We love our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care veterinary technicians (i.e., vet techs). Vet techs are honored annually during National Veterinary Technician Week, beginning October 11 this year, but we know we couldn’t function without them any time of year. These hard-working heroes are dedicated to caring for your pets with compassion and skill, and they play many important roles with every patient, as illustrated in the following fictional case.
Vet tech role #1: Take your pet’s history and triage patients
Mr. and Mrs. Smith pull up to the veterinary hospital entrance, and two vet techs, Elijah and Madeline, rush out to help load Leopold, a handsome but extremely sick Great Dane, onto a gurney, and wheel him into the treatment area. They quickly but proficiently assess Leopold’s gum color, attitude, and heart and respiratory rates, and inform the veterinarian, Dr. Gale, that they have a shocky patient who needs immediate assistance. Elijah stays with Leopold and Dr. Gale, while Madeline lets the Smiths know that Leopold is being assessed, and asks them for more information. The Smiths tell Madeline that Leopold seemed fine when they left for work, but was lethargic when they first got home, and then became weak, his abdomen looked bigger, and he tried unsuccessfully to vomit. Madeline asks a few more questions, obtains the Smiths’ permission to begin emergency stabilization of Leopold, and then returns to the treatment room to report the information to Dr. Gale.
Vet tech role #2: Stabilize and monitor patients
Dr. Gale knows Leopold is in shock and, based on her exam and Madeline’s history, suspects he has a gastric dilation volvulus (GDV) (i.e., twisted stomach). The team springs into action to stabilize the dog—Elijah deftly places an intravenous (IV) catheter in each of Leopold’s front legs and administers the fluid volume Dr. Gale ordered, while Madeline attaches the electrocardiogram (ECG) leads that will track Leopold’s heart rate and look for abnormal rhythms. Leopold’s bloated stomach makes breathing difficult, so Elijah holds an oxygen mask over his nose, and Madeline helps Dr. Gale pass a large tube through the dog’s mouth into his stomach, to relieve some pressure.
Vet tech role #3: Perform laboratory testing on your pet
Elijah is monitoring Leopold’s vitals, so Madeline draws several vials of blood and heads to the laboratory, where she uses a computerized analyzer to run a complete blood count, blood chemistry, and blood lactate level. Dr. Gale will use these test results when she gauges Leopold’s prognosis, and develops his treatment plan.
Vet tech role #4: Take X-rays of patients
Once Leopold is more stable, Madeline and Elijah take him to the radiology suite to X-ray his abdomen. They don lead aprons, thyroid shields, and gloves, measure Leopold’s abdomen, and adjust the X-ray machine settings based on those measurements. They carefully slide Leopold from the gurney to the X-ray table, correctly position his abdomen under the X-ray beam, and take images that Dr. Gale reviews. The X-rays confirm Leopold’s GDV diagnosis.
Vet tech role #5: Assist with your pet’s anesthesia and surgery
Leopold needs emergency surgery to correct his GDV, so Madeline prepares the surgical suite, laying out the surgical gowns and gloves, surgical pack, and other necessary equipment. Elijah administers the anesthetic drugs to Leopold, places the endotracheal (i.e., breathing) tube, attaches the monitoring equipment, and then carefully monitors Leopold’s oxygenation, temperature, anesthetic levels, heart rhythm, blood pressure, and respiratory and heart rates. Meanwhile, Madeline scrubs and shaves Leopold’s abdomen, puts on a sterile gown and gloves, and assists Dr. Gale with the surgery. Elijah continues his monitoring duties to ensure Leopold’s safety while he is under anesthesia.
Vet tech role #6: Care for patients post-operatively
After Leopold’s surgery is completed, Elijah continues to monitor him during recovery until he is awake and doing well. Elijah and Madeline move their large patient to a hospital ward cage, and administer pain medications, antibiotics, and other medications Dr. Gale ordered. The vet techs continue to assess his pain level and vitals throughout his hospitalization.
Vet tech role #7: Educate pet owners
When Leopold is being released from the hospital, Madeline goes over his discharge instructions with the Smiths, explains his medications, and answers their questions. Then Madeline, Elijah, and the rest of the team bid Leopold farewell, pausing from their duties to smile at his joyful reunion with the Smiths.
Contact our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team for all your pet’s urgent or emergency medical needs, and prepare to be amazed by our vet techs, who will go above and beyond to ensure your furry friend is treated like family.