Veterinary Assistant Online Program Curriculum | Penn Foster Career School
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Program Details

Veterinary Assistant Course Details

In our veterinary assistant courses, you'll learn the skills and get the hands-on veterinary assistant training you need to tend to the needs of animals. You may be able to secure your externship site at a veterinary practice near you, or through our partnership with one of the largest veterinary hospitals in the country, VCA Animal Hospitals.

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The program goal for Penn Foster's Veterinary Assistant program to prepare students to work as veterinary assistants under the supervision of veterinarians and veterinary technicians in small or large animal hospitals or clinics. The program also prepares the students to take the national test to become an Approved Veterinary Assistant.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to...
  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective quantitative skills
  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy skills
  • Office and Hospital Procedures:
    • Front Desk: Greet Clients, Demonstrate proper Appointment Scheduling and make appointments, Prepare appropriate certificates for signature, Admit patient, Perform basic filing and retrieving of medical records, Perform basic veterinary medical record keeping procedures, Demonstrate elementary computer skills, Utilize basic medical terminology, Perform basic invoicing, billing, and payment on account procedures
    • Telephone: Answer and direct phone call, Recognize and respond appropriately to veterinary medical emergencies, by notifying the appropriate hospital personnel, Request records and information from other veterinary facilities
    • Maintain basic cleanliness and orderliness of a veterinary facility: Inventory supplies, Restock Shelves, Maintain x-ray, surgery, and laboratory logs, Perform basic filing and retrieving of medical records, radiographs, lab reports, etc.
    • Demonstrate knowledge of basic cleaning techniques of animal kennels and bedding, examination rooms, hospital facilities, and surgical suites
  • Communication and Client Relations:
    • Develop effective client communication skills
    • Write business letters and professional electronic communication with clients
    • Understand ethical conduct in relationship to the day to day operations of a vet hospital
    • Describe the roles and responsibilities of each member of the veterinary health team and the important part that each plays in the delivery of excellent care
    • Professional Conduct: Understand the human-animal bond, Demonstrate professional and appropriate appearance and language in the workplace, Demonstrate appropriate use of electronic communication in the workplace (cell phone usage, text messaging, social networking, digital photography, etc.)
  • Pharmacy and Pharmacology:
    • Legal Issues: Recognize legal issues involving drugs in the workplace, Recognize general types and groups of drugs and demonstrate proper terminology, Differentiate prescription drugs from over-the-counter drugs and describe proper prescription label requirements
    • Filling medications and inventory control: Label and package dispensed drugs correctly, Store, safely handle and dispose of biological and therapeutic agents, pesticides, and hazardous waste
    • Perform inventory control procedures including restocking supplies and checking expiration dates
    • Vaccinations: Reconstitute vaccines and be familiar with proper protocols, Describe possible routes and methods of drug and vaccine administration that the veterinarian or veterinary technician may choose and demonstrate appropriate small animal restraint for such protocols
  • Examination Room Procedures:
    • Restrain patients: small animals, restrain birds. rabbits, pocket pets, and exotics, large animals
    • Basic Procedures: Determine and record temperature, pulse, respiration, body condition score, and weight of patients
    • Trim nails (Required: Cats and Dogs. Optional: Birds and Exotics)
    • Express anal sacs using the external method, Identify external parasites: mites, lice, fleas, and ticks, Recognize AKC dog breeds and CFA cat breeds,
    • Be able to properly identify the gender of small animal species, particularly felines
    • Perform exam room grooming: i.e. trimming nails, external ear canal cleaning, etc.
    • Be familiar with small animal nutritional requirements, pet food labeling standards, dry matter basis calculations, and the differences between pet food products
  • Small Animal Nursing (Large Animal Nursing--Optional):
    • Safety Concerns: Demonstrate knowledge of basic normal and abnormal animal behavior, Utilize patient & personnel safety measures
    • Identify potential Zoonotic diseases, Describe isolation procedures, Describe hazardous waste disposal, Describe basic sanitation, Be familiar with OSHA standards
    • Animal Care: Provide routine record-keeping, and observation of hospitalized patients, i.e. stress importance of notations made when cleaning and feeding, Demonstrate a basic understanding of common diseases and medical conditions,
    • Monitor/restrain patients for fluid therapy and record observations, Perform hand pilling (dog, cat), Demonstrate understanding of treatment plan
    • Apply and remove bandages to healthy animals—(equine leg and tail wraps are optional)
    • Perform therapeutic bathing, basic grooming, and dipping of small animals
    • Clean external ear canals, Prepare food & prescription diets - be aware of any special dietary needs
    • Clean & disinfect cages and kennels (stalls are optional)
    • Provide care and maintenance of nursing equipment
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the euthanasia and post mortem care
  • Surgical Preparation and Assisting:
    • Assist in performing surgical preparations: Prepare surgical equipment/supplies, Sterilize instruments & supplies using appropriate methods, Identify common instruments, Identify common suture materials, types, and sizes, Assist the veterinarian and/or veterinary technician with preparation of patients using aseptic technique, Operate and maintain autoclaves, Describe operating room sanitation and care, Assist with positioning of surgical patients, Aid the veterinarian/and or veterinary technician with physical monitoring of recovering surgical patients, Maintain the surgical log
    • Facility and Equipment Cleanliness: Maintain proper operating room conduct and asepsis, Perform post-surgical clean up, Fold surgical gowns and drapes
    • Have knowledge of: Surgical equipment, Surgical room and prep area, Instrument cleaning and care, Proper disposal of hazardous medical wastes
  • Laboratory Procedures:
    • Assistance in the laboratory: Collect voided urine samples, Determine physical properties of urine including color and clarity, Assist in the collection of blood samples for procedures, Collect voided fecal samples for examination
      Prepare fecal flotation solutions and set up fecal flotations and direct smears, Assist the DVM or veterinary technician in necropsy procedures, Explain how to handle rabies suspects and samples safely, Handle disposal of deceased animals
    • Laboratory Record Keeping: Ensure all laboratory results are accurately recorded, Stock laboratory supplies, File laboratory reports
  • Radiology and Ultrasound Imaging:
    • Follow recommended safety measures, Assist the veterinarian and/or the veterinary technician in the completion of diagnostic radiographs and ultrasound including the restraint and positioning of patients, Process diagnostic radiographs, Use hand OR automatic processing in darkroom, Maintain quality control, Label, file, and store film and radiographs Properly care for equipment, Clean screens, Know safety techniques for handling processing chemicals

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program.

Objectives:

  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.

In this course, you’ll learn to recognize types of animal behavior, understand the role of the veterinary assistant in behavior counseling, and identify common animal behavior problems. You’ll also learn to handle, restrain, and transport dogs, cats, birds, horses, and other animals.

Objectives:

  • Recognize types of animal behavior.
  • Understand the role of the veterinary assistant in behavior counseling.
  • Identify common animal behavior problems.
  • Understand how to handle, restrain, and transport dogs, cats, birds, horses, and other animals.

Additional Unit Material:

Learning Aid: eBook: Textbook for the Veterinary Assistant

Videos:

  • Handling and Restraint
  • Handling and Restraint of the Horse

In this course, you’ll get an introduction to veterinary terminology. You’ll learn to recognize, understand, and pronounce anatomical and veterinary procedure terminology. You’ll also learn about metric terms and abbreviations. You’ll study the anatomical terms to correctly indicate the orientation and location of animal body parts, and you’ll recognize cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems, both structurally and functionally. You’ll also study the four major classes of joints and explain how they function. Finally, you’ll describe the structure and function of skin and the animal’s fur, identify the glands and their secretions, explain the structural and functional differences between the organs of the upper and lower respiratory system, and understand how the lungs and the parts of the respiratory system work together to supply oxygen to the body’s cells.

Objectives:

  • Recognize, understand, and pronounce anatomical and veterinary procedure terminology.
  • Understand metric terms and abbreviations.
  • Identify the anatomical terms to correctly indicate the orientation and location of animal body parts.
  • Recognize cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems, both structurally and functionally.
  • Understand the four major classes of joints and explain how they function.
  • Describe the structure and function of skin and the animal’s fur.
  • Identify the glands and their secretions.
  • Explain the structural and functional differences between the organs of the upper and lower respiratory system.
  • Understand how the lungs and the parts of the respiratory system work together to supply oxygen to the body’s cells.

Additional Unit Material:

Audios to help with the pronunciation of terminology.

In this course, you’ll identify the organs of the digestive system and explain the structure and function of each part, compare the structure of the stomach and large intestine of carnivores and herbivores, recognize the organs of male and female reproductive systems and the events that occur during fertilization, and explain the anatomy and functions of the urinary system. You’ll also study the organization of the nervous system and how the nervous system receives and interprets, the four senses and their primary functions, which are to provide animals with an awareness of their environment and assist them in their survival, and the function of the endocrine system and the major glands and hormones that maintain body homeostasis.

Objectives:

  • Identify the organs of the digestive system and explain the structure and function of each part.
  • Compare the structure of the stomach and large intestine of carnivores and herbivores.
  • Recognize the organs of male and female reproductive systems and the events that occur during fertilization.
  • Explain the anatomy and functions of the urinary system.
  • Understand the organization of the nervous system and how the nervous system receives and interprets.
  • Recognize the four senses and their primary functions, which are to provide animals with an awareness of their environment and assist them in their survival. 
  • Understand the function of the endocrine system and the major glands and hormones that maintain body homeostasis.

Additional Unit Material:

Learning Aid: Anatomy Charts

In this course, you’ll learn about proper nutrition for animals and the veterinary assistant’s role in nutritional care. You’ll also study the reproductive systems of the male and female animal. You’ll study how to care for aging animals. You’ll learn about the unique anatomies of birds and reptiles. Finally, you’ll learn to take a good medical history, perform a thorough physical examination, and assist the veterinarian with the animal patient in ways that are humane, safe, and effective.

Objectives:

  • Understand proper nutrition for animals.
  • Recognize the veterinary assistant’s role in nutritional care.
  • Understand the reproductive systems of the male and female animal.
  • Know how to care for the aging animal.
  • Understand the unique anatomies of birds and reptiles.
  • Identify the body systems common to all reptiles.
  • Understand how to take a good medical history.
  • Know how to perform a thorough physical examination.
  • Assist the veterinarian with the animal patient in ways that are humane, safe, and effective.

Additional Unit Material:

Video: Physical Examination and Bandage Care

Supplements:

  • Cat Breeds
  • Dog Breeds

In this course, you’ll learn about what vaccines exist, how vaccines work, and when a vaccination is necessary. You’ll also study how to handle telephone calls from pet owners and how to advise owners how to transport injured animals, and how to provide appropriate first aid in transport. You’ll learn to recognize the signs of common emergency problems and participate in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In addition, you’ll learn to recognize the different types of wounds, explain how a wound heals and the factors that affect wound healing, care for wounds, and identify the proper way to maintain, change, and remove bandages, splints, casts, and slings.

Objectives:

  • Identify what vaccines exist.
  • Understand how vaccines work.
  • Know when a vaccination is necessary.
  • Know how to handle telephone calls from pet owners.
  • Understand how to advise owners how to transport injured animals, and how to provide appropriate first aid in transport.
  • Understand how to evaluate patients.
  • Recognize the signs of common emergency problems.
  • Participate in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  • Recognize the different types of wounds.
  • Explain how a wound heals and the factors that affect wound healing.
  • Know how to care for wounds.
  • Identify the proper way to maintain, change, and remove bandages, splints, casts, and slings.

In this course, you’ll learn about parasites and parasitology, the different types of animal parasites, and how to diagnose, treat, and prevent parasites. You’ll also learn how to monitor and observe an animal’s habits and behaviors. You’ll learn the requirements, routes, procedures, and concerns of fluid administration. You’ll study the most common procedures used in veterinary sample collection and diagnosis, the treatment procedures involved in veterinary nursing, and the physical therapy concerns and methods most relevant to the duties of a veterinary assistant. You’ll also study the principles and procedures of dog and cat dental prophylaxis, as well as the concerns and procedures of pediatric, geriatric, and routine animal health care. Finally, you’ll study veterinary drugs, where they come from, and who regulates them. You’ll learn how drugs enter the body and how to ensure that the right amount enters, and you’ll identify drugs used for infection, inflammation, vital organs, body systems, disease prevention, and hormone regulation.

Objectives:

  • Understand parasites and parasitology.
  • Identify the different types of animal parasites.
  • Diagnose, treat, and prevent parasites.
  • Know how to monitor the animal.
  • Observe the animal’s habits and behaviors.
  • Learn the requirements, routes, procedures, and concerns of fluid administration.
  • Understand the most common procedures used in veterinary sample collection and diagnosis.
  • Identify the treatment procedures involved in veterinary nursing.
  • Know the physical therapy concerns and methods most relevant to the duties of a veterinary assistant.
  • Understand the principles and procedures of dog and cat dental prophylaxis.
  • Know the concerns and procedures of pediatric, geriatric, and routine animal health care.
  • Explain what veterinary drugs are, where they come from, and who regulates them. 
  • Understand how drugs enter the body, and how to ensure that the right amount enters.
  • Identify drugs used for infection, inflammation, vital organs, body systems, disease prevention, and hormone regulation.

Additional Unit Material:

Video: Small Animal Nursing

In this course, you’ll study the principles of radiology and the veterinary assistant’s role in radiology. You’ll learn how to prepare patients for radiographic and ultrasound examination and the safety measures and guidelines for radiographic procedures. You’ll learn how to label, file, and store radiographs. You’ll also learn to recognize various surgical instruments and how to clean, sterilize (eliminate all bacteria, fungi, and viruses), and maintain the instruments. Finally, you’ll learn the general process of admitting a patient to a hospital and the importance of a good relationship with the animal’s owner, as well as studying some commonly performed surgical procedures and how to prepare an animal for surgery. You’ll learn to recognize anesthetic drugs, how they’re used, the anesthetic process, and how an animal is monitored and maintained under anesthesia.

Objectives:

  • Know the principles of radiology and the veterinary assistant's role in radiology
  • Prepare patients for radiographic and ultrasound examination
  • Learn the safety measures and guidelines for radiographic procedures
  • Label, file, and store radiographs
  • Recognize various surgical instruments.
  • Understand how to clean, sterilize (eliminate all bacteria, fungi, and viruses), and maintain the instruments.
  • Know how to care for the operating room and its equipment.
  • Understand the general process of admitting a patient to a hospital and the importance of a good relationship with the animal’s owner.
  • Identify some commonly performed surgical procedures and how to prepare an animal for surgery.
  • Recognize anesthetic drugs and how they’re used.
  • Explain the anesthetic process, and how an animal is monitored and maintained under anesthesia.
  • Know how to function as part of a surgical team.

Additional Unit Material:

Video: Radiology, Anesthetic, and Surgical Preparation

In this course, you’ll learn how to order and maintain office inventory and supplies and how to admit and discharge patients and prepare appropriate release forms and certificates. You’ll study the role of the veterinary assistant within a typical veterinary practice, including how successful interpersonal communication skills can help you deal with clients and coworkers. You’ll also study some of the basic accounting principles you’ll need to keep accurate records of office financial transactions. You’ll prepare billing statements and collection letters, write checks, complete deposit slips, and reconcile bank statements.

Objectives:

  • Order and maintain office inventory and supplies
  • Admit and discharge patients and prepare appropriate release forms and certificates
  • Know the role of the veterinary assistant within a typical veterinary practice
  • Learn successful interpersonal communication skills
  • Use appropriate professional interpersonal skills when dealing with clients
  • Discover the personality traits that are essential for interoffice relations
  • Use basic accounting principles to keep accurate records of office financial transactions.
  • Prepare billing statements and collection letters
  • Write checks, complete deposit slips, and reconcile bank statements

Practical Exercise: Veterinary Practice Procedures

In this course, you’ll complete an eight-week externship at an animal clinic.

Students complete an 8-week externship at an animal clinic. It is the responsibility of the student to secure a site for his/her externship.

Additional Details

Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered in the Penn Foster Program. Prospective students should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where they plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in this Program. Click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.
Penn Foster Career School is not approved or regulated as a school by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
Students are required to complete an 8-week externship at a small animal clinic. It is the responsibility of the student to secure a site for his/her externship.
Students will be required to obtain health insurance prior to the start of their externship. All costs associated with the externships are the responsibility of the student. Students are asked to identify their externship site and are expected to complete a minimum of 100 hours of practice. The Vet Clinical Coordinator validates that the placement is in a viable environment that provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate the required competencies. All paperwork for the externship must be completed in English.
Working as a veterinary assistant is physically demanding. Veterinary assistants must be able to walk and stand for long periods of time. The ability to reach, bend, climb, and crouch is needed to perform job responsibilities. Other requirements include the ability to lift and carry 50 pounds without assistance, to see, to speak, and to hear well enough to communicate observations about animals, and to possess arm and hand steadiness — as well as finger dexterity — to operate equipment and work with animals.
Penn Foster Career School Accreditation & Licensing Details
Penn Foster has been accredited for over 50 years. Penn Foster Career School has been thoroughly reviewed and has earned several important accreditations, certifications, and licensing. Most importantly, Penn Foster Career School is both regionally and nationally accredited.

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Penn Foster Sample Lesson

Sample Veterinary Assistant Lesson

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Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, access to a word processing program to complete written assignments, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.
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offer ends 3/31/17

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