Updated - Oct 15th, 2021
Think back to the last time you took your pet to the vet. Do you remember the person who guided your pup into the exam room or wrangled them onto the scale to get their weight? Or who magically calmed your kitty before the doctor came in? It was probably one of your hospital’s many veterinary technicians (AKA ‘vet techs’)!
October 17 marks the start of Vet Tech Appreciation Week. We want to celebrate their invaluable role and everything they do for our pets. It’s a hard, messy, and stressful job that doesn’t pay so well, but veterinary technicians chose their profession because they love – like, really love – caring for animals.
Here are 10 amazing examples of vet techs doing their thing and being the fearless pet-loving heroes that they are.
1. Vet techs perform extreme athletic feats
Your pet’s vet tech probably gets as much exercise on the job as a fitness trainer, and could give a heavyweight champion a run for their money!
“I once ran after a dog that got loose from the owner in the parking lot. I chased her down a service road that was right next to a freeway, finally caught up to her, and tackled her on the off-ramp. True story, and probably not even the craziest thing I’ve ever done for one of our patients.” – Morgan, Stonebrook Family Pet Clinic
Another fearless vet tech told us “Once when I was eight and a half months pregnant, I flipped over a 100+ pound English Bulldog to give it CPR. I’m not even sure how I did it, it was just instinct and adrenaline – anything to save an animal. I went into labor immediately afterward.”
2. A vet tech’s work isn’t for the faint-hearted
It isn’t all cute puppies and kittens; most vet techs have dealt with gnarly medical situations. When we asked vet techs to tell us about the squeamish stuff they’ve seen, they laughed and told us “all of it” before rattling off a few stories.
“I once had to hold all of a dog’s intestines in my hands. The dog had recently had a splenectomy, he must have jumped or exerted himself too much and accidentally opened up the scar tissue. Everything was [motions to show abdomen spillage] and we had to rush him back into surgery – but he lived! He looked so good the last time we saw him!” – Central Vets, Valley Stream, NY
3. Vet techs deal with some pretty ‘wild’ stuff
Wild animals that is! Veterinary technicians study for years and learn to help care for many species – not just cats, dogs, or household pets. And while you likely won’t see a wild animal at your next vet visit, one has probably been there before!
“We’ve had people try to bring in some pretty strange ‘pets’ before. A client tried to bring an emu in for a visit, and we said no. Like… a bird that can kill you with its foot? No thank you!” “Someone else tried to bring in a red tail hawk – a protected raptor species – our veterinarian was like ‘absolutely not’.” Some other pets are just wild in temperament. “We used to have pigs come into the hospital. They are cute but they just scream when you try to examine them! We also had a lot of chickens last year. Pigs and chickens are very different from dogs or cats!” – Central Vets, Valley Stream, NY
4. Vet techs help when pets and nature collide
If you live in a city, you may not have thought about this one. But for people in the country, or in neighborhoods where wildlife wanders through, their pets often brush shoulders with wild animals. Veterinary hospitals and their technicians are usually knowledgeable about local wildlife and the ‘trouble’ their clients’ pets may get into.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of wildlife run-ins, it can be quite dangerous. We used to have coyotes…sometimes they try to catch little dogs by the back-end and it’s pretty horrific when they come in needing emergency care. We also have porcupines in Massachusetts…It’s wicked because you have to pull out the quills, but then you have to x-ray to make sure you get them because they get lodged inside the body. There was a dog that came in and we thought we got all the quills but six months later he got an infection because one quill was still stuck in his chest cavity and had become infected.” – Laura, Vet Tech and Pumpkin Sales Representative
5. Vet techs thrive when thrown into the fire
Vet techs study tons before they can get licensed. Many also work multiple jobs, volunteer at different shelters, and learn on the job when they join a new hospital. Their passion for animals, book smarts, and ability to work under pressure make them uniquely equipped to tackle any situation and support their entire team.
“Vet techs are thrown into the ringer from Day 1. They learn, adapt, and perform under pressure in new environments. They’re also the ones who really get to know the patients because they are there from the beginning to the end of an appointment. They’re scheduling procedures with an understanding of what works best for the entire hospital (i.e. can’t have too many surgeries in one day). They take the vitals of the pets, know exactly how much medication or anesthesia works for each one, and even the personalities and triggers of different breeds or individual patients! They learn as they go and amass a tremendous amount of invaluable experience and expertise.” – Mary S, Former VT and Pumpkin Team Member
6. Vet techs help solve strange medical mysteries
Unlike human doctors, veterinarians and vet techs treat many different species and conditions and perform everything from routine wellness checkups to surgery! Just like people aren’t anything like horses, dogs aren’t anything like cats, or bunnies, or birds. And every type of animal comes with their own rare diseases or conditions that veterinary hospitals have to understand and treat.
“The craziest thing I’ve experienced while on the job was when I first started as a Vet Technician. I was helping a doctor with a dog that had a tuft of hair growing from its eyeball! I’ll never forget it!” – Tina, LVT at South Bay Veterinary Hospital.
Sometimes vet techs help solve common problems in somewhat uncommon pets. “We once had a client with a chicken come in and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. Finally, after doing ultrasounds, x-rays, and tests we realized it was just egg-bound. Most of us had never had a chicken patient, and didn’t know what ‘egg-bound’ even meant, but our team just used their medical expertise to figure it out!” – Christa S, Vet Tech and Pumpkin team member
7. A vet tech is a vet’s right-hand person
Almost everything your veterinarian does for your pet requires the steadfast support of their trusted vet technician. Whether that’s wrangling a stressed-out kitty to comply with the thermometer, or putting a catheter into a dog before surgery – they couldn’t care for your pet without the steady hand of their vet techs. Here’s one heroic tale of a vet tech truly saving the day (or night!)
“The Veterinarian passed out during surgery… she was safely caught by another team member but due to the procedure taking place in the middle of the night, we were unable to reach another veterinarian. I scrubbed in quickly to stop the bleeding while another team member called our Hospital Practice Manager, another LVT, to come in. Thankfully, she lived a block away and showed up 5 minutes later in her pajamas! She was able to get a hold of our hospital’s owner and Veterinarian and he said, ‘Do what you need to do to save the patient and I will video call you soon.’ The much-anticipated video call came a few moments later and he walked us through how to suture the vessels and massage the remaining puppy down the birth canal. Success! All puppies were alive and well, and the momma pup was doing excellent under anesthesia. We had high fives all around and Mom and her babies safely went home the following day!” – Nicole LaForest, LVT, RVT, CCFT
8. Vet techs go to crazy lengths to save animals in need
Remember when we said vet techs choose their job because they REALLY love animals? Behind every sick, injured, abused, or abandoned pet is a veterinary technician that helped care for them. Many vet techs dedicate all of their free time to caring for animals in need. Here’s what one vet tech (and kitty superhero) had to tell us.
“I’ve worked full time at an all-feline hospital for the past 20 years, and for the past 7 have been running criticalkittens.org with over 500 medical cases rescued, rehabilitated, and rehomed. I deal with crazy situations all the time. My most recent one involves ‘Anchovy’ – a cat who was deliberately dunked in scalding water with 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns on 50% of her body. We are in the process of helping her heal with the use of cod skin grafts and we are 95% of the way healed. Our next step is to get her rehab for either implants, new feet, or having prosthetic boots made. Twice per week, I anesthetize, clean, provide laser therapy, apply her skin grafts with one of my clinicians, and document her progress. I am also the one who reached out to companies to source the cod skin and antimicrobial paper we needed to save her, and I help with the costs of this charitable case!” – Ellen Carozza LVT, The CATLVT LLC.
9. Vet techs work crazy long days, nights, and weekends
Veterinary staff have always worked incredibly hard, enduring long hours and emergency shifts. But the COVID pandemic took this to new extremes and put new stresses on the people that care for our pets. Here’s one harrowing story we heard.
“One week in particular stands out to me. It was RIGHT when COVID hit. There was a lot of fear around traveling and airplanes so we told some employees that had recently traveled to quarantine for a bit. But we had to make up for shifts, so I pulled 50+ hours that week. That was not a normal week… EVERY CLIENT had a concern that had to be seen IMMEDIATELY. We are in the business of caring, and vet techs don’t really know when to say no. So we come in early, or work through lunch, or stay late. In the moment we are okay with it, but the burnout eventually hits. We rely on the support of our team, the veterinary clinic culture, and our clients, to make those very bad days a little bit better.” – Morgan B., Stonebrook Family Pet Clinic.
10. Vet techs are the glue that keeps the hospital together
Whether it’s a routine wellness visit or an emergency, remember that from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, your hospital’s vet techs are only focused on making sure your pet receives the best care possible.
“Our Veterinary Technicians are crucial to our hospital and we are so lucky to have such a wonderful team. They are the main line of communication between the client and the veterinarian, as well as between the patient and the doctor. Our vet techs are truly the glue that holds our three departments together. Everything goes through them! They are some of the bravest human beings – smart, quick on their feet, and with superhuman strength. But most of all, they have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of all of our patients. Want to know how I can tell? Baby voices! They talk in baby voices to every single patient that walks through this door!! They laugh with them, hug them, and kiss them – you can’t fake that! We love our Vet Techs!” – Sequoya S., Ark Animal Hospital
“I would like for all pet owners to know that for most of us, this isn’t just a job. We’re passionate about what we do. We went through schooling, and continue to take classes to better our knowledge in order to provide the best care we possibly can for their pets. When we say we love your pets as if they were our own, we aren’t lying! Long, short, tall, lean, happy, grumpy, chunky, we love them all and want what’s only best to keep your fur family healthy!” ❤️ – Tina, LVT at South Bay Veterinary Hospital
If you want to support the veterinary technician community and learn more about what they do, follow @veterinarytechnicians on Instagram. And the next time you take your vet in for their check-up or sick visit, be sure to be extra nice to your vet tech and thank them for helping care for your pet.
From all of us at Pumpkin to vet techs everywhere, Happy Vet Tech Appreciation Week! We are furever grateful for all you do for our pets!