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Veterinary Assistant

The Veterinary Assistant program at Vancouver Career College fully prepares students to work in a large range of animal care facilities. In this field, the animal is the patient and the animal owner is the client.

The pet care field is a growing industry where an increasing number of people choose pets as a part of the household. An aging population leads elderly people to adopt pets as companions, and animals can require as much care as their owners.

By the end of the Veterinary Assistant program, students will be prepared to work effectively with an animal health technologist or veterinary doctor. They will be fully versed in both the clinical and administrative duties involved with a veterinary practice and will have spent time applying their skills in a three-week practicum placement.
“My career choice has made me realize that I am finally on the right path.” - Amber D., Vancouver Career College graduate
This program is 49 weeks in length.

Job Opportunities
  • Veterinary Hospitals
  • Animal Shelters
  • Zoos
  • Pet Product/Supply Stores
  • Grooming Businesses

Program Courses

The program outline below is for British Columbia.

Term 1

Code Course Name Hours
  • SSSE Student Success Strategies 25

    • This course will introduce students to skills and concepts that will help them achieve personal, academic, and career success.
  • BC2E Business Computer Applications 50

    • This course presents an introductory look at using a Windows environment computer and the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). It covers the fundamentals of organizing files and folders, drafting business documents, creating presentations, and reporting data in spreadsheets. Students will have the opportunity to integrate their new skills in office communications tools in assignments related to their program of study. This course relies heavily on practical hands-on activities that allow you to learn the concepts by practicing them on a regular basis.

      During this course, students will be introduced to their communications capstone project (VA400-L). The project will include grammar practice, writing assignments (e.g. business letters, meeting agenda and minutes, client education materials, and marketing brochures.) The project must be submitted by the end of VA400 – Veterinary Business, Marketing, & Client Communications.
  • VA100 Anatomy, Physiology, & Veterinary Medical Terminology 100

    • The veterinary assistant must have a well-grounded command of the language and terminology of the profession. This course focuses on that, and relates the anatomy, physiology and terminology to diagnosis; common pathology, injuries and treatment. During this course, students will learn some of the causes of illness and disease, clinical signs, their treatment, and prevention.

      Students learn the appropriate medical terminology associated with the body systems as well as the five senses. In addition to furthering the necessary language skills of the veterinary assistant, the course provides the foundation for communication in the areas of anesthesiology, surgery and radiology. In order to be effective in this, the assistant must have the knowledge and use of the correct terminology to communicate with veterinarians, animal health technicians, and other professionals in veterinary services.
  • VA101 Mathematics for the Veterinary Setting 25

    • This one week course provides applied math skills as they will be needed at the front desk of the veterinary practice, as well as in the clinic area. Students learn to make mathematical and unit conversions with care and attention. At the front desk, the veterinary assistant may need to make business related calculations. Within the clinic, the assistant may be calculating pharmaceutical dosages for the animal’s treatment plan.

      Students will be given their mathematics learning activity capstone project (VA101-L) that is required to be completed by the end of Term IV.
  • VA110 Health and Safety Practices 50

    • In this core course of the Veterinary Assistant program, students are guided to an understanding of the health and safety factors that must be recognized and respected in any environment that provides animal care services. Facility cleanliness and safety are the most obvious of these. The many other topics in this course include: emergency protocols, biologic, chemical, and physical hazards, fire prevention, and practices that contribute to the health of the animal care worker. Included is N-95 masking and equipment explanation.

      First Aid & CPR are delivered within this course, as well as a module on WHMIS and BC-PET training. An overview of relevant legislation and regulatory organizations is given.

      Note: Some of the training in this course is provided by external partners. Students can expect that the hours of some of the training days may vary and training may be located outside of the campus.

  • VA115 Veterinary Office & Billing Procedures I 25

    • The focus of the first level of this course is the proper handling of client records to ensure accurate and efficient billing of services, records management, and ultimately, the success of the business due to proper patient care. Students are also introduced to the relevant software for office and billing procedures.

      Students acquire knowledge and understanding in many skill areas, largely focused on the administrative front end of the practice. This includes reception and telephone etiquette, appointment scheduling and correspondence, medical and financial procedures and record keeping. In addition, the course provides guidance in ways that the veterinary assistant can manage the difficult client and provide counseling to clients who experience the loss of a pet. This content continues in VA415.

      Students are introduced to their technological applications capstone project, which is required to be completed at the end of VA415. Focus of this project includes practical applications using IDEXX software (or equivalent), as well as mobile applications research related to veterinary medicine and animal health topics. In VA415, presentations and demonstrations of these mobile applications will be delivered by the student.
  • VA120 Basics of Animal Behaviour & Restraint 25

    • One of the foundations of the successful veterinary clinic is employees who are able to manage a variety of tasks that are associated with the requirements of a number of breeds and species. This must be done in ways that are both effective and safe. The course focuses upon the types of animal behaviour for common species, common animal behaviour problems, and the potential for behaviour counseling to address the problems. Included in the basics are a collection of skills that the student can use in practicum and work: taking the medical history; determining and recording the vital signs; conducting the physical examination; recognizing normal small animal behaviour; assessing pain; caring for a hospitalized animal; providing home care; and performing euthanasia.

      Students begin an understanding of an animal’s territorial behaviour, its aggressive and defensive behaviours, as well as social and reproductive behaviours. During this course, students observe and understand animal behaviours to ensure the effectiveness of animal care and safety for facility staff as well as the animals. This subject matter continues in VA320.

      Note: Hands-on practice may be introduced during this course. Lab times and days may vary from normal classroom hours.
  • VA125 Breed Identification & Breeding 25

    • This course provides the foundational knowledge for students to be able to identify the various breeds of cats, dogs, small animals, birds, and other exotic species. Additionally, it provides an overview of how breeding happens in animal breeding environments: consideration of all factors and procedures that will produce a genetically healthy and well-conformed animal that represents the best standard of the breed.

      Time permitting; an animal show may be planned with all participants within the campus or in the community.

      Students will also be introduced to their life span development capstone project which involves focusing on the lifespan, development, and care for a specific breed of animal. Presentation of this project (and formal report) will be due before going to practicum (VA499).
  • VA130 Animal Nursing & Clinical Care I 50

    • This two-week course is the first to focus on nursing care and emergency protocols. As integral members of the nursing team, assistants provide quality compassionate care while providing basic nursing skills, including documenting medical history, taking and recording vital signs, conducting physical examinations, recognizing normal small animal behaviour, assessing pain, caring for hospitalized animals, providing home care, and assisting in euthanasia.

      Students learn about blood pressure and its monitoring, TPRs [temperature, pulse, and respiration], medication administration, ear and eye cleaning and treatments, syringe feeding, animal husbandry, patient observation, and kennel care. The basics of observation and interpretation are a large component of this course. Lab activity will be a key component to this course (see note about alternative days/times) and at least one field trip to an animal clinical care setting will be planned.

Term 2

Code Course Name Hours
  • VA202 Pathology, Disease & Preventative Medicine 50

    • This course describes the pathology practiced in veterinary medicine, allowing students to recognize the common diseases and conditions inflicted upon pets and other animals. Students also are shown how to recognize these conditions, including comparative study with healthy animals and distinguishing them from the unhealthy. Client education and animal wellness programs are also discussed and students are given assignments to develop programs and literature. A field trip to an animal diagnostic lab may be given to enhance students’ learning.
  • VA225 Animal Husbandry & Nutrition 75

    • Animal nutrition is an integral part of veterinary medicine. In this course, students will learn about the connections between illness, disease and nutrition. As part of the veterinary team, the assistant must be knowledgeable about healthy pet nutrition, specific dietary requirements, and recovering patient nutrition.

      The veterinary assistant must understand the principles of nutrition for the small animal’s life stages, the importance of good nutrition, and the major nutrient components of the list of ingredients. Students learn to develop prescription or specialty diets for different species, as well as methods of feeding and the link between nutrition and therapy. The course also introduces the causes of illness and disease. It explores the differentiation among bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi – as well as the modes of disease transmission.

      Issues surrounding animal abuse are also addressed in this course. Field trips to animal shelters and refuges will enhance understanding for the student. Guest speakers may also be utilized to present content on food and nutrition and other animal care products. Community events such as nutrition education information sessions for the public and pet visitation activities to various groups may also occur during this course.
  • VA230 Animal Nursing & Clinical Care II 100

    • This four-week course provides an advanced focus on nursing care and emergency protocols.

      As integral members of the nursing team, assistants provide quality compassionate care while providing basic nursing skills. Students review blood pressure and its monitoring, TPRs [temperature, pulse, and respiration], medication administration, ear and eye cleaning and treatments, syringe feeding, animal husbandry, patient observation and kennel care.

      Basics of emergency monitoring are also covered in this course; protocols often involve wound management (learning about triage and emergency readiness, common emergency preparations, chemical/physical disorders, types of wounds, including caring and healing). Students will demonstrate their knowledge of bandages, casts, and slings; use of fluid of therapy; and other vital therapeutic techniques.

      The radiological component focuses on methods and positioning for taking x-rays, the chemicals used to develop images, and veterinary anesthesia, including sedation, induction, maintenance, and monitoring. Additional diagnostic imaging methods are covered in VA350.

      This course will have lab skills as a key component as scheduled (hours may vary from normal classroom hours).

      Livestock care and wildlife care will also be covered, including field trips (when available) to wildlife refuges and animal farms.
  • VA240 Veterinary Pharmacology and Pharmacy 75

    • This three week course focuses on the safe handling and dispensing of pharmaceutical products, an indispensable function of the veterinary clinic. Students are introduced to the organization of a pharmacy and its inventory maintenance. Students become familiar with the terminology associated with common veterinary pharmaceuticals, the classifications of drugs, indications and contra-indications, and routes of administration.

      It is important that students are prepared to produce accurate information to clients and to practice safe pharmaceutical dispensing protocols. In addition, students are taught to identify the different types of vaccines and to understand the need for vaccine schedules.

      Students will be assigned their pharmacology / prescriptions learning activity capstone project, which will be due at the end of Term III.

Term 3

Code Course Name Hours
  • VA310 Veterinary Practice & Hospital Administration 25

    • Veterinary practices and animal care clinics are private businesses built to serve the needs of animal patients and their human clients. Accordingly, the veterinary assistant must understand the management of the business. Students learn basic principles associated with the management of a veterinary practice/clinic – and the role of the assistant in supporting the effective functioning of the business.

      Students will learn the importance basic skills of accounting. Students will also gain an understanding of the human resources team that makes the business work. Inventory management, marketing principles and strategies, and the ethical environment in which animal care services take place will also be covered. A field trip to a hospital and/or practice will be arranged during this course.
  • VA320 Animal Handling & Restraint II 50

    • This two week course builds upon core skills in animal behaviour and husbandry. Good quality skills in animal handling and restraint promote safety for the animal care professional and equally important, reduces the level of stress for the animal patient. The student will learn the handling, restraint and transport of dogs, cats and other small animals with the emphasis on personal safety and for the purpose of recognizing and preventing aggression.

      Students will come to understand the types of restraint including verbal, physical, leash and other methods. Learn why the least restraint is sometimes the best restraint, and why the goal of restraint is to maintain control of the animal. In addition to learning strategies and tips for the proper handling of animals, the course will discuss how to communicate your observations and experiences to other members of the veterinary team. Lab activities (hands-on practice) will be an important aspect of this course.
  • VA325 Grooming 50

    • Quality grooming skills is an important contribution that the veterinary assistant makes to the animal care clinic and it promotes the health and comfort of the animal. Basic grooming refers to such procedures as bathing, brushing, cleaning ears, de-matting, expressing anal glands, shaving, and trimming nails. Students will learn the reasons for regular grooming.

      As a part of this course, students learn to identify the variety of canine and feline coats – and different grooming techniques used with each type. Students will have hands on training experience using brushing and pre-bathing techniques that are required to be successful in bathing a pet. Equally important is the knowledge about obedience and handling skills required for the safe management of a pet on the grooming table.

      In addition to external parasite control and pet products, the student is introduced to basic grooming tools, supplies and equipment such as clippers, combs, knives and scissors.
  • VA330 Clinical Laboratory Procedures 50

    • This two week course is focused on the laboratory located either in the veterinary clinic or other specialized labs. The course includes instruction for the safe handling and preparation of biological samples for laboratory analysis by the technician or veterinarian.

      Field trips and guest speakers are arranged for this course, including the subject of animal testing with lab animals.
  • VA335 Surgical Preparation & Assisting 75

    • This course is focused on the surgery unit in the veterinary clinic or hospital. Students learn patient preparation, support anesthetic monitoring, and nursing care in the surgical environment. Students also acquire knowledge of aseptic techniques associated with the maintenance of the surgical suite; this includes the preparation and care of surgical packs. Students develop knowledge of instrument identification, including: gloving, aseptic prepping of the surgeon, and the maintenance of anesthetic machines. A field trip to a surgery is an important element of this course.
  • VA340 Parasitology 25

    • This course emphasizes the most common parasites and other internal/external viruses and bacteria. Students identify various specimens both using diagrams and under a microscope.
  • VA350 Diagnostic Imaging 25

    • Various equipment and tools are using in diagnosing various illnesses and injuries in animals. From guest equipment salespersons demonstrating in class, to visits to clinics, hospitals, and other facilities, students learn the various types of diagnostic imaging occurring in the profession, including the basic procedures and practice with x-ray equipment, ultrasonography, MRIs, and others.

Term 4

Code Course Name Hours
  • VA400 Veterinary Business, Marketing & Client Communications 75

    • This course develops and strengthens interpersonal communications skills that contribute to success in workplace environments. These are essential skills that are practised throughout the course of each day and contribute to the smooth, effective functioning of the animal care practice. Students develop a practical- and vocation-oriented approach to effective and professional communication.

      In addition to verbal practice, the many communications skills that are addressed here include the use of technology to communicate professionally, careful listening, accurate writing, as well as locating and documenting information.

      Client communication will sometimes require some measures of grief management; the student will be coached on the core skills required at particularly difficult times.

      Topics surrounding alternative and complementary medicine will also be introduced, such as acupuncture, herbology, and aromatherapy.

      Students will be assigned tasks to create marketing materials for a veterinary business and client education.
  • VA410 Professionalism & Ethics 25

    • Students are presented with scenarios to learn how to present themselves in a professional setting and conduct themselves with appropriate ethical behavior. They also learn about the veterinary health team and how to communicate and work within this team. Topical coverage includes confidentiality (and gossip and its effects), workplace bullying, conflict resolution, handling complaints, and liability applications to telephone advice.
  • VA415 Veterinary Office & Billing Procedures II 50

    • The focus of this two week course is the proper handling of client records to ensure accurate and efficient billing of services, records management, and ultimately, the success of the business due to proper patient care.

      Students acquire knowledge and understanding in many skill areas, largely focused on the administrative front end of the practice. This includes reception and telephone etiquette, appointment scheduling and correspondence, medical and financial procedures and record keeping.

      In addition, the course provides guidance in ways that the veterinary assistant can manage the difficult client and provide counseling to clients who experience the loss of a pet.
  • VA499 Veterinary Practice 120

    • Following completion of all of the courses in the Veterinary Assisting program, the student is ready to complete the program in a veterinary environment. This practicum course is 120 hours/3 weeks that allows the veterinary sciences profession to confirm the skills and competencies of the student.

      At the end of this practicum, students will hold a poster presentation and information session on various professions and work settings in the animal health care field.
  • CESE Career & Employment Strategies 25

    • This course builds on the skills learned in the Student Success Strategies and the Professionalism & Ethics courses. It provides information on how to use the communication skills learned in order to make a successful presentation to a prospective employer. Students also learn to uncover the hidden job market and identify employment opportunities. Self-assessment during this course allows students to identify their personal skills that are transferable to the workplace and to describe these skills to a prospective employer. Students are videotaped during a mock interview and participate in the analysis of their performance in the “interview”.

      All capstone projects not yet collected are due at the end of this course. When available, time will be allotted for students to complete any outstanding assignments.

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