Veterinary Assistant Work-Related Hazards

June 16, 2016  

Veterinary assistants may work with animals in a variety of locations. While some choose a more permanent location, such as a clinic, food processing facility, or lab, others are more comfortable visiting different farms and ranches every week. With any of these localities, there are certain hazards involved in working with animals and animal-related materials and products. Those who work in this field, or who are interested in working in this field should be aware of the risks.

One of the hazards associated with this job are chemical hazards. While in the field, these professionals may use disinfectants, surgical smoke, agricultural dust, insecticides, anesthetic gases, and hazardous drugs. If using an x-ray, there is a certain amount of risk of exposure to radiation. Some other risks in this category include overdose of injected drugs and being over exposed to anesthetic gases. This is also probably not the best choice of a career for those who are allergic to dermatitis, dander, or latex.

Another risk is through disease-causing pathogens. Pathogens may be transferred through animal scratches, needlesticks, inhalation, animal bites, or touching a contaminated object. Humans who are infected may also infect others, either through unknowingly transferring, or through trying to receive help for their contamination. Other ways to become contaminated include through cleaning an animal cage, sterilizing surgical equipment, or taking urine or blood samples. A few infectious diseases vet assistants may come into contact with could include influenza, Q fever, toxoplasmosis, or lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus.

As this is typically a physically demanding job, individuals should be able to bend, stoop, stand, squat, walk, or sit for long periods of time. Ergonomics-related hazards are a definite possibility for those who may have physical health issues. Transportation may be required for smaller or medium-sized animals; vet assistants will often need to pick these animals up. Supplies may also be difficult to carry. Vet assistants should be able to lift and carry at least 50 pounds. As larger animals will require more careful handling, these professionals will also need to learn how to properly restrain and control in order to keep both themselves and the animals safe.

Specific physical hazards are also a possibility in this job. As some vet assistants may work with larger animals, they could be at risk for being kicked, crushed, head-butted, or run-over by the more powerful animals. Some other smaller risks include getting scratched or bitten.

Learning how to control and handle animals properly, safely use equipment and materials, and understanding the procedures for using medications are mandatory for all veterinary assistants. This will help not only the individual, but also others who work in close proximity. Any and all preventative measures should be taken, such as wearing gloves, getting assistance when lifting heavy objects, and using secure waste containers for disposal.