What Did You Do Today? ‘I Vaccinated a Tiger’

Published on March 12, 2013 by arothstein

Take a minute to think about veterinary technicians. What comes to mind? Often it is “animal lover” and while that is true, our love of animals doesn’t stop at cats and dogs: it extends to more exotic animals such as polar bears and tigers. This is why 20 students in the vet tech program at Broadview University-West Jordan jumped at the chance to take a tour of Hogle Zoo’s new onsite animal hospital.

vet tech program

Veterinarty technology students at the Hogle Zoo

Chris Slater, one of the Hogle Zoo’s veterinary technicians, was our tour director. Slater talked to us about how animal caretakers have dedicated themselves to keeping the animal’s experience close to nature. This includes not stressing out the animal for procedures, and long gone are the days of the Hogle Zoo nursery. Instead, animals are kept with the mother as much as possible.

Working at the zoo definitely seems to be a fun yet challenging job. “I would jump at any chance to work at the zoo,” said veterinary technology student Maddie Klupenger. “People would ask you, ‘what did you do today?’ [I could say] I vaccinated a tiger. Wouldn’t that be awesome?”

One of the best things about getting to take this tour was comparing small animal medicine with zoo animal medicine. As a student, there is an image of tranquilizing lions for venipuncture (taking blood), or maybe a fantastical scenario of holding a bear for a jugular blood draw similar to the way you would hold a really big dog. This isn’t so; instead, animals like tigers are trained to give their paw for blood draws.

Even with all of the differences, there were also similarities. For example, animals will still receive vaccinations for rabies and leptospirosis, the same way your pet dog or cat would receive these vaccinations at your friendly neighborhood veterinarian.

We also learned a different perspective on reproductive medicine. In class, there is an emphasis on permanent sterilization procedures. However, at the zoo, it is more on temporary sterilization for animals that they don’t want to breed now–for example, giving the depo birth control shot for gorillas. Veterinarians and technicians even work with special teams from Germany when they do want the animals to reproduce, like with Zuri the baby elephant.

After the tour we had the opportunity to see the exhibits. It was a different experience going to the zoo in the middle of a snowy day instead of the idyllic warm summer day. The weather actually put a new spin on it, helping us realize that the animals are there all the time and always need care.

Interested in a becoming a vet tech? Learn more about what vet techs do here: http://www.broadviewuniversity.edu/programs/health-science/veterinary-technology/careers-veterinary-technology.aspx

Special thanks to Kimberly Thomas, veterinary technology student, for writing this article.


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