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Veterinary Nursing

Hints and tips to caring for your pet

May is National Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month and we are celebrating all the hard work our nurses do at Taylor Vets. Many people do not realise the extent of a RVNs (Registered Veterinary Nurse) duties, this page is aimed to give you a sneak peek into the world of veterinary nursing at Taylor Vets.

Care of Hospital Patients

In-patients are kept in a comfortable environment where they are monitored and treated accordingly to the animal’s condition. The Veterinary Nurse takes into consideration the patients welfare and any medical changes, due to surgical procedures or medical conditions, and acts appropriately or informs the Veterinary Surgeon.

One of the main aims of a Veterinary Nurse in charge of in-patients is to provide an environment in which patients are subjected to minimal stress and provided with optimal care. To do this the VN has to also ensure that it is a hygienic and safe environment for each patient.

At Taylors, we have a devoted team of Veterinary Nurses and nursing assistants who have a high level of knowledge and expertise that allows them to care for our hospitalised patients as well as our surgical patients.

Each patient is housed in a kennel with comfortable bedding and heating. Cats are provided with litter trays and, for sensitive cats, there is also a box provided for them; to help them feel safe in a strange environment. In the case of dogs, they have access to our garden on their leads for regular walks and fresh air.

Some patients don’t like eating in a strange environment or with long-term patients who don’t feel like eating or don’t have much of an appetite; the Veterinary Nurse can encourage them to eat by handing feeding and spending time with them one to one.

Cats are very clean animals but if they are feeling not themselves they might not feel up to grooming, so giving them face washes, grooming, and general TLC helps them feel more relaxed and comfortable.

Here is Roy one of our frequent day patients, he comes in for weekly medicated bath and blow dry.

Surgery and Wound Management

Nurses are responsible for managing wounds and educating clients on home care. Wounds can develop complications so the client will be instructed on care including cleaning, potential problems (such as infection or bleeding) and warning signs such as swelling, heat and redness. 

Some wounds may be covered by dressings which are required to be changed every 3 days, or as advised by the Veterinary Surgeon. Bandage care is important as inappropriate care can lead to bandage sores. Essential bandage care includes preventing patient interference, ensuring the bandage stays dry and checking the limb for any swelling which could indicate problems with the bandage or limb. Any concerns with the bandage such as slippage, foul smell or bleeding through the bandage should be addressed by calling your surgery and arranging for the bandage to be replaced.

Patient interference is the most common way a wound can become infected or break-down. These issues will slow the healing process and potentially incur extra costs, or even further surgery. Nurses will advise owners on strategies to prevent interference with wounds to encourage optimum healing.

Intravenous Fluid Therapy (IVFT)

As RVN's we are qualified to do many procedures under the Schedule 3 Veterinary Surgeons Act, one of which is placing intravenous (IV) catheters to provide fluid therapy for your pets.

The RVN will often determine the calculation of the rate that the fluids are administered. We also maintain fluids throughout the day by doing regular checks and flushing of the catheter to make sure the patient receives the fluids they need and are not over or under hydrated. We also check the IV catheter site to make sure there are no reactions such as swelling or bruising and check for anything that could be preventing the patient from receiving their fluids.

Fluid therapy is the correction of fluid defects and it is important in the successful treatment of many medical and surgical conditions. It is often the difference between life and death. Providing safe, appropriate hydration and returning patients to their full health, where possible, takes skills. Veterinary Nurses are generally responsible for patient preparation and implementing a treatment plan that the Veterinary Surgeon has given, therefore we must be diligent in carrying out the ongoing treatment of your pet.

Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation

Physiotherapy is a small but rewarding part of a Veterinary Nurse's role. It takes great dedication from not only the practitioner but also from the patient and their owner. 

It is a Veterinary Nurse's role to not only carryout Physiotherapy but to evaluate the patient progress, relay this to the Veterinary Surgeon and to also support the patient and their owner through the rehabilitation process.

Follow the link to read a case study which was performed on a patient called Simba; he was diagnosed with a Fibrocartilaginous Embolism and Spondylosis of Lumber Vertebrae L1 and L2. As a result of his condition Simba could no longer use his hind legs.

Simba and his owner worked very hard through a grueling Physiotherapy program and as a result Simba now not only has the use of his legs but runs around in the park and leads an active life.

Read Simba's Case Study

In-house Laboratory

Our in-house lab consists of many machines that enable the Veterinary Surgeons to diagnose patients quickly.

We test for the following:

  • Biochemistry - We offer pre-anaesthetic bloods ensuring gold standard anaesthesia for patients. It checks the function of the bodily organs
  • Haematology - Checks the values of red blood cells, white blood cells and informs us of blood disorders
  • Electrolytes - It is important that these chemicals are within the correct range to ensure cells in the body can function properly. Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphate, Potassium and Sodium
  • Coagulation - Diagnosis of bleeding disorders
  • Immunoassay - Diagnosis of Pancreatitis, Giardia, FeLV, FIV and more
  • Cytology - Microscopic examination, cell examination
  • Cultures - Check for fungi. e.g ringworm

Samples we test in the lab include:

  • Blood - whole blood, serum and plasma
  • Skin
  • Faeces
  • Urine - It is important to work with the freshest of samples, ideally less then 1 hour old - to get the best results

A Veterinary Nurse's role in the lab includes:

  • Phlebotomist
  • Microscopic Examiner
  • Clinical Laboratory Technician
  • Risk Assessor
  • Organiser 
  • Stock Controller
  • Bio-hazard Assessor

Clinical Coaching

Taylor Veterinary Practice is an approved Training Practice, meaning we are able to teach Veterinary Nursing students and meet the requirements of the RCVS (Royal Collage of Veterinary Surgeons) yearly.

Clinical coaches can be either a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) or a Veterinary Surgeon (VS) and they are responsible for supporting the nursing students in carrying out their diploma or degree, depending on which route they have taken. To become a clinical coach the RVN or VS must undertake a training course and keep that qualification up-to-date annually.

Clinical coaches spend a large amount of time training the students in practice; coaching and supporting them as they learn the skills needed to do their job, and mentoring the students by looking at their personal development and addressing issues that may affect their learning and performance.


A major part of the nursing teams working day is the monitoring of general anaesthesia in all routine and emergency surgical cases admitted to the hospital.  Working alongside our Veterinary Surgeons, who are responsible for the induction of anaesthesia, our nurses maintain anaesthesia with the aid of the most up to date equipment. 

Areas which the nurses must monitor, to ensure a safe and optimum level of anaesthesia for surgery to be performed include:

  • Heart Rate
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Patient's oxygen levels in blood
  • Patient's carbon dioxide levels in the blood
  • Eye position - (position of the eye indicates level/depth of GA and eye reflex (blink) is present)
  • Body Temperature
  • ECG readings
  • Gas inhalant administered to the patient
  • Adequate intravenous fluid therapy - this varies in accordance with type of surgery being performed i.e. routine/emergency/critical patient

Equipment used to maintain/monitor anaesthesia

  • Endotracheal tube - placed in the patient's airway to keep it patent throughout surgery
  • Stethoscope/Oesophageal stethoscope - used to monitor heart rate
  • Oxygen concentrator machine - administers oxygen and inhaled anaesthetic gases to maintain/support anaesthesia
  • Multiparameter machine - used to monitor patients temperature, ECG, Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide levels in the patient's blood
  • Heat pad/bear hugger - used to keep the patient at optimum temperature during surgery

Anaesthesia is a very skilled part of a Veterinary Nurse's job as no two anaesthetics are ever the same and it is particularly challenging. 


As a qualified Veterinary Nurse, we play an important role in Radiography. This involves the taking of x-rays to diagnose a range of conditions varying from broken bones to foreign bodies. 
It is our responsibility to make sure the area of interest is positioned correctly and the correct exposure is used to create a diagnostic x-ray for the vets to examine e.g a large dog will have different exposure requirements to a cat.

During this process most animals will be sedated or under general anaesthetic as the majority of animals will not sit still long enough for this process and movement would produce a blurry x-ray. It is also against health and safety protocols for a person to hold an animal during x-rays as they would be exposed to radiation.

Whilst the patient is being x-rayed, it is the nurses duty to ensure the animals are monitored and kept warm and comfortable during the procedure.

Radiography plays an essential role within veterinary treatment as it can help vets plan out a surgical procedure if required. This can include pinpointing the location of a foreign body or what size of pins may be required to repair a fracture.

Emergency Care Certificate

When an emergency arrives at the practice, it is often a qualified veterinary nurse who will be first on the scene. An RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse) must be able to recognise a patient that needs immediate attention and begin initial emergency treatment until a vet is available. This is known as a 'triage' or 'primary assessment'.

As part of the triage an RVN will assess the patient for life threatening injuries or problems. This may include:

  • A collapsed or shocked patient
  • A road traffic accident injury
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Bleeding wounds

Each of these would require basic emergency care provided by an RVN such as:

  • Providing oxygen
  • Placing an intravenous catheter and starting fluids
  • Placing a bandage to prevent further bleeding
  • Administer seizure medication
  • Temperature checks
  • Recording vital parameters such as heart and respiratory rate and informing the vet of any deterioration.
  • Client care and updates

All veterinary nurses are trained to recognise and and deal with emergencies, however there is an additional qualification and certificate in emergency and critical care that RVNs with an interest in can work towards to further their skills in this field.


Petlog, the UK's largest lost and found database for microchipped pets, found that 16,122 dogs and 55,038 cats that were reported missing between 2003 to May 2014 have yet to be reunited with their owner. However, during the same time period, a total of more than 60,000 dogs and over 100,000 cats were reported missing, which means according to the Petlog database that 75% of dogs and 45% of cats were reunited thanks to their microchip.
From April 2016, all dogs in the UK must be microchipped by law.

It is a simple procedure, which causes no ill effects to your pet and can be done in an appointment with a vet or veterinary nurse. Each microchip contains a unique identification number, which once implanted, will be registered to your name and address. It is really important that this information is kept up to date. If you change address or telephone number you need to contact the microchip company to changes these details with them. Once the microchip is registered veterinary practice do not have access to change the details registered to them. All vets, rescue societies and police have microchip scanners. In the event we come across a stray the first point of call would be to scan the pet for a microchip.

Weight Management

Our qualified nurses run free nurse weight clinics. They will advise you on optimum weight for your pet and the best type of foods and amounts to be feeding.
Obesity is the most common disease in domestic animals.

Causes of Obesity

  1. Eating more calories than they are burning off
  2. Getting too much food/treats and too little exercise
  3. Getting fed ad-lib, fatty foods or human foods
  4. Some breeds are more prone to weight gain (Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Dachsunds
  5. Sex and age - Females are more prone to weight gain, as are older pets
  6. Neutering - Neutered pets will require 30% less food once neutered

Problems related to Obesity

  1. Respiratory Disease
  2. Increased strain on the heart
  3. Increased risk of arthritis
  4. Increased risk of Diabetes Mellitus
  5. Higher risk if your pet requires a general anaesthetic
  6. Decreased quality of life