What is an Equine Vet Tech?

What is an Equine Vet Tech?

Vet techs are the nurses of the veterinary profession, and they provide specialized care and can assist in a variety of diagnostic, medical, and surgical procedures for both small and large animals.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

While your veterinarian is explaining the procedure he's about to perform on your horse, there's likely another person preparing the required materials. And late at night, while you're trying to sleep but worrying about your horse's condition after surgery, someone is there watching over him and ensuring he's receiving all the care he needs.

Who are these individuals? They're veterinary technicians, of course.

"Teamwork is the basis of any horse-related activity; veterinary care is no exception," said Luis Cadena, DVM, of Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital in Ocala, Florida. "Vet technician work is vital in every aspect of our job. Our safety and the safety of the horse are in their hands."

In celebration of National Veterinary Technician Week, let's take a closer look at our veterinarians' right-hand men and women.

Vet techs are the nurses of the veterinary profession, and they provide specialized care and can assist in a variety of diagnostic, medical, and surgical procedures for both small and large animals. Credentialed vet techs must attend American Veterinary Medicine Association-accredited programs for two years and receive an associate degree in veterinary technology before they can sit for their national and state exams, said Deborah B. Reeder, RVT, VTS-EVN. Reeder is the executive director of the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians and Assistants professional association for equine veterinary technicians, assistants, support staff, and students, and a sister organization to the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Reeder relayed additional details about veterinary technicians' education:

  • Vet techs must take multiple hours of prerequisite courses and withstand a rigorous selection process before they are allowed to enter a veterinary technology program.
  • Most programs require at least 72 college credit hours—and sometimes more—for graduation.
  • Vet techs' course work includes general studies courses—such as math, science, english, and humanities—in addition to anatomy, physiology, species-specific science and care classes, radiology, surgery, anesthesia, clinical pathology, pharmacology, parasitology, nursing, and management.
  • Weekly clinical time is scheduled to allow hands-on experience under the supervision of instructors, and an extended cooperative education course in an actual clinic setting is required prior to graduation.

Upon graduation, Reeder said, an equine veterinary technician possesses the knowledge and ability required to anesthetize patients that range in size from as small as 20 pounds (such as a dwarf Miniature Horse foal) up to more than 2,000 pounds (such as a draft horse).

"When asked why they spend the time, effort, and cost to finish such a program, most answers will include, 'I have a passion for medicine and caring,' " Reeder said.

"Never underestimate the immeasurable value of our wonderful veterinary technicians," said Tanya Thacker, DVM, also of Peterson & Smith. "They provide the underlying back bone of every successful veterinarian."

For more information on equine vet techs and the AAEVT's recommended veterinary technology programs, visit www.aaevt.org.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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