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Vet tech field is enriching, but not financially
Dear Dr. Spiegel, I am a middle-aged professional seeking a career change, and am very interested in the field of veterinary technology. There are at least two schools in my area that offer this course, one as a two-year program, the other as a four-year degree. I am wondering if you could offer any insight into the job possibilities of this field, as well as (realistic) salary opportunities and any other information. Thank you very much. Bob S. (B.S. are tough initials!)
Dear Bob, Most vet techs choose their careers for the love of animals, not the love of money. Job prospects for graduates of accredited schools of veterinary technology are generally very good. Intelligent, dedicated, and hardworking technicians are usually very much in demand, although you wouldn't know it from their salaries. Average starting salaries range from 12.5 to 19K per year, and up to about 29K for experienced graduates of accredited programs. If this is a field that you are truly interested in, my best advice for you would be to get your feet wet and get a taste of what is really involved. Volunteer some of your free time in a few different animal hospitals. Talk to the technicians who are there day in and day out. Being around animals is the joy that attracts most people to this field, but cleaning up after them, being scratched and bitten by them, and dealing with the high levels of stress that accompanies the care of those which are critically ill requires a special type of person. There are few experiences more satisfying than nursing a sick animal back to health, but the daily experiences of a vet tech can often contribute to a field that has a fairly high rate of burnout. In general, vet techs are greatly under-appreciated. Their work is difficult and their compensation is minimal, but their work is an indispensable part of any good veterinary hospital. As far as schools go, Harcum in Bryn Mawr, PA is one of the best (215-526-6055). Other accredited schools in the tri-state area include Essex Community in Baltimore (301-682-6000), Camden County in Blackwood, NJ (609-227-7200), and a new program at Manor Junior College in Jenkintown, PA (215-885-2360). One final recommendation - Rather than a 180-degree turnaround in career, if you want to be around animals, consider volunteering some time caring for the animals at a local shelter. They can always use the help.
Dear Dr. Spiegel, Our five year old domestic short hair cat vomits every few days. These fur balls and accompanying bile fluids stain our carpet and furniture. The cat is brushed daily, and takes an over-the-counter malt hair ball remedy weekly. Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent the staining? Is so much liquid normal with her fur balls? Sometimes there is liquid without fur. Do you have any suggestions for cleaning the stains? Sincerely, R.B., Newark
Dear R.B., Sounds as though either your hair ball remedy is not working; you are using it improperly, or your cat may have some other underlying medical problem for which your hair ball remedy is inappropriate as a treatment. Typically, hair ball medication is administered 2-3 times per week for prevention, and daily over the course of a week for hair ball removal. But always read the label on the particular product you are using, or consult with your regular veterinarian. Kat-a-Lax, sold through veterinarians generally works very well for hair ball problems. In your situation, it would probably be worthwhile to bring your cat in for a checkup to be certain that something more serious isn't lurking beneath the apparent problem of hair balls (professionally known as trichobezoars). As far as cleaning stains goes, one product that I've found which works quite well is Chem-Dry, also sold through veterinarians.