A growing component of America’s veterinary care sector is long-term animal care. In many cases, modern veterinary medicine permits animals to survive illnesses and injuries that at one point would have been fatal.
Chronic conditions, ranging from diabetes to cancer, can now be treated or mitigated by ongoing veterinary care.
However, many of these conditions require long-term treatment and evaluation in order to ensure that the animal continues to enjoy a healthy and comfortable life.
Types of Long-Term Care
Long-term care for animals is usually divided into two categories.
1. The first is treating an illness or injury that will require long-term treatment in order to restore the animal to full health
2. The second involves a chronic illness or condition that cannot be cured, but can be managed by various techniques over the animal’s life in order to ensure that the animal does not suffer unnecessary discomfort.
Common examples of illnesses or injuries requiring long-term care include the following:
- Animal diabetes.
- Crippling physical injuries.
- Degenerative diseases such as arthritis.
- Chronic allergies.
In many cases, these diseases will require long-term treatment by a veterinarian. Usually, the course of treatment will include numerous trips to the veterinary clinic for evaluation and care.
In addition, many long-term treatment plans include in home medication and dietary treatment plans.
Pain and End of Life Management
An important part of long-term animal treatment is managing the end of a pet’s life in a comfortable manner. In many cases, it may be possible to treat the symptoms, allowing the pet to live the remainder of its life with its owners.
This can be especially important for families who are wishing to avoid the trauma of euthanasia for their pet. In general, end of life management primarily focuses on moderating any discomfort the pet may suffer, rather than attempting to eliminate the underlying condition.
Vet Techs and Long-Term Care
Veterinary technicians provide a vital role in the long-term animal care field. In addition to working with the veterinarian, they help ensure that the animals are properly cared for when at the veterinary clinic. Vet techs also work with the pet’s owners in order to ensure that the animal is cared for in accordance with the vet’s instructions when at home.
When working with animals under long-term care, vet techs usually carry out the following duties:
- Work with the veterinarian to develop and implement a plan of treatment for the animal.
- Under the direction of the veterinarian, the vet tech will administer various types of medication to the animal.
- The vet tech will help train and educate the pet’s owners in how to administer any medications that are being sent home with the pet.
- The vet tech will instruct the owners in how to provide meet their pet’s dietary needs. This can be especially important when working with animals that are suffering from diabetes or digestive problems.
- The vet tech will carry out the initial exam of the animal in order to provide the veterinarian with the basic information he or she will require in order to evaluate the pet.
- In many cases, a vet tech may provide in home care for pets. This can include administering drugs prescribed by the veterinarian or evaluating the animal’s condition in order to help the vet determine if the current course of treatment is having the desired effect.
Vet Tech Specialties and Long-Term Care
There are a number of vet tech specialties that can become especially useful when providing long-term care for a pet. Dietary and behavioral specialists find their skills extremely useful in many cases, while vet techs who have become specialists in clinical pathology serve a valuable role in helping diagnose various types of chronic animal conditions that can require long-term care.
Most specialties are recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). The professional organizations associated with the NAVTA establish standards for certification as a specialist in their field. Vet techs who have been certified in a specialty usually enjoy better professional and salary options than those who are uncertified.
Vet Techs and State Law
Individual states often have different regulations regarding what types of treatment a vet tech can provide. In some cases, a vet tech may be allowed to administer various types of medication independently, while other states demand a greater degree of supervision by the vet tech’s veterinarian.
A licensed vet tech should always remain aware of his or her duties and responsibilities under state law. This is especially important when assisting with the long-term care of an animal, as some clients may ask for information or assistance that the vet tech is not allowed to provide.
Preparing for a Career in Long-Term Care
Most veterinary clinics do not solely work with animals that require long-term care. Because of this, most vet techs will continue to provide a variety of types of care for the animals they are working with. However, those vet techs that desire to focus on long-term care can prepare themselves in the following ways:
- Vet techs must complete a number of continuing education (CE) hours in order to renew their licenses. A vet tech can choose to focus his or her CE on those conditions most common among animals requiring long-term care.
- A vet tech can volunteer or request that his or her supervising veterinarian assign the technician to cases requiring the long-term care of an animal.
- A vet tech may seek certification in a specialty such as nutrition, internal medicine or behavioral medicine that can be applied to long-term animal care.
- A vet tech may seek employment in a clinic that focuses on elderly pet owners. Elderly individuals are often willing to request long-term care for their pets in order to ensure the highest possible quality of life for their companion animals.
By focusing on long-term care, a veterinary technician can help ensure that a family’s beloved companion animal has a long and comfortable life.
Whether it is assisting a family to moderate their canine’s diabetes or helping a pet recover from cancer, the vet tech plays a vital role in providing the veterinary care needed for those animals suffering from long-term health issues.