’s gratifying] when we have a very sick patient and you put in days or months of work and they finally recover,” she says. “The pets are usually very happy, the owners are grateful, and a bond was created. That bond and appreciation is what really makes being a vet tech worth it to me.”

“We are not in the field for the money,” Maegan adds. “We truly care about the well-being of our clients’ beloved pets and simply want the best for them, just as they do as their owner.”

Amanda says she loves being a part of a medical team. “It is amazing to watch a team of vet techs work seamlessly together,” she comments, adding her career has had many fulfilling moments, including the first time she ran a surgical case by herself.

“I found it rewarding to be the face this animal saw when going under anesthesia, as well as when she woke up and recovered,” she recalls. “I grew in confidence that day and couldn’t help but fall in love with this patient! I even named one of my dogs after her.”

CVT Missy G., who has been a vet tech for 18 years, says her favorite part of the job is helping people understand how to help their pets and creating long-term relationships with clients and pets.

The job also comes with a variety of learning opportunities. “There is always something new to learn, no matter how long you have been doing this!” Missy says. Maegan agrees, saying she likes challenging cases that require a lot of thinking to find a solution. While she admits they can be frustrating, they help her learn.

April P., who spent 15 years working as a licensed veterinary technician (LVT) and is now a hospital manager in Washington, loves teaching other vet techs. She especially enjoys mentoring LVTs and veterinary assistants. “I also love it when they pay it forward and pass their knowledge to the next generation of new graduates,” she enthuses.

We are your pet’s number one advocate and their voice while they are under our care.

Chief Operating Officer

April P.

Hospital Manager and Certified Veterinary Technician, Washington

Difficult Days

While there are a lot of rewards in the profession, it also comes with its own set of challenges, like losing patients, dealing with compassion fatigue, or lack of recognition for the profession.

“Saying the final goodbye to a loved pet is by far the hardest part of this job,” Amanda says. “It is impossible not to become attached to patients, and when it is time to euthanize, we often are there crying with the owners.”

Maegan adds that it’s difficult to deal with compassion fatigue, which results from the chronic stress of caring for patients. Before starting her career in veterinary medicine, “I didn’t realize how emotionally draining it could be some days,” she says. “It makes it so I’m not able to be my best self outside of my job.”

In addition, the job of the vet tech isn’t widely understood by the general public. “Often people in the community have no understanding of what a vet tech does,” Amanda shares. “But I love discussing with pet owners the importance of a vet tech, as well as the importance of certification in our job field.”

Funny Moments

veterinary technician being licked by a dog

Thankfully, in between the tough times, there are humorous moments. “It’s funny when we find interesting objects in the vomit of our patients,” Amanda says. “One morning we had administered pre-medications to our routine spay patient, who ended up vomiting the owner’s diamond ring!”

Maegan recalls several funny events — a client who fell asleep in the exam room while she was talking to them, a client who fainted after being told the cost of a procedure, and an impatient child. “I needed to speak with the owner, but their child kept talking,” she remembers. “I had asked the child to give me two seconds and then I would be done. The child then proceeded to count two seconds and then told me that I was lying because I wasn’t done talking within two seconds. The child was right, and I’ll never forget that!”

Thank Your Vet Tech!

April sums it up best when she says vet techs are a representation of two things — medicine and compassion. “We are the ones who will primarily be performing treatments, diagnostics, and procedures on your pets. We are the eyes and ears for the veterinarian and will get to know your pet closely,” she reveals. “We also make sure your pet is comfortable while under our care. We play music on an iPad for them, give them extra blankets so they’re warm, and sit with them when they’re scared.

“Trust us,” she adds. “We are trained professionals. We are your pet’s number one advocate and their voice while they are under our care.”

The next time you visit your veterinary practice, take a moment to thank the vet techs for all they do — you’ll make their day!