All about animal assistants

The role of an animal assistant is an exciting and rewarding one, and the perfect entrance point for a career within the animal care industry and for those who want to make a real difference to the lives of animals and their owners.

Working under the supervision of a veterinarian or veterinary nurse, assistants provide vital support in in veterinary practices. They are employed in practices large and small, as well as in city-based or rural settings. Some choose to work within larger specialist practices, others enjoy small single-veterinarian clinics.

Here are some of the duties that animal assistants usually perform:

  • Administration: correspondence, answering the phone and greeting patients and their owners on arrival
  • Practice maintenance: cleaning and sterilising consultation rooms, cages, kennels, equipment and surgeries
  • Assisting veterinarians with animal handling
  • Monitoring and caring for animals after surgery
  • Feeding, bathing and caring for patients who stay overnight in the clinic
  • Helping with emergency first aid to sick or injured animals
  • Identifying samples such as blood, urine, or tissue and sending off for testing

Most assistants plan to train as a veterinary nurse (or are undergoing training). The entry-level qualification for a veterinary assistant is Certificate II in Animal Studies, usually obtained while still at school. This can be followed with Certificate III in Animal Studies (usually through TAFE). Veterinary nurses generally need a Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing as a minimum qualification.

Many of these courses will also take into account any industry experience and most employers will provide some on-the-job training as well. School students considering a role as an animal assistant should speak to their Careers Advisor about courses in their area.

For those interested in a career in animal care, a good first start is to approach your local veterinary practice with a view to undertaking work experience, which is how many assistants begin their career in the industry.