Veterinary Technicians, Providing Specialized Care to Pets

The technology available to treat our pets is rapidly advancing! To provide the best possible care, veterinarians and veterinary technicians can work in specialized areas, just like in human medicine. This allows them to become very knowledgeable about the diseases, treatments, and technologies available. Today’s pets might see a veterinary dentist, an oncologist, an internist, a dermatologist, or even a cardiologist.

Debbie Puppel is a Registered Veterinary Technician who works with the cardiologists at Purdue University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in West Lafayette, Indiana. Debbie’s education as a veterinary technician has made it possible for her to assist the specialists in caring for the cats and dogs which come to the hospital for heart problems.

A physical examination is the first step in arriving at a diagnosis of the pet’s problem. The veterinarian may also order certain tests be performed. These could include blood counts, sophisticated blood chemistry analysis, x-rays, or an electrocardiogram. Debbie plays a vital role at this stage, staying with the pet, obtaining the samples, and performing the electrocardiogram. The test results are given to the veterinarian for interpretation and are instrumental in an accurate diagnosis.

The pet may require a surgical procedure to repair their heart if symptoms and test results warrant it. The repair of a patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA, is one of the most common surgical procedures performed. This heart problem is seen in young animals when one of the major vessels of the heart, necessary during fetal growth, remains open after birth instead of closing. PDA’s can usually be repaired and the animals go on to lead a normal life.

A PDA can be corrected through a minimally invasive procedure that involves passing a catheter through an artery in the dog’s groin. Debbie plays a significant role in providing patient care before, during, and after such a procedure. She prepares the animal by clipping the hair and surgically scrubbing the area. Once the animal is anesthetized, a small skin incision is made by the veterinarian to gain access to the femoral artery. A catheter is threaded through the artery to the heart with the assistance of a fluoroscope. Injecting a specialized dye through the catheter identifies the defect in the heart. The dye can be seen through the fluoroscope and allows the veterinarian to measure the width of the defect and also its shape to determine the appropriate coil to insert to close the hole.

During the procedure, Debbie stands at the ready, operating the fluoroscopy unit and anticipating the materials that will be needed by the cardiologist. The coil is pushed through the catheter and placed. Then more dye is injected to verify that the defect has been corrected. If everything looks good, the catheter is removed and the small incision is closed with a few sutures. The final step is recovering the animal from anesthesia. The procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and most patients go home the following afternoon with chances good for them to lead a normal life!

The future for pets with serious health problems is improving with the advances in technology that are being implemented in veterinary medicine. Veterinary technicians, such as Debbie, who focus on a specific discipline, provide a major contribution to patient care and the veterinary healthcare team.The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, NAVTA, was organized to represent and promote the profession of veterinary technology. Founded in 1981, the association provides direction, education, support and coordination for its members and works with other allied professional organizations for the competent care and humane treatment of animals. The association is headquartered in Battle Ground, Ind.



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