What Is a Zoo Veterinary Technician?

Definition & Examples of a Zoo Veterinary Technician

A zoo veterinary technician bathes an injured Koala in the medical clinic of a zoo.
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Zoo veterinary technicians are specially trained and certified to assist zoo veterinarians with exams and procedures. They may work with animals of all types and sizes and have a wide range of responsibilities within the zoo setting.

Learn more about what this job entails and what the requirements are to become a zoo vet tech.

What Is a Zoo Veterinary Technician?

Zoo veterinary technicians provide support to veterinarians who work at zoos. They assist in providing medical care to animals across many species, including exotic animals. The animals they work with may range from very small to very large, and they're usually found in the wild.

Alternate name: Zoo vet tech

According to the U.S. Labor Statistics Bureau, the median salary for all veterinary technicians is $35,320.

How a Zoo Veterinary Technician Works

Zoo veterinary technicians primarily find employment in zoos, but they may also find jobs at aquariums and research facilities. They may also transition to other positions in the animal health industry such as veterinary pharmaceutical sales or other veterinary product sales.

The duties of zoo vet techs can vary depending on where they work and the types of animals they care for. In general, routine tasks may include assisting with general exams, collecting samples, running diagnostic lab tests, preparing surgical sites, changing bandages, inserting catheters, taking radiographs, administering fluids, filling prescriptions, and giving intravenous or intramuscular injections.

Vet techs, including zoo vet techs, may be required to work nights or weekends depending on the schedules of the zoo veterinarians. They must also be aware of the risks inherent in working with exotic animals and must take proper safety precautions to minimize the potential for injury when handling animals who are not fully sedated.

The Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians is a professional organization for zoo vet techs that provides a number of helpful educational resources and networking opportunities for its members.

Requirements for Zoo Veterinary Technicians

General veterinary technicians must complete a two-year educational program in veterinary technology. Depending on the requirements of the state where they live, they may also need to pass an exam to become licensed, certified, or registered. The majority of states require vet techs to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination, which is given by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

The American Veterinary Medical Association accredits veterinary colleges around the world. The organization keeps a list of these accredited veterinary colleges on its website and updates it biannually. In addition, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America recognizes a number of specialties for veterinary technicians, including zoological medicine.

Beyond zoological medicine, veterinary technicians can specialize in dentistry, anesthesia, internal medicine, emergency and critical care, behavior, equine nursing, clinical practice, and clinical pathology.

The Academy of Veterinary Zoological Medicine Technicians offers the Veterinary Technician Specialists (VTS)-Zoo certification to vet techs that have completed at least 10,000 hours of work experience in the field of zoological medicine. Additional requirements include the following:

  • Completion of at least 40 hours of documented continuing education in the field of zoological medicine
  • A case log consisting of at least 40 cases
  • Five in-depth case reports, and two letters of recommendation from zoo professionals.
  • A variety of skill checklists that must be completed and documented

Veterinary technicians meeting these significant requirements are eligible to take the zoological medicine certification exam that is administered once each year to receive the official VTS-Zoo designation.

Zoos may show a preference for hiring candidates who hold specialty certification in the field of zoological medicine because these individuals have demonstrated significant skill and ability in the field.

Key Takeaways

  • Zoo veterinary technicians are specially trained to provide support to veterinarians as they provide medical care to animals of many different species at a zoo.
  • Their duties can include assisting with general exams, collecting samples, running diagnostic lab tests, changing bandages, administering fluids, and more.
  • Zoo vet techs usually need to complete at least a two-year degree in veterinary technology, but to become specially certified in zoological medicine they need more extensive training and must pass a certification exam.