Skip to main content


Textbook for the Veterinary Assistant

Kara Burns, Lori Renda-Francis

ISBN: 978-1-118-81376-8 April 2014 Wiley-Blackwell 192 Pages


Textbook for the Veterinary Assistant offers a comprehensive guide to the NAVTA-approved curriculum for veterinary assisting programs.  Written by leaders in the profession and copublished with NAVTA, the book covers the complete list of NAVTA Veterinary Assistant Essential Skills.  Specifically tailored for veterinary assistants and veterinary assistant students, the book uses an engaging writing style to provide a concise, user-friendly approach to the material.

With chapters on medical terminology, clinical skills, office procedures, client communication, and more, the book equips veterinary assistants with all the information they need to succeed.  A companion website offers interactive multiple-choice questions, the figures from the book in PowerPoint, teaching activities, breed study guides, and a sample cover letter.  Textbook for the Veterinary Assistant is a must-have resource for all veterinary assistant students and those studying for the Approved Veterinary Assistant certification exam, and serves as a useful refresher for veterinary assistants in practice.

Related Resources

Contributors ix

Acknowledgments xi

About the Companion Website xiii

Chapter 1 Introduction to the Veterinary (or Assistant) Profession 3

References 5

Chapter 2

Medical Terminology 7

Medical terms 7

Prefixes 8

Suffixes 9

Root words 9

Common abbreviations used in veterinary medicine 9

References 10

Chapter 3 Anatomy 11

Anatomical directional terms 11

Skeletal system 13

Branches of science 15

Body systems 15

External anatomy 15

Common veins 16

Muscles 17

Internal organs 17

Urogenital system 18

Internal structures of the thorax 19

Conclusion 19

References 19

Chapter 4 Behavior, Handling, and Restraint 21

Animal body language 21

References 26

Chapter 5 Office Procedures and Telephone Techniques 27

Telephone techniques 28

References 29

Chapter 6 Nutrition 31

Overview 31

Proteins 31

Carbohydrates 32

Fats 32

Vitamins 32

Minerals 32

Water 33

Palatibility 33

Weight management 35

Patient history 35

Body condition scoring 35

Risk factors 37

Assessing the food 37

Summary 38

Suggested reading 38

Chapter 7 Breeds 39

Cat breeds 39

Dog breeds 48

Determine gender in the cat and dog 50

Reference 51

Chapter 8 Breeding and Genetics 53

Introduction 53

The heat cycle 54

Breeding 54

Whelping 55

Necessary human interaction with newborn puppies 56

Warning signs (when to call the vet) 56

Cats 57

Heat cycle 57

Feline breeding process 58

Breeding management 58

References 58

Chapter 9 History Taking and Physical Exams 59

Determining and recoding vitals 59

History and physical exam 60

Chapter 10 Exam Room Procedures 63

Recognizing ectoparasites 63

Nail trimming 63

Ear cleaning 67

Anal glands 68

Bathing animals 69

Chapter 11 Immunology 71

Innate immunity 71

Acquired immunity 72

Cell-mediated immunity 72

Vaccination 72

Vaccine administration routes 73

References 73

Chapter 12 Animal Nursing and Assisting 75

Temperature 75

Pulse 75

Respiration 76

Pain assessment 76

Nutritional assessment 77

General nursing care 77

References 78

Chapter 13 Pharmacology 79

References 81

Chapter 14 Radiology 83

Radiology safety measures and guidelines 83

Cleaning screens 84

Labeling, filing, and storage of radiographs 84

Proper storage of radiographic film 85

Radiographic positioning 85

Conclusion 86

References 86

Chapter 15 Surgical Assisting 87

Introduction 87

The sterilization process 87

Preparing items for the autoclave 87

Wrapping a surgical pack 88

Cold sterilization 88

Instruments 89

Suture Material 90

Gowns and Drapes 90

The sterile field 92

Preparing for surgery 92

Surgical hand scrub 92

Gowning 93

Gloving 93

Opening and passing sterile items 94

Preparing the patient 95

Post-surgical procedures 96

Chapter 16 Avian and Reptile 99

Avian 99

Reptiles 103

References 105

Chapter 17 Equine 107

Skeletal system 107

The digestive tract 109

Nutrition 109

Key nutritional factors for horses 109

Types of feed 110

Behavior and handling 111

Nursing care and husbandry of horses 112

References 113

Chapter 18 Preparing for Internships and Employment 115

Interview 115

Resume writing 115

Cover letter 116

References 117

Chapter 19 Inventory 119

What will be inventoried in your clinic or hospital? 119

A well-run pharmacy 120

The want list 120

The veterinary assistant’s role 120

Drug inventory 120

Man versus computer: both needed! 122

Organizing inventory 122

References 122

Chapter 20 Euthanasia and Pet Loss 125

The five stages of grief 127

References 129

Chapter 21 Client Management 131

Evaluating your clients 131

Client management; essential skills for the veterinary assistant 132

Employee roles 132

References 133

Chapter 22 Medical Records 135

References 140

Chapter 23 Occupational Safety and Health Administration 143

What is the occupational safety and health administration? 143

Material safety data sheets 143

OSHA labeling of secondary containers 143

OSHA inspections 144

Common OSHA veterinary violations 144

Fines 144

References 144

Chapter 24 Pet Health Insurance 147

References 148

Glossary 151

Index 159

“The lovely photos and illustrations make this book an easy tool to use. In addition, there is a website providing further info including teaching modules for your in house learning.”  (Vet Nurses Today, 1 October 2015)

“Textbook for the Veterinary Assistantis a well-organized book for veterinary assistants or anyone thinking about working in the veterinary profession. It provides basic comprehensive coverage of veterinary topics including medical technology, anatomy and physiology, radiology, pharmacology, handling and restraint, surgical nursing, and office procedures.”  (JAVMA, 15 December 2014)

“Students will appreciate chapters covering medical terminology, clinical skills, office routines and more, while a companion website fills in details with interactive questions, figures from the book in PowerPoint, and more. Step-by-step coverage of the curriculum for vet assistants makes for a key text any vet student must have.”  (Midwest Book Review, 1 September 2014)

“This is an easy to read book, which could be dipped in and out of by UK veterinary care assistant students as an addition to the reading list, but it would not replace any of the current texts.”  (Veterinary Record, 6 December 2014)

Textbook for the Veterinary Assistant companion website  features interactive multiple-choice questions, figures from the book in PowerPoint, teaching assignments, breed study guides, and a sample cover letter.
  • Presents practical, step-by-step coverage of the NAVTA-approved curriculum for veterinary assistants
  • Serves as a comprehensive review for the Veterinary Assistant certification exam
  • Offers complete information using a highly accessible, condensed style and a colorful, easy-to-use layout
  • Provides coverage of canine, feline, avian, reptile and equine patients
  • Published in association with the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)
  • Includes access to a companion website with interactive multiple-choice questions, the figures from the book in PowerPoint, teaching activities, breed study guides, and a sample cover letter at