By Joanna Mitzel
Each year, the third full week of October marks National Veterinary Technician week. As the pet parent of four senior animals, I spend a lot of time at the vet. My observation is that it takes a lot of kindness, hard work and patience-from the whole staff-to keep a veterinary practice running smoothly. In recognition and appreciation of the techs, assistants and receptionists at my clinic-Value Pet Clinic- Kent, I interviewed my most favorite assistant Cyndi.
Cyndi Hamilton has worked at VPC-Kent for three years and has been in the veterinary field for a decade. She was born in Great Falls, MT and grew up with dogs her entire life. She has two dogs—Nike, a Havanese/Shih-Tzu and Brooks, a Yorkie/Pomeranian. She also has a cat named Lucky. And, if you can’t tell from her dogs’ names’ above, in her spare time, Cyndi is an awesome runner.
Cyndi is currently studying to be a veterinary technician. She really enjoys her current role and wants to be even more hands on. Veterinary technicians have more responsibility and their skill level is typically more extensive than that of an assistant. Becoming a licensed tech in Washington state often requires a combination of experience and graduation from a vet tech program. One must also pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) and complete continuing education. Cyndi has a particular interest in learning more about masses and tumors (very prevalent in old dogs) and will have the ability to take samples to prepare for lab tests and assist veterinarians with surgical procedures.
I asked Cyndi what a day in the life at VPC-Kent was like. Since her clinic is primarily a walk-in clinic, every day is different. One minute she may be helping in an exam room, and the next she may be preparing an animal for surgery. In an exam, she often gathers the weight and temperature of an animal, pulls the vaccines to be administered (if applicable), types up estimates for any procedures to be done, and educates pet parents on any additional care of their pets. For example, Cyndi did a fantastic job teaching me to administer my dog’s monthly arthritis injection. She also helps teach pet parents how to give subcutaneous fluids to prevent dehydration and administer insulin shots for pets with diabetes.
For surgeries, she sets up surgical packs of instruments for the doctors and prepares the animal by shaving fur and scrubbing the surgical area clean. She assists in hooking up animals to their monitors during procedures, and assists in recovery, helping them wake up from anesthesia by removing any tubes and checking in on them at least every 5 minutes. She keeps them warm, frequently checks their temperature and keeps them hooked up to their IV fluids until they’re ready to go home.
I really enjoyed hearing about the precautions taken regarding anesthesia recovery (a common concern of senior pet parents) so I asked Cyndi what else she would like us to know about extra precautions for senior dogs. She reiterated the importance of consistency and administering medications at the same time every day. She emphasized keeping older dogs eating and drinking—changing diets when necessary, utilizing prescription diets when suggested and even subcutaneous fluids at home if necessary. After medical procedures, it’s important to follow the veterinarian’s aftercare instructions: keep dogs calm and quiet, using sedatives if necessary, and keeping the E-collar on to keep stitches clean and free from infection.
Lastly, we talked about any further thoughts on helping senior dogs live long and healthy lives. She made a strong point noting to bring your dog in for an exam if they exhibit any signs or symptoms of illness. Don’t wait. I added that if I’m ever thinking about calling and asking if I should bring in a member of my pack, I’ve probably already answered my own question.
Cyndi feels really strongly about the importance of blood work. Often times, this is something declined when pet parents are looking to reduce the costs incurred with a procedure. However, with seniors in particular, it provides worthwhile information about the overall health of a pet, especially useful with those adopted with unknown histories. Finally we talked about the importance of day to day care. Cyndi emphasized the importance of flea and heart worm prevention, and maintaining an exercise regime to keep senior joints and hearts healthy—also tying into making any necessary dietary changes to prevent obesity. She also noted keeping up on grooming routines, making sure to keep ears and eyes clean and clear—reducing any chances of infection.
It was really great having the opportunity to sit down and talk with Cyndi about her work. I am so appreciative of the great care she and all of the techs and assistants have provided my pack. It’s my belief that the veterinary nurses and receptionists are often the folks who make a trip to the veterinary clinic much less clinical. Vet visits are often stressful for both pets and pet parents, and these people excel at taking great care of both.
At your next trip to the vet, be sure to show your appreciation for all of the people helping animals of all ages lead long and healthy lives.