When most people think of veterinary technicians, they typically think about those individuals who help veterinarians treat pet dogs and cats in small animal clinics or hospitals.
However, vet techs can be found working in many more exciting environments. In fact, you can even find these professionals working in various facilities that cater to exotic animals.
What Are Exotic Animals?
Exotic animals are best defined as animals that are kept in captivity or as pets that are not common household pets or domesticated animals.
This can include a broad range of animals of many different species. However, some of the most common exotic animals that veterinary technicians may help treat are as follows.
- Lions, Tigers, Cheetahs, Wolves, Foxes and Bears
- Skunks, Ferrets, Sugar Gliders and Chinchillas
- Snakes, Turtles, Tortoises and Lizards
- Parrots, Macaws, Cockatoos and Cockatiels
- Newts, Salamanders, Toads and Frogs
- Hamster, Gerbils, Guinea Pigs, Hedgehogs and Rabbits
- Tarantulas, Scorpions and Hermit Crabs
- Animals Kept in Zoos and Wildlife Centers
- Animals Kept in Aquariums, Wild Bird Facilities and Marine Parks
Can Vet Techs Specialize in Exotic Animals?
While the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America does not currently offer specialty credentials for exotic animals, they do offer a specialty credential for zoological animals. Additionally, you can also enroll in extra exotic animal courses while in college.
By obtaining as much training in the field as you can and earning a zoological medicine specialty credential, you will be fully prepared to care for all types of exotic animals.
Additionally, keep in mind that the more education, training and qualifications you have in the field, the more employment opportunities you will have.
Where Can These Professionals Work?
Veterinary technicians who want to work with exotic animals can choose among many different work settings. However, some of the more popular facilities where these professionals can be found working are listed below.
- Clinical Practices Specializing in Exotic Pets
- Small Animal Practices That Offer Services for Small Exotic Pets
- Zoological Parks
- Wildlife Centers and Parks
- Aquariums and Marine life Parks
- Wild Bird Facilities
Are There Any Special Considerations You Should Be Aware Of?
Exotic animals that are sick or injured often display unexpected and even dangerous behavior. As such, if you choose to work with these types of animals, you need to know that there is a risk of you getting injured while on the job. Additionally, since many of these animals are quite large, you must be in excellent health and top physical condition.
What Are the Common Tasks Of These Vet Techs?
Veterinary technicians who work with exotic animals are responsible for many of the same tasks as regular vet techs. The main difference is that many exotic animals are more difficult to handle than traditional household pets.
Nevertheless, some of the most common tasks of these professionals are listed here.
- Capturing and/or Restraining Animals for Exams and Treatments
- Assisting During Exams, Treatments and Surgery
- Preparing Animals for Surgery
- Administering and Monitoring Anesthesia
- Administering Vaccines and Medication
- Drawing Blood and Collecting Other Bodily Specimens
- Performing Laboratory Tests
- Tranquilizing Animals with Darts
- Assisting in Breeding Programs
- Taking and Developing X-rays
What Are the Requirements to Work with Exotic Animals?
First of all, to become any type of veterinary technician, you must earn at least an associate degree in veterinary technology. However, by earning a bachelor degree, enrolling in various exotic animal courses and earning a zoological medicine specialty credential, you can significantly increase your job opportunities.
After you complete your training and earn your veterinary technology degree, you will need to take the national licensing exam. This test is known as the Veterinary Technician National Exam, and you must pass it with an acceptable score to be eligible for licensing in your state.
What is the Salary for These Professionals?
While the average salary for all fields of veterinary technology in the U.S. is about $30,000 per year as of 2014, the average salary for those working with exotic animals is $37,000 per year. Of course, the actual salary you will receive depends on several factors including your location, qualifications, experience and employer.
Working with exotic animals as a veterinary technician can be quite exciting. When you choose this field, you will be able to care for many interesting animals such as bears, tigers, wolves, hedgehogs and even kangaroos. Furthermore, with a growing interest in these types of animals, the U.S. Labor Statistics Bureau expects the field to grow by as much as 32 percent for the next several years.