What does a Veterinary Nurse do?

Misty Amber Brighton

A veterinary nurse, sometimes referred to as a technician, assists a veterinarian in providing medical treatment to animals. This could be by helping with an examination or preparing a pet for surgery. The assistant may sometimes conduct routine tests or laboratory work. In some cases, the nurse may perform administrative duties, such as updating medical charts or entering billing information in a database. Other times, the job may require providing basic care for animals who are being hospitalized.

Veterinary nurses care for animals before, during, and after surgery.
Veterinary nurses care for animals before, during, and after surgery.

When a pet owner brings an animal to a veterinary clinic, a veterinary nurse is often one of the first people seen. Before the veterinarian talks to the owner, the nurse may take the animal's weight and temperature. This information, along with changes in the pet's health or recent medical concerns, is then recorded for the doctor to review. After the visit is complete, the technician normally updates the pet's record with the diagnosis and recommended treatment plan.

A veterinary nurse may be responsible for walking dogs while they are under hospital care.
A veterinary nurse may be responsible for walking dogs while they are under hospital care.

During the examination, the veterinary nurse may assist the doctor by holding the animal still or muzzling if need be. The nurse may also help bandage wounds and apply topical ointments. In some cases, this assistant may fill syringes and administer vaccinations to animals.

One of the major responsibilities of a veterinary nurse is caring for animals before, during, and after surgery. This may involve shaving a pet's fur or checking the heart rate prior to the operation. During surgery, she might assist the veterinarian by handing the doctor surgical instruments. After the procedure is completed, she may observe the animal to make sure there are no complications.

When a pet is hospitalized, the veterinary nurse is normally responsible for the animal's care. This can include providing food, water, and medicine. It could also encompass walking dogs, changing litter pans, or cleaning fecal matter from cages.

Veterinarians may request certain tests or procedures for their patients. A veterinary nurse often performs tasks such as checking for worms or looking in an animal's ears to check for ear mites. In some cases, a nurse might also draw blood samples and test them for heartworm, anemia, or other conditions.

The educational requirements for a veterinary nurse vary from one country to the next, but are generally anywhere from two to four years of college. Many people also complete an internship with a veterinarian before being employed in this capacity. Both education and completing an internship can lead to a rewarding career helping both pet owners and their pets.

A veterinary nurse may work at a animal shelter or vet office.
A veterinary nurse may work at a animal shelter or vet office.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - I want to be a vet nurse as well, and eventually work in a job that has even fewer opportunities- vet nursing at a zoo.

I've got a few different things in mind to work up to that though. I've been volunteering at the local zoo, for starters as well as at a local vet, because my vet nursing school will only take you if you've got work experience.

I think that's because they know some people won't like the idea of putting down animals, for example.

I'm also going to try and go overseas with one of the volunteer organizations which help animals, like spaying dogs and cats. This will be after I complete the degree.

I'm hoping if I build up enough experience, when a job comes up at a zoo or a wildlife park, I'll be able to snap it up and start my career.


@Iluviaporos - I thought about doing this for a while too, because I really love being around animals, but I don't think I have the patience to become a vet. It takes too long to get the qualification. There are one or two year courses here in order to become a vet nurse though.

But, when I looked into it, it seemed like there weren't all that many jobs around. It sounds like a good idea for your sister to specialize because so many people want to be vet nurses, the job market seems to be saturated.

You have to move somewhere quite remote in order to get work.

Even that wouldn't have stopped me, I think, but I realized I really wouldn't be able to help put animals down if it came down to it. And that's a part of the job, unfortunately.


My sister was really eager to become a vet nurse at one point. Her courses seemed to be really fun, although more difficult than I expected. She did get a lot of hands on experience with animals, because, in a way, she'd be dealing with them even more than the vet.

She'd be the one in charge of feeding them and nursing them while they recovered from surgery, and often the one in charge of looking them over before the vet came in so that she could see if there was anything obvious wrong.

My sister decided to concentrate on avian medicine, because she really enjoys birds and that seems to be a growing specialty at the moment.

She's got another year or so and then she'll be all qualified. I'm hoping I'll get to see some of these animals too, or at least hear some good stories!

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