How do I go about being a large animal vet assistant?

By | September 10, 2015

I have always wanted to be a large animal vet – I can not, however, be in classrooms, so the eight years of required in-school work would not work for me. I know that you can get an assistant degree online, though I’m not sure which online colleges to look into, and what I would need to do exceeding these basic classes in order to be able to work with large animals.
Thank you in advance!

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One thought on “How do I go about being a large animal vet assistant?

  1. CindyRVT

    No state in the US has any educational requirements for working as a veterinary ASSISTANT. This is an entry level-position in a veterinary facility and training is generally done on the job. Because most training is done on the job it is often very cursory and lacks the depth and breadth of a formal education. Veterinary assistants are generally taught the basic how-to but not the why or when you would do something different. They tend to do basic tasks such as animal restraint, basic care and sanitation, assist in patient monitoring, prepare instruments for use in surgeries or daily treatments, they may give medication as prescribed by the veterinarian, collect biological samples and perform basic diagnostic tests like reading fecals. Veterinary assistants are generally not the equivalent of a formally educated veterinary technician. For example, many assistants can place an IV catheter and hook up a fluid line to it, but they generally don’t know how to calculate the appropriate amount of fluids to give in a 24 hour period to maintain hydration, replace lost fluids from vomiting/diarrhea, calculate the appropriate number of drops per hour to provide the correct amount of fluids or understand the different types of IV fluids available and when each type is appropriate to a given situation. They may monitor anesthesia but they generally don’t know how the different anesthetic drugs they are giving affect the body other than producing sedation or anesthesia—do they cause a drop in blood pressure that needs to be compensated for, do they make it more likely for animals that have seizures to have one, do they need to change the anesthetic protocol to compensate for heart, liver or kidney issues in a given patient. Veterinary assistants generally require much more supervision than a credentialed veterinary technician

    There are voluntary educational opportunities, however these are not equivalent to a college degree program and are instead basic vocational training. There is no over-sight by a professional body to ensure that the majority of these programs provide adequate or correct information. There is no requirement for hands-on training and instructors often have little or no experience or education in the veterinary field. There are a handful of certification programs that are designed and approved by veterinary professional organizations or that are offered by colleges which also offer accredited veterinary technology programs and these are better choices for someone who wants to be a veterinary assistant.

    If you are looking at working specifically with horses, the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians offers an equine veterinary assistant certificate program:

    If you really want to make a career of this, I would recommend that you look into earing a degree in veterinary technology. This will allow you to sit for the veterinary credentialing exams in your state and make you more valuable to any practice you work for. Veterinary technicians are trained to perform more specialized tasks than veterinary assistant and in many states there are certain tasks that a veterinary technician may perform but a veterinary assistant may not legally.

    There are online degree programs for veterinary technology and these courses cover topics in large animal veterinary nursing, parasites, etc. The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains a list of accredited degree programs on their website:

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