Veterinary assistants provide care to animals and help veterinarians and veterinary technicians during exams and surgery. They clean and disinfect examination and operating rooms, surgical instruments and equipment.
Veterinary assistants lift, restrain and soothe pets during examinations or laboratory tests. They help provide emergency aid to sick and injured animals, and care for them before and after surgical procedures.
- Clean, maintain and sterilise examination and operating rooms, surgical instruments, and equipment
- Lift, hold, restrain and soothe animals during veterinary exams and procedures
- Assist veterinarians in examining animals to assess overall health as well as any illness or injury
- Pass instruments to veterinarians, assisting with moving patient during surgical procedures
- Administer medications and take blood, urine or tissue samples according to vet’s instructions
- Help provide emergency aid to injured or sick animals
- Clean and disinfect cages and kennel areas
- Feed, bathe and exercise animals being boarded for client convenience or surgical procedures
- Provide post-surgery care to animals, monitoring for any unusual changes or symptoms
- Relay health, post-surgery care and medication instructions for animals to their owners
- Assist in euthanasia of animals and transfer of remains to pet funeral services or owner
- Perform office reception duties, such as scheduling appointments and taking client information
- Sell pet food, vitamins and supplies to pet owners
- Update medical records and monitor inventory of supplies
Skills and qualities
Veterinary assistants often start as part-time workers, gaining practical experience while attending school. Earning NAVTA certification can help you land full-time jobs and positions with more responsibility at large clinics and animal hospitals. Some veterinary assistants continue their schooling to become a veterinary technician or veterinarian.
Nights and weekends possible
Veterinary assistants may take on full-time or part-time hours. Evenings, weekends and even holiday shifts are possible to accommodate customer needs and emergencies.
You will typically work in a veterinary office, hospital or shelter.
Assisting veterinarians can be both physically and emotionally demanding. You may be exposed to contagious illnesses and potentially hazardous cleaning and pharmaceutical chemicals. You may also suffer kicks, scratches and bites from distressed animals. Following all safety protocols will help mitigate these risks.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
Most veterinary assistants only need a high school diploma or equivalent degree. You will receive on-the-job training.
Certification from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is available. You will need to complete accredited coursework before sitting for the exam. High schools, community and technical colleges, and some high schools provide approved programs that take two years or less to complete.
SourcesBureau of Labor Statistics National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) O*NET Online Oxford Martin School
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022