Veterinary Care

Zoo Careers

Veterinary Care

Veterinary Care Department(s)

  1. Diagnosis and treatment of health problems in animals is a true challenge. Often, the first (and sometimes only) sign that an animal may be ill or injured is a slight change in behavior. The veterinary team uses laboratory tests and years of experience to diagnose and treat animals. Medical and surgical training is extremely helpful for all positions.

Veterinary Positions

  1. STAFF VETERINARIAN
    • Main job duties:
      • The Staff Veterinarian is responsible for all medical programs and procedures, including collecting blood and urine samples; conducting physical exams; treating injuries; and performing surgery and sonograms. The veterinarian makes rounds on a regular basis, and confers with all animal services staff to monitor the health of the animals. Staff Veterinarians often utilize other medical professionals and veterinary schools for consultation in specialized areas such as dentistry, orthopedics, or premature infants.
    • Education:
      • Bachelor's degree in biological sciences; Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree
    • Initial training:
      • Veterinary school students, in their senior year, can take part in an "externship" that allows them to spend four to six weeks at a zoological park. After veterinary school, graduates spend one to four years as an intern or two years in a residency position.
    • Works closely with:
      • All animal services departments (from curators to keepers), Design and Engineering department, and Education department
    • Challenges:
      • It's extremely important for the individual in this position to know how to react when treating an exotic animal's symptoms. Knowing exactly when to act is something that comes with experience. The most challenging part of this job is working with all animal care staff members, the water quality team, and the animal trainers to create a preventative health care program that allows the animals to maintain good health.
  2. VETERINARY TECHNICIAN
    • Main job duties:
      • Primarily serving as an assistant to the Staff Veterinarian, the Veterinary Technician collects urine and stool samples, gives injections, and helps maintain accurate medical records, including any preventative health care measures taken. The Veterinary Technician also assists with surgeries and other extensive procedures.
    • Education:
      • Animal Health Technician certification from an accredited institution, or a medical technology degree
    • Initial training:
      • Previous experience assisting a veterinarian; considerable time spent working around animals
    • Works closely with:
      • Staff Veterinarian, laboratory staff, and animal services departments
    • Challenges:
      • Because ill or injured animals are sometimes dangerous or difficult to handle, Veterinary Technicians need good physical strength to assist in some procedures. The work environment often involves a lot of blood.

Profile

Dr. Leslie Dalton

Veterinarian
SeaWorld San Antonio

What was the most unexpected part of your job?
The number of people that work together, and the high level of cooperation among them. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that everyone's main interest is the well-being of the animals.

What's your most unforgettable moment on the job?
Rescuing and transporting orphaned walruses.

What advice do you have for young people who would like to do what you do?
Veterinarian positions are very few and far between in the marine animal field. Be sure that's what you want to do, and once you're in veterinary school, get involved with the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine, so you can make the contacts that might help you get a job.

 

Laboratory Positions

  1. LABORATORY MANAGER
    • Main job duties:
      • The Laboratory Manager directs and conducts analyses on samples taken from the animals in the collection, and is ultimately responsible for collecting and reporting test results to staff. By checking tissue, blood, urine, and stool samples, he or she is able to identify parasites and other abnormalities. Accurate water analysis also is an important job for this position. The Laboratory Manager prepares for and assists with surgical, radiographic, and medical procedures. He or she might also assist with necropsies--procedures in which the internal organs and bones are examined and studied under microscopes and blood cells are checked. They also oversee the allocation of vitamins, drugs, and other supplies. Because he or she is responsible for maintaining the inventory of laboratory, pharmacy, surgical, medical, and necropsy supplies and equipment, the Laboratory Manager needs to be fully aware of the latest research in analysis techniques and new equipment. The Laboratory Manager also trains employees on procedures and safety.
    • Education:
      • Bachelor's degree in biological sciences; American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) registered Medical Technologist
    • Initial training:
      • Five years clinical laboratory experience and five years supervisory experience
    • Works closely with:
      • Veterinary staff, curators, all animal services departments, and Water Quality department
    • Challenges:
      • The Laboratory Manager must have an in-depth and current knowledge of equipment and technologies to best choose those that meet the park's needs. Supplies must always be kept in stock, and supply resources must be known and readily available during emergency situations.
  2. MEDICAL TECHNOLOGIST
    • Main job duties:
      • The Medical Technologist performs tests on blood, stools, urine, and tissues to analyze bacteria count, check for presence of parasites, or diagnose other abnormalities. After computing test results, they document and log data, creating a prepared report for laboratory files and staff reference for various research projects. A Medical Technologist is also responsible for maintaining laboratory, pharmacy, surgical, radiographic, medical, operating, and necropsy supplies and equipment. They dispense vitamins, drugs, and other supplies when needed, in addition to assisting with surgical, radiographic, medical, and necropsy procedures.
    • Education:
      • ASCP registered Medical Technologist or, in some cases, an Animal Health Technician license
    • Initial training:
      • Experience in a veterinarian's office is helpful.
    • Works closely with:
      • Veterinary staff, all animal services departments, and Water Quality department
    • Challenges:
      • The work environment of a Medical Technologist can cause stress. Often, they are required to complete a large volume of work each day while maintaining a high standard of quality control. They also are responsible for every piece of equipment, which must be maintained in excellent condition.

Profile

Bernice Stark

Laboratory Manager
SeaWorld of California

What advice do you have for young people who would like to do what you do?
Get the specialized training you need to be a medical technologist. Get a reputation with your employers for being a hard-working, responsible employee.

What do you like most about your job?
It's never boring, there's always something new happening. Taking and analyzing bloodwork from a variety of animals, from penguins to killer whales, keeps you on your toes.

What was the most unexpected part of your job?
That it can be so demanding; some of the work is repetitious, and we have to be available 24 hours a day - animals don't get ill according to a schedule.