Veterinary technicians, or vet techs, assist veterinarians in animal hospitals, shelters, research facilities or private veterinary practices. Vet techs, often the first people you will encounter during an office visit, may take your pet's temperature, weigh her or perform other diagnostic tasks. A veterinary technician's toolbox contains many items necessary to carry out the job's day-to-day tasks.
A thermometer serves as a key tool in a vet tech's arsenal. Most vet techs use digital, as opposed to analog, thermometers, to allow for a quick temperature reading. Thermometers come in rectal, aural (ear) or infrared varieties, and determine a patient's temperature before the vet tech or veterinarian performs a more in-depth examination.
During routine wellness exams and emergency visits, vet techs use a stethoscope to listen to an animal's heart and lungs. The chest piece of a stethoscope--the bell-shaped end--goes against the patient's skin. Flexible tubing connects the chest piece to ear pieces through which vet techs listen to the patient's heartbeat or breathing pattern. Any abnormalities in heart rate or respiratory sounds may signal a disease or illness.
Needle and Syringe
Vet techs often complete tasks that call for the use of a needle and syringe. A needle, used in conjunction with a syringe, injects or withdraws liquids. A syringe--a glass or plastic cylinder marked with units of measurement--contains a piston system that enables specimen collection. Some of the more common tasks vet techs complete with a needle and syringe include drawing blood, injecting patients with medication or vaccines and performing needle biopsies.
Vet techs working in shelters and private practices become very familiar with nail trimmers, which come in sizes proportional to the size of the animal. Domesticated animals such as cats and dogs have thicker nails than humans, and their nails also contain a vein, called a quick, that will bleed if nicked or cut. Vet techs must use caution to avoid the quick when trimming animals' nails. Some nail trimmers come with a sensor that helps locate the quick before making a cut.
Animals require IV, or intravenous, catheters when dehydrated, sick or about to be anesthetized. Vet techs must place these small tubes in one of the animal's veins to allow for administration of liquids and medications. Catheters enable rapid distribution of fluids throughout the patient's body.