How to Become a Surgical Veterinary Aide


Surgical veterinary aides, also known as surgical veterinary assistants, monitor non-farm animals (i.e. dogs, cats, etc.) in veterinary clinics before, during, and after surgical procedures and medical treatments. These aides also feed and bathe animals, clean and sterilize surgical instruments, collect urine, feces, and blood samples, take X-rays, and clean animal crates, kennels, and cages. Surgical veterinary aides are normally supervised by veterinarians. If you decide to pursue a career as a surgical veterinary aide, you will have daily interactions with patients (animals) and their parents (owners).

It is also important to note there will probably be times when you may have to help a veterinarian euthanize an animal. Moreover, you may also have to treat animal that have been severely abused and/or neglected. Furthermore, your risk of personal injury may be heightened due to animal attacks. As a veterinarian aide, you will be expected to work evenings, weekends, overtime, and some holidays. If you have are wondering how to become a surgical veterinarian aide, you have come to the right place. This article will give you the “ins and outs” of entering the veterinarian medicine field, as a surgical veterinarian aide.

Related Reading: How to Become a Veterinary Office Manager



To become a surgical veterinarian aide, you will need to first acquire a high school diploma or GED. You will also need to attain some level of experience (i.e. on-the-job-training). It is important to note that you can become a surgical veterinarian aide with just a high school diploma or GED, but most veterinarian clinics prefer employees who have a bachelor’s degree or higher in the veterinarian medicine field. If you decide to earn a bachelor’s degree in the field, you will most likely take the following courses: geometry, anatomy, chemistry, psychology, business practices, accounting, college math, surgical preparation, sanitation, sterilization techniques, animal care, sociology (social work), biology, and English.

In addition, you may also be required to perform clerical duties so it is important to have strong written and verbal communication skills. While in your program, you may learn how to manage and care for both small and large animals with various health conditions. Moreover, you may want to think about becoming certified as a veterinarian assistant. Some colleges and universities offer veterinarian assistant certificate programs. If you would like more information on educational requirements, or if you need help finding an approved school or program, visit American Association for Laboratory Animal Science for more information.


You will need to have at least a high school diploma/GED, and prior experience at a veterinarian clinic or hospital to become certified as an assistant laboratory animal technician. Moreover, you will need to successfully pass your state’s certification exam. This exam will cover the following topics: animal nutrition, animal identification, animal husbandry, animal clinical procedures, animal welfare, and diverse species.

Job Duties

The majority of surgical veterinarian aides work at kennels, animal clinics, animal hospitals, grooming shops, and veterinarian offices. As a veterinarian assistant, you will assist veterinarians and veterinarian technicians with surgical procedures and medical treatments. In addition to prepping animals for surgery, assisting during surgery, and providing care after surgery, you may also be required to answer phones, schedule appointments, maintain and file patient records, answer parent (owner) questions, and/or order offices, medical and/or surgical supplies.

Veterinary aides typically perform the following job duties:

  • Feeding, bathing, and exercising animals
  • Weighing animals and taking their temperatures
  • Passing surgical instruments to veterinarians during surgery
  • Cleaning and disinfecting animal crates, examination rooms, and operation rooms
  • Restraining animals during examinations, testing, laboratory procedures, and medical procedures
  • Maintaining and sterilizing surgical instruments
  • Safely transporting animals to surgery
  • Monitoring and treating animals, following surgery
  • Providing emergency first aid to sick, wounded, and/or injured animals
  • Administering prescribed medications and/or immunizations
  • Collecting blood, feces, urine, and tissue samples for assessment

Salary Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), you can expect to make approximately $24,000, per year, as a veterinarian assistant/aide. If you fall in the lower 10%, you can expect to make approximately $18,000, per year, but if you fall in the upper 10%, you can expect to make $36,000 or more, per year ( Surgical veterinarian assistants/aides that perform research studies tend to make the highest salaries. Moreover, many research laboratories and animal hospitals are open 24 hours a day, therefore the surgical veterinarian aides that work in these facilities often have to work nights, weekends, overtime, and/or holidays.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), the overall career outlook for surgical veterinarian assistants/aides is positive. Although some veterinarian offices, animal clinics and animal hospitals may prefer employees with degrees, and higher-level skills (i.e. veterinarian technologists and technicians), veterinarian assistance careers are expected to continue their growth patterns. Moreover, there is a high turnover rate in this field, so jobs will continue to be available for veterinarian assistants/aides in the future. The Bureau reports that veterinarian assistants/aides job opportunities are expected to increase approximately 10% by the year 2022. This increase will stem from a boost in pet health care. In other words, more and more people are adopting pets, who need medical care. The increase in customers will lead to an increased need for veterinarian assistants/aides.

Further Reading


  • American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. (2014). Laboratory animal science. Retrieved from
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014). Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from
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