So You Want to Be an Animal Health Technician

What does an Animal Health Technician Do?An Animal Health Technician is an individual who is highly educated and trained to be an important part of the veterinary medical team. An AHT works under the supervision of a licenced veterinarian to provide the skills and knowledge to deliver gold standard veterinary care. Some important tasks that are completed by an AHT are:

  • Anesthesiology (sedation, nerve blocks, local and general anesthesia)
  • Surgical monitoring and recovery
  • Surgical assistance
  • Microscopic evaluation (fecal, urinalysis, blood)
  • Collect samples (blood, urine, feces)
  • Diagnostic imaging (radiographs, ultrasound)
  • Make prescriptions
  • Dental cleanings and radiographs
  • Surgery preparation (cleaning instruments, autoclaving packs, setting up)
  • Interact with clients (booking appointments, bloodwork results, rechecks, etc.)
  • Animal handling
  • Keeping the clinic clean (tables, kennels, floors, laundry)
  • Bandaging
  • Charting and medical record maintenance
  • Emergency and critical care (patient triage, first aid, CPR, collect vitals)
  • Client education (disease prevention, nutrition, overweight management, dental care, etc.)

Where can I get my Animal Health Technician Education?

There are several educational institutions that offer the Animal Health Technician (AHT) program. The biggest ones here in Alberta would be Olds College and NAIT (located in Edmonton). I attended Olds College, and I highly recommend their program to anyone interested. The AHT program at Olds College is an accelerated 16-month program, and they offer three intakes a year. The campus at Olds College also has the facilities for teaching both small and large animals. It is very helpful because it allows students to handle and work with all sizes of animals. The AHT program is very competitive when it comes to admission, so it is important that you meet all the required admission requirements. At the end of the AHT program, you are required to complete a 6-week practicum where you get to work hands-on in a clinic and put your skills to the test. If you are an individual who loves animals and medicine and wants to care for the pets, an Animal Health Technician may be the job for you.

What Pre-requisites must be Complete to Become Registered and Stay Registered? 

Once you have graduated from an accredited educational institution, your next steps are to become a Registered Animal Health Technician to practice in the clinic. To do this, you must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). This exam is composed up of 170 questions, you are marked on 150 questions, and the remaining 20 are pilot questions for future exams. The exam is a combination of questions from all categories taught in school, and you must have a passing score of 425 or higher to pass. The VTNE is marked based on scaled scores, not raw scores to maintain the same standard from test to test. While you are waiting to write the VTNE, you are granted a provisional licence from the ABVMA so you can practice as an AHT and then once you pass you are transferred to a full licence and become an RVT. As a new member of the ABVMA, you must attend their registration day where you get to learn about who the ABVMA is and get to make connections with individuals from the veterinary industry. To maintain your licence with the ABVMA Animal Health Technicians are required to complete 15 CE (continuing education) credits every year. It is to ensure that we are constantly learning and keeping up with the future of medicine.

Where Can You Work as an Animal Health Technician?

With an Animal Health Technician degree, there are many opportunities for you to work in a variety of locations and practices, such as:

  • General Practice (small, large, or mixed animal)
  • Emergency
  • Shelters
  • Exotic Practice
  • Food Rep
  • Pharmaceutical Rep
  • Laboratories
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Reproduction clinics
  • Rehabilitation
  • Zoos

If you have any questions, give us a call at 403-948-2733.

Written by: Megan Storey, Registered Veterinary Technician