Emergency and Critical Care Veterinary Assistant

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An Emergency and Critical Care Veterinary Assistant works in an emergency or specialty veterinary clinic that provides urgent care, after-hours services, or critical care for animals with severe or life-threatening conditions. The responsibilities of an emergency and critical care veterinary assistant may differ from those of a general practice veterinary assistant due to the fast-paced, high-stress environment and the nature of the cases being treated. Here’s an overview of the key aspects of the job.

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Roles and Responsibilities

Assisting with examinations and procedures

  1. Help with animal restraint during exams, treatments, or emergency procedures.
  2. Prepare the treatment area and ensure necessary supplies and equipment are ready.
  3. Assist with sample collection, such as blood, urine, or fecal samples.
  4. Clean and sterilize instruments and equipment.

Triage and patient stabilization

  1. Assist in assessing the urgency of incoming cases and prioritizing patients based on the severity of their conditions.
  2. Help stabilize patients by administering oxygen, applying bandages, or initiating fluid therapy under the supervision of a veterinarian or veterinary technician.

Animal care

  1. Monitor patients in critical condition, checking vital signs and reporting any changes in their health or behavior.
  2. Administer medications as directed by the veterinarian or veterinary technician.
  3. Assist with wound care, bandage changes, or other treatment tasks.

Client Communication

  1. Provide support and information to clients during emergencies, explaining the care being provided to their pets and addressing any questions or concerns.
  2. Relay information between the client and the veterinary team, ensuring clear communication and understanding.

Cleaning and maintenance

  1. Clean and sanitize treatment areas, equipment, and animal enclosures, following proper infection control protocols.
  2. Dispose of waste materials properly, following safety guidelines and regulations.

Administrative tasks

  1. Update and maintain patient records, documenting treatments, medications, or procedures performed.
  2. Assist with inventory management and ordering of supplies.

Work Environment

  1. Emergency and Critical Care Veterinary Assistants often work in fast-paced, high-stress environments, dealing with patients in severe or life-threatening conditions.
  2. The job can be physically demanding, as you may need to stand for long periods, lift heavy objects or animals, and perform repetitive tasks.
  3. Veterinary assistants in emergency settings may work irregular hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays, depending on the clinic’s operating hours.
  4. The work can be emotionally challenging, as you may encounter critically ill or injured animals, as well as distressed pet owners.

Skills and Qualities

  1. Compassion and empathy: A genuine concern for the well-being of animals and the ability to empathize with their owners, particularly during emergencies, is essential.
  2. Communication skills: Effective verbal and written communication skills are crucial for interacting with clients, veterinarians, and other clinic staff during high-stress situations.
  3. Attention to detail: Precision and accuracy are important for tasks like administering medications, updating patient records, and maintaining a clean and organized work environment.
  4. Physical stamina: The ability to stand for extended periods, lift heavy objects, and handle large or unruly animals is necessary.
  5. Time management: Veterinary assistants must balance multiple tasks and prioritize their work efficiently, particularly in emergency situations.
  6. Teamwork: Being able to work well with others, including veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and other clinic staff, is crucial for a successful work environment.
  7. Problem-solving: Veterinary assistants should be resourceful and adaptable, able to think critically and find solutions to challenges that arise during their work.
  8. Ability to handle stress: The ability to stay calm and focused under pressure is essential for managing the demands of an emergency and critical care setting.


To become an Emergency and Critical Care Veterinary Assistant, there is no specific educational requirement or certification mandated in most jurisdictions. However, having a high school diploma or GED is often preferred. Many veterinary assistants receive on-the-job training, but completing a veterinary assistant program or pursuing relevant certifications can improve job prospects and lead to greater responsibilities within a clinic.

  1. Education: Although not mandatory, completing a veterinary assistant program or taking courses in animal care, biology, or a related field can help prepare you for the job. Some vocational schools, community colleges, and online programs offer veterinary assistant courses that focus on emergency and critical care.
  2. Certification: While not required, obtaining a certification like the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation offered by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) can demonstrate your commitment to the profession and improve your employability. Some programs may offer an emergency and critical care focus.
  3. Experience: Many veterinary assistants gain experience through internships, volunteer work at emergency or specialty clinics, or entry-level positions in veterinary practices, where they receive on-the-job training.

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