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Top 10 Reasons You Probably Wouldn’t Want To Be A Vet Tech

veterinary technician indianapolis
Jenosarus Dorfmeyer, Veterinary Assistant Extraordinaire at Leo’s Pet Care

We had a client in yesterday, who had recently graduated from a local school of veterinary technology, but then decided to switch industries to something completely not animal related. This got me to thinking, what is it that separates the veterinary lifers from the also-rans?

What is it about being a veterinary technician that makes the job so hard?

#10 EUTHANASIA – Let’s just get this one out of the way. Euthanasia is hard. Is it the hardest part of our job? Nope, not nearly. What non-veterinary people may not understand is that more often than not, euthanasia is a gift we give to an ailing patient. Relieving pain and suffering is our calling, and there is some comfort in watching a struggling old patient stop struggling and be at peace. That having been said, comforting the humans is hard as hell, because we know exactly how you feel, and it hurts. More than one veterinary technician graduate has dropped out of the profession after having to put down their own pet. Being reminded of that pain day after day is simply too hard for most people.

#9 PAIN – Pain is a part of life, right? That’s easy enough to say, but watching a helpless animal be in pain is a whole new ball game. Bad enough are the pets who quietly hide their suffering. But the cases that really tear at your heart are the pets who know they hurt, but don’t understand why, and they’re scared, and there’s nothing you can do to explain it to them. And there’s always some small part of you that thinks the animal is blaming you for their pain, even though it’s not really your fault they got sick.

#8 FEAR – Every day, animals come into this office scared for their lives. They have no concept of what a hospital is, or that we’re here to help. The sounds are strange, the people are strange, the smells are strange, and people are touching, lifting, poking, prodding. Until you’ve worked on a pet yourself, you don’t really understand what it means to have to do painful things to an animal for their own good, and have them look at you with those fearful eyes. They really do think you’re trying to kill them, and it’s heartbreaking.

#7 BITES AND SCRATCHES – …don’t usually hurt physically nearly as much as the pain you feel inside your heart, knowing you got scratched or bitten by an animal you love, and were just trying to help. The flip side of #8.

#6 MUSS AND FUSS – It takes a special kind of crazy to devote yourself to animals. These goofy, furry, noisy, messy critters we love so much. It’s odd for a veterinary professional to understand why someone wouldn’t want fur all over their house. How could you not love taking your puppy out every two hours to potty train it? To a veterinary technician, cleaning up a sick pet’s mess makes them feel more sorry for the pet, than for themselves having to clean it up. That’s a special kind of love right there.

#5 BREEDERS – There are two kinds of breeders; some breeders go through the pain, agony, and expense of breeding dogs because of their undying devotion to, and love of a particular breed. These angels have devoted entire lifetimes to creating and molding hundreds of breeds of wonderful, functional, loving, sound, well-built, exquisitely diverse dog and cat pets and working animals for hundreds of years, and brought joy to my profession. They know it’s expensive, and difficult, and rarely profitable, but they do it anyway. And then there’s the breeders who do it for money, those who have a special place reserved in the fourth circle of hell for their greed. It’s tough for a veterinary technician who knows the shelter is full of unwanted pets to smile at breeders and not hurt them. Luckily, the public is becoming wise to their puppy-milling ways, and rescue, foster, and adoption are becoming more and more common. Don’t shop, adopt!

#4 PATIENCE – Now, we’re starting to get into what’s really difficult about the veterinary profession. Coming up with a treatment plan that looks good on paper is easy. Performing those treatments on your pet, often when they’re in pain or not feeling so hot, is tough. Messy and difficult treatments are what separates the pet owning wheat, from the chaff. So veterinary technicians are often put in the middle, guiding and encouraging pet owners to follow through with treatments. Often, the pet owner has other commitments, and they’re forced to do silly things like go to work and raise children instead of taking care of their pet all day and night. I’m kidding, of course, but in all seriousness, when a pet comes into our office over and over again with a repeat problem that could maybe have been prevented with some time and effort at home, it’s frustrating. Frustrating for the owner, frustrating for the staff. Dealing with that mutual frustration on a daily basis, and keeping everybody on task and focused on the pet’s best interests, without placing blame, takes a special kind of patience that only the most dedicated veterinary technicians are born with.

#3 UNDERSTANDING – Some people still think all pit bulls are just naturally mean, oh and by the way, should have their ears cut off. That all Golden Retrievers make good family pets. That bad dogs always come from abusive homes; therefore any puppy that comes from a loving home will automatically train itself to be a good family pet. That chihuahuas are supposed to live in hand bags. That male cats are better, that female cats are better. Oy vey! These biases are very prevalent in our society, and by and large, they’re all wrong. Every day we see clients who are convinced their pet will be one thing and it becomes another. 90% of what a veterinary technician does all day long, then, is share the vast knowledge prior generations of veterinarians and vet techs have learned in the school of hard knocks, so owners don’t have to make the same mistakes of their predecessors. If teaching doesn’t bring a technician joy, having the same conversations day after day can lead to burnout. Every day vet techs are faced by people who have been given incorrect information by someone else, and have to persist on behalf of the animal, sharing knowledge with patience and understanding, to correct that knowledge. Veterinary technicians are truly the most patient, understanding, caring people you will ever meet.

#2 PERSISTENCE – Further to #3… teaching clients who don’t know something but are willing to learn is hard, but it’s incredibly rewarding. What’s infinitely more difficult and soul-crushing, though, is a case where the owner starts to wonder if the pet is worth the bother. Frustrating, dragging cases where the client just wants Fido to “get better”, or if its a behavioral problem, to… well, to quit doing normal cat or dog things that normal cats and dogs do, and quit causing trouble. Loving animals means accepting their flaws and limitations, in sickness and in health, it’s not all puppies and kittens and purrs and wags. Many veterinary technician wannabes enter vet tech school thinking every day is full of hugs and puppy breath. Turns out talking to people is what we do all day, often when they’re worried about their furry family member and conversations are difficult.

#1 OVERWORKED, UNDERAPPRECIATED and UNDERPAID – Pretty much summarizes the entire veterinary technical profession. It’s not because we vets are cheap asses either, but because the entirety of veterinary medicine is under funded. That’s what happens when your profession has no medical insurance coverage, no government assistance, no public funding whatsoever, and every dollar that comes into this building has to come directly out of an owner’s pocket. Sadly, that chronic lack of cash flow trickles down and keeps vet techs working for barely higher than minimum wage. Being a veterinary technician is a career of choice, a career of passion, hard work and sacrifice, but I can assure you, nobody is in it for the money.

So essentially, a veterinary technician is a patient, understanding angel, who is also good at persuading people to do things when either they or their pet would rather not, and get paid peanuts to do it.

And bless their hearts, they love every second of it.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. You could probably have just wrote #1, it’s not only hard to keep that in mind whole working in a veterinary practice, but weird and hard to explain to upset clients. GREAT post!

  2. <3 Beautiful. I'm not yet graduated but I've been working in a practice since I was sixteen. Never looked back.

  3. Thank you! I am a CVT for the last 10 years and have told so many people not to become a vet tech because they are not cut from the right cloth. I tell them to foster or volunteer if they want to help animals because the career just isn’t the right fit for them. This is going up at the vet school I work at tomorrow!

  4. Well said! I was a vet tech for 6 years, and I totally agree. I love it so much, but in the end it was just too much for me. The hardest part was feeling underappreciated by practically every pet owner and my crappy hospital owner and manager; and killing my self working hard, with bad hours, and even worse pay! Now I support my local shelters in my free time, donating money & supplies.

  5. I have been an LVT for 32 years…….yes I must be crazy. My tax accountant tells me every year that I am living just above poverty level……I tell her at least I have lived my life doing something I loved and not wasted my life doing something I hate just to have more money. Well written post!

  6. I am an RVT and everything you posted is totally accurate. I am one that occasionally suffers from “compassion exhaustion” but it just takes one look from my furry friends and it reminds me why I am ok with barely being able to pay my bills and survive in the “real world”. I have $51,000 in education loans to let me do what I love. Pets love us unconditionally and it is our job to give them the best care possible with whatever resources their owners can afford. I love veterinary medicine and I can’t imagine not being involved somehow in someway. 🙂

  7. I’ve been a career vet tech for 6 years. I would strongly recommend NOT going into this field, and especially not going to school for it. There are many degrees that will garner you more money, better hours, and better benefits.

  8. I was a veterinary technician for 16 years and recently became an RN. There are things I miss and things I don’t, most of what is mentioned in this article. I think the profession does not get the respect it deserves. The public is not aware of the amount of training and education it takes to be a vet tech. I will always be a vet tech at heart and do occasional relief shifts to get my animal fix.

  9. I do not disagree with ANY of your points HOWEVER….having been an assistant and recently finishing veterinary school and seeing the doctor side….I have to say that this post is relevant to pretty much ANYONE in the animal welfare field, be it vet, tech, assistant, volunteer, shelter worker, rescuer, etc. There are exceptions to each of those groups, yes; but then there are exceptions to any rule, right? Very well written, appreciate you taking the time to put into words what many people in this world go through each and every day.

    1. Agreed. I was an LVT for many years and now finishing vet school. We are all equal in these points, and I want to point out that DVM’s sacrifice many, many years (many more than two!) in school, sometimes their own financial stability for years to come, and may even have to neglect their own health to get through school so that they can treat animals. And all these points apply to them too. I deal in mutual respect, no pedestals.

      1. Of course I’m speaking from within the profession. From the general public perspective, VTs are often overlooked with all the glory going to the DVMs, even for things the VT did. I admit, I used to cringe every time one of the doctors called the owner on the phone and said “I just finished your dog’s dental cleaning.” Who did the back- breaking work? Haha!

  10. This is great, and I really wish all clients and vets would read it. Another thing that isn’t recognized at all is that we are more than the simple word of “technicians.” We are dental hygienists, surgical and anesthesia assistants, emergency medical assistants, lab workers, animal behaviorists, nutritionists, phlebotomists, radiology technicians, physical therapists, restraint artists, masters of avoiding bites and scratches, teachers, counselors, etc. We do literally everything as opposed to (not to dismiss their amazingness) human nurses who typically specialize in just one of these areas. People simply aren’t aware of these things, or have just never thought about it. This is a huge reason I believe we are probably one of the most unappreciated and underpaid professionals. Hopefully things with respect to this issue will change since more and more people are viewing their pets as a part of their family and are more concerned about their health. Thank you for writing this, it is amazing!

  11. I just shared this on my Facebook. I will tell you that I have been a tech for the past six years, and I have currently been out of the field for the past two months. I suffered from horrible depression, anxiety and overwhelming tasks that was placed on me. I have worked in emergency and day practices. I am at a crossroad in my life whether to go back or not? I did relate to #10. I had to put my own dog down, and after that the grief and guilt started to hit me everyday I would come to the clinic. I was never ok after that… I felt like going to work just caused bad memories and pain for me. Thanks for writing this article. I found it very informative.

  12. I just shared this on my Facebook. I will tell you that I have been a tech for the past six years, and I have currently been out of the field for the past two months. I suffered from horrible depression, anxiety and overwhelming tasks that was placed on me. I have worked in emergency and day practices. I am at a crossroad in my life whether to go back or not? I did relate to #10. I had to put my own dog down, and after that the grief and guilt started to hit me everyday I would come to the clinic. I was never ok after that… I felt like going to work just caused bad memories and pain for me. Thanks for writing this article. I found it very informative.

  13. This article is spot on, thankyou!!! If you research the job first you know what it entails, you know the hours are long and the pay isn’t what it should be, but the reward is worth it. I wouldn’t change my job for the world, the people that I work with, yes, my job, maybe when I’m 50 & wrestleing dogs for TNTs proveoto be too much on my body, ill go into teaching my profession. To all of you techs that don’t like your job, please go do something else bc your lack of kindness and compassion make the rest of us look bad!

  14. Let me chime in! DON’T DO IT! I have a very strong love for animals and a deep passion that I swear this was my calling and the whole experience ruined it for me. I am speaking for myself because some people get placed and get lucky but it depends on your school and the education they provide and where or who you are working for or with is a major factor!!!! I think it can be a good job but I went to a poor school with crappy management and if I had sucked it up then I could’ve gotten my degree and called it a day but I also got hired upon one of my clinicals too and the industry is really deceitful! There are some vets and business that truly care about animals and alot do not. It is all about money and I have seen a business overcharge clueless customers that will shell out anything to help their pet and even tell you to open up credit cards if you cannot pay…it is truly sad. The list goes on and on and it is much deeper than this but I have a different view now and I left that industry and going into another career where I should’ve done so a long long time ago. You will get underpaid working as a VT and if you aren’t a DVM (veterinarian) or if you own the business then you will not get anywhere money wise….

  15. This is a great article and very true…. I am one of those that graduated from vet tech school and didn’t end up doing much with it after…. mostly because I couldn’t afford to and at the end of the day, as much as I love animals and being able to work w/ and help them, I just couldn’t afford to be a vet tech anymore and figured out that the only thing I like about people in general, are their animals.

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