The Definitive Guide to Large Animal Vet Techs

Published on August 20, 2020 by arothstein

Large animal vet tech caring for a baby goat

Do you have a passion for animals? Want to learn more about becoming a large animal vet tech? Large animal vet techs work under veterinarian supervision and care for several species of large animals. Students who wish to pursue careers as large animal vet techs can earn an associate’s degree from a vocational school.

What a Vet Tech Learns in Large Animal Vet Class

Vet tech students work with automated, analytical lab equipment and use manual techniques. Students learn the appropriate methods of restraining large animals, how to administer medication and collect samples for various species of animals, including cattle and horses. Students learn the functions of the blood cells along with behavior, husbandry, nutrition, and medicine relating to production animals and horses. Emphasis is placed on drug withdrawal times, preventative medicine, and herd management. Vet techs also learn the constraints involved in the settings for ambulatory care, especially in reproductive and emergency treatments.

Why Does Someone Become a Large Animal Vet Tech?

A genuine love for different species of animals is an excellent reason to become a large animal vet tech. Many students choose a career caring for animals because they may have owned pigs or goats, rode horses frequently, or may have had experiences with animals on a farm. Working as a large animal vet tech is even more rewarding for an animal lover because this field is in high demand. In some cases, vet tech students may have been involved in 4H events as kids or competed in equestrian competitions. Anyone who develops a lifelong love for animals is an ideal fit to work as a large animal vet tech.

The Different Large Animals in Veterinary Medicine

Large animal vet techs provide the same services for their clients as vet techs in a small animal practice. The difference is that the large animal vet tech accompanies the veterinarian to treat the animals on the farm or ranch. Performing diagnostic tests, administering vaccines, and caring for wounds are some of the duties that vet techs assist with on farms and ranches.

Cows

Large animal vet techs can educate farmers about their cows. When caring for cattle, farmers and ranchers should keep an abundant supply of feed, especially when they’re out in the pasture. Dairy cows should have feed high in phosphorus, protein, and calcium. Cows need a habitat that’s always clean and sanitary since disease can spread through a herd quickly. The barn or shelter that cows stay in needs to keep them warm during the coldest months.

Goats

Goats need nutritious food that includes grain, hay, minerals, and supplemental feed. A vet tech can advise farmers about the healthiest diet for their goats based on their life stage and the type of goat. Goats should always have access to fresh, clean water and a salt lick. Goat feeders should be elevated to prevent the herd from developing diseases.

Pigs

Pigs may be raised on farms or as family pets. They are more sensitive to changing weather conditions than some other animals, especially heat and cold. Pigs must have a pool to submerge in during the hottest summer months and a warm barn to sleep in during the winter. Straw makes excellent bedding for pigs and should be piled at least 16 to 18 inches high so the pig can burrow into it.

Horses

Large animal vet techs may assist equine veterinarians in caring for horses on farms and ranches. In many areas, the job may require a significant amount of travel. Vet techs assist veterinarians with routine wellness exams, emergency care, and surgery.

How to Care for Large Animals

Large animal vet techs assist veterinarians with a variety of duties including:

Large animal vet techs may assist in prepping animals for surgery and monitoring vital signs during surgical procedures. These vet techs are responsible for maintaining patient records, taking and developing x-rays, and providing compassionate, nursing care for their patients. Large animal vet techs travel to farms and ranches with veterinarians to care for their patients.

Nutrition

Whether a farm has a large number of animals or just a few that provide milk and eggs for the family, all farm animals deserve the best nutrition. Each animal on a farm has different nutritional needs, but they should all have healthy food. An animal’s temperament improves when they’re getting fed a nutritious diet on a regular schedule.

Reproduction is much easier when animals are fed healthy food and the necessary dietary supplements at breeding time. More farmers are practicing sustainable farming. When pastures are rotated for cattle, depleted grasses grow back with more nutrients, which will, in turn, increase profits for the farm.

Diet

Some farmers have relied on available sources to feed their animals. However, a lot of traditional foods that farmers have used provide too many or not enough nutrients. An improper balance of nutrients can affect growth rates, the health of the animals, and reproduction.

Hygiene

Farm vets and large animal vet techs must be aware of zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted between humans and animals. To reduce the risk of exposure to severe illnesses, proper sanitation and hygiene should always be practiced. Animals should be assessed at regular intervals to ensure their good health.

Annual Exams

Basic wellness exams are important for large farm animals, including beef and dairy cattle, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, and in some cases, alpacas and ostriches. Diagnostic tests may be recommended to determine if any illness is present. Large animal vets recommend monthly herd health exams to ensure the herd is healthy and to inspect for pregnancies.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations are a cost-effective way to prevent animals from contracting serious diseases and spreading them to other animals on a farm or ranch. Vaccines also help the local economy. The round of vaccinations for animals on a ranch or farm depends on the herd’s medical history, location of the ranch or farm, and the management system.

Teeth Cleaning

Large animal vet techs assist veterinarians with teeth cleaning and dental procedures for animals on ranches and farms to ensure optimum health. The large animal vet tech may perform different dental tests on animals and interpret the results to determine the most effective treatment. Dental procedures on farm animals may include radiology and providing basic oral care for horses, pigs, goats, sheep, and other animals. Large animal vet techs may assist veterinarians in using nerve blocking and pain management techniques. The best defense against dental and gum problems for farm animals is regular teeth cleaning.

Baby Animal Delivery

Large animal vet techs work in the same capacity as nurses to assist veterinarians with the birth of baby farm animals. In some cases, deliveries may occur outdoors in adverse weather conditions, so vet techs must be prepared for every contingency. The large animal vet tech may administer anesthetic and assist with difficult births. One of the most critical aspects of delivering baby animals is to ensure the area is clean, warm, and sterilized.

Large Animal Vet Tech Skills

There are many skills needed by a large animal vet tech to properly take care of animals and educate owners on proper care. A large animal vet tech must have compassion for animals, the ability to keep large animals calm, the strength to handle large animals, problem solving skills, and an ability to travel.

Compassion for Animals

Compassion for animals is a necessity for a large animal vet tech. When an animal is sick or injured, its stress level is elevated. Animals don’t understand that the medical treatment they’re getting will help them. A large animal vet tech who is compassionate helps to make the animals they’re treating feel relaxed. However, empathy and compassion can’t be learned. These qualities are part of a caring person. All animals should be treated with kindness, patience, and perseverance.

Ability to Keep Large Animals Calm

Animals that are docile and easy-going can become aggressive very quickly when they’re sick or injured. In these situations, the animal and those caring for it can be put in a precarious position. A vet tech must be able to remain calm in a variety of situations, especially when working with large animals. When handling large animals, vet techs should approach them cautiously. Vet techs need to reduce stress levels because animals can sense when humans are stressed.

Strength to Handle Large Animals

Making the decision to be a vet tech allows you to care for a variety of species. If you choose to be a large animal vet tech, you must be prepared to handle horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, and other farm animals. Keeping fit and healthy is the key to handling large animals. Trips to the gym, taking a fitness class and getting out to walk help keep a body healthy. In addition to having sufficient strength to handle large animals, it’s essential to stay mentally fit. Eating a healthy diet and getting the proper amount of sleep goes a long way toward doing the job effectively.

Problem Solving

One of the most critical skills of a successful, large animal vet tech is the ability to use problem-solving skills. On a farm or ranch, the vet tech can be the first person to have interaction with the animal and its owner, and must evaluate the situation quickly. Problem-solving skills are essential in determining injuries or illnesses when there are no apparent clues as to the problem. Being able to identify an injury or illness means getting the animal treated as quickly as possible.

Ability to Travel to Locations to Treat Large Animals

Working in a private practice or clinic means you arrive for your shift and work in the same environment each day. If you have aspirations to be a large animal vet tech, there are other considerations to keep in mind. Many farms and ranches are in rural areas. Veterinarians and vet techs often have to schedule visits in one area on a monthly basis for wellness checks. However, when an emergency arises, the veterinarian and team members must be prepared to travel at a moment’s notice. When considering options as a large animal vet tech, be ready for a lot of travel.

Final Thoughts

Most of what a large animal vet tech does is preventative care, but the job is rewarding. If you have a passion for animals, have the ability to travel to rural areas and enjoy the challenge of large animals, becoming a large animal vet tech may be the right career path for you.

Do you have a passion for cows, pigs, goats, horses and other large animals? Do you want to educate farmers and ranchers about the right ways to care for large animals? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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