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What Tools Do Veterinarians Use? Our Vet Walks You Through

Bynewsmagzines

Mar 17, 2023
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Dr. Sharon Butzke Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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General practice veterinarians offer a wide range of services for their patients, often all under one roof.

These may include:

  • General medicine
  • Laboratory testing
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Anesthesia and surgery
  • Dental services
  • Dispensing pharmacy
  • Weight management
  • Puppy socialization classes and training
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Boarding

As a result, veterinarians need a lot of specialized equipment in order to do their job! Some veterinary tools have been around for a long time while others are brand-new, cutting-edge technologies.

The following lists are certainly not exhaustive but include many of the common tools used by small animal veterinarians in 2023. They are organized by where in the clinic they are likely to be found.

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The 69 Tools Veterinarians Use (Organized by Clinic Room)

1. The Examination Room

In a typical small animal examination room, you are likely to find many of the following items:

  • 1. Weigh scale
  • 2. Thermometer
  • 3. Stethoscope
  • 4. Reflex hammer
  • 5. Otoscope (for looking in ears)
  • 6. Ophthalmoscope (for examining eyes)
  • 7. Nail trimmers (variety of sizes and styles)
  • 8. Pheromone diffuser to help pets feel calm
  • 9. Refrigerator (for storing vaccines, medications, and yummy food treats to help your pet have a fear-free experience)
  • 10. Computer (for reviewing medical records, typing notes)

It is important to mention that, in addition to those listed above, some of the most important tools a veterinarian uses (regardless of the species they treat) are their own eyes, ears, and hands. Vets closely observe each patient, listen to their heart and lungs, feel all over their body for “lumps and bumps,” and palpate their abdomen for any abnormalities. The value of a thorough physical examination should never be underestimated!

New Technology

Some veterinarians have upgraded versions of the tools listed above, for example:

  • 11. Electronic stethoscope: reduces ambient noise and amplifies heart sounds; compatible with cochlear implants and hearing aids
  • 12. Wireless digital stethoscope: option to listen wirelessly via Bluetooth technology and record heart sounds to share with owners (or send to a cardiologist for a second opinion, if needed); some apps can even detect heart murmurs automatically
  • 13. Video otoscope: displays images on a screen so the veterinarian can get a better view inside the ear (interested pet parents can look too!); for patients under general anesthesia, special attachments can be used to remove debris and flush the ear canal

2. The Treatment Area

The treatment area is where a lot of the action happens in veterinary hospitals. Wounds are clipped and cleaned, bandages applied, nails trimmed, blood and urine samples collected, intravenous (IV) fluids started, and patients may even be prepped for surgery (the final sterile prep occurs in the surgery suite).

Some of the tools you might find in a small animal treatment area include:

  • 14. Electric hair clippers
  • 15. Nail trimmers (variety of sizes and styles)
  • 16. Splints, bandage scissors, and bandaging materials
  • 17. Needles and syringes
  • 18. Laryngoscopes (used for intubating patients)
  • 19. Blood pressure machine(s)
  • 20. Intravenous (IV) fluid pumps
  • 21. Syringe pumps for continuous-rate-infusions (CRIs) of certain medications
  • 22. Autoclave for sterilizing surgical gowns, drapes, and instruments
  • 23. Portable anesthetic machines

New Technology

More and more clinics are incorporating light therapies into their practice, including laser therapy and fluorescence biomodulation:

Laser Therapy

Therapeutic lasers utilize red (to almost infrared) light to reduce inflammation, decrease pain, and stimulate healing. They are helpful in treating a wide variety of conditions, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Tendon and ligament injuries
  • Wounds (including surgical incisions)

Many pets tolerate laser therapy extremely well because it does not cause any discomfort (it produces a gentle warming sensation). The hardest part is often keeping patients still for the 15- to 30-minute treatments! In some cases, your pet’s fur may be shaved at the treatment site so light can be transmitted into the tissue more effectively.

It is important to note that special protective glasses/goggles must be worn by everyone in the room during laser therapy sessions, to prevent retinal damage.

Fluorescence biomodulation

Vetoquinol’s Phovia system uses blue LED light to activate a special gel applied to the area being treated. Blue light does not penetrate deeply into tissue like red light, so it is used to treat superficial conditions.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • The technology is extremely safe and easy to use
  • Treatment times are short (two minutes per site)
  • It improves wound healing
  • So far it has shown to be helpful in treating skin infections, perianal fistula, and interdigital furunculosis (cysts) in dogs
cat blood test
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

3. The Laboratory

Many veterinary clinics have equipment for analyzing blood and urine samples in-house. Results are often available in less than an hour, which helps veterinarians figure out what is going on with their patients quickly.

Tools found in the lab of a typical veterinary clinic may include:

  • 24. Centrifuge for spinning samples
  • 25 Refractometer (measures urine specific gravity and serum/plasma protein)
  • 26.Automated blood and urine analyzers
  • 27. Microscope
  • 28. Glucometer (for quick blood sugar measurements)
  • 29. SNAP tests (e.g., for canine parvovirus, heartworm infection, tick-borne diseases, and pancreatitis)
  • 30. Variety of special tubes and sample containers
  • 31. Culture plates for bacterial culture and sensitivity testing

For certain tests, your veterinarian may still need to send samples to an outside diagnostic laboratory.


4. Diagnostic Imaging Room

The room containing a veterinary hospital’s x-ray machine is always separated from the rest of the building by lead walls, to protect staff and patients from unnecessary radiation exposure.

The tools commonly found in this room include:

  • 32. X-ray machine (most are digital now)
  • 33. Lead gowns, gloves, and thyroid protectors for staff
  • 34. Dosimeters (one for each employee) to measure radiation so each staff member’s exposure can be monitored over time
  • 35. Foam pads and troughs for patient comfort and positioning
  • 36. Calipers for measuring patients (to determine x-ray machine settings)
  • 37. Computer for viewing digital x-rays
  • 38. Ultrasound machine (often portable)

Although more commonly found at specialty referral hospitals, some general practice veterinarians are starting to offer advanced imaging technologies like:

vet examining dog's x-ray
Image Credit: GoodFocused, Shutterstock

5. The Surgery Suite

Surgical Tools

A typical small animal hospital is equipped to handle routine and emergency soft-tissue surgeries.

The following items are necessities in any surgical suite:

  • 39. Adjustable stainless steel table(s)
  • 40. Bright, maneuverable lights
  • 41. Surgical gowns, caps, gloves, towels, and drapes
  • 42. Surgical instruments (e.g., scalpels, scissors, forceps, clamps, needle drivers)
  • 43. Variety of suture materials, surgical staplers for closing incisions
  • 44. Headlamps and loupes (special glasses) for improved visualization and magnification
  • 45. Orthopedic drills, saws, and bone implants (e.g., pins, plates, screws)
  • 46. Endoscope
  • 47. Electro-cautery unit
  • 48. Surgical CO2 laser
  • 49. Cryosurgical unit

Anesthetic Tools

The following equipment is also found in veterinary surgery suites, but relates to general anesthesia:

  • 50. Endotracheal tubes
  • 51. Anesthetic machines
  • 52. Special probes for continuous temperature monitoring
  • 53. Patient warming equipment (e.g., electric heating pads, Bair HuggerTM)
  • 54. Pulse oximeter (measures blood oxygen saturation)
  • 55. Capnograph (measures the amount of carbon dioxide the patient is breathing out)
  • 56. Electrocardiogram (ECG) machine
  • 57. Blood pressure monitoring equipment

Some clinics (particularly emergency and referral hospitals) also have advanced life-support equipment like ventilators.

New Technology

Minimally invasive surgery is becoming increasingly popular and accessible in veterinary medicine. This type of surgery uses cameras and special tools passed through multiple small incisions, rather than one large incision into the abdomen or chest.

Advantages of minimally invasive surgery include:

  • Less pain
  • Reduced bleeding
  • Faster procedure time (which means less time under general anesthesia)
  • Shorter recovery after surgery
  • Decreased risk of incision complications

Some examples of procedures that can be performed using this technique are:

  • Spay
  • Gastropexy (tacking the stomach to prevent GDV in dogs)
  • Collecting biopsies from internal organs
  • Removal of bladder stones
  • Arthroscopy (scoping a joint)
  • Some types of heart and lung surgery

If you are interested in pursuing minimally invasive surgery for your pet, make sure to choose a veterinarian who has a lot of experience with this technique.

It is also important to note that in some cases, the veterinarian may need to change the plan and switch to a more traditional surgical approach if complications arise during the procedure.


6. The Dental Suite

A dental suite has many similarities to a surgical suite:

  • 58. Stainless steel table (usually topped with a grate over a sink to catch water from the procedure)
  • 59. Bright, maneuverable lights
  • 60. Chairs with wheels for the veterinarian and technician
  • 61. Laryngoscope and endotracheal tubes
  • 62. Anesthetic machine(s)
  • 63. Variety of suture materials

Dental suites also have all the same equipment as surgical suites for monitoring patients under general anesthesia (see previous list). Patients are always intubated during dental procedures, with extra gauze at the back of their mouth, to prevent them from inhaling water.

Some of the specialized equipment found in a veterinary dental suite includes:

  • 64. Ultrasonic scalers and polishers (similar to those used by human dentists)
  • 65. Dental instruments (cleaned and sterilized between patients)
  • 66. Dental x-ray machine (most are digital now)
  • 67. Computer for viewing digital x-rays
  • 68. Dental charts for documenting the procedure
  • 69. Headlamps and loupes (special glasses) for improved visualization and magnification

It is important to note that all dental procedures for pets should be performed under general anesthesia and supervised by a qualified veterinary team.

While you may see anesthetic-free dental cleanings advertised, please note that the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) considers them to be unacceptable. These procedures can be traumatizing for pets, fail to provide thorough cleaning (especially below the gum line), and do not allow for dental x-rays to be taken (which are a critical part of evaluating dental health).

The idea of putting your pet under general anesthesia can be scary, but your veterinary team will do everything they can to keep your fur baby safe. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pet’s dental health.

examining rabbit's teeth at veterinary clinic
Image Credit: sirtravelalot, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Veterinary hospitals require a great deal of equipment to be able to provide pets with comprehensive care. This article has focused on the tools used by small animal veterinarians in general practice. Large animal veterinarians use very similar items, but adapted to the size and anatomy of the patients they treat.

In addition to the tools we have mentioned, referral veterinarians (e.g., cardiologists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists) will have special equipment related to the unique procedures they perform.

Above all, veterinarians rely on their knowledge, experience, and love of animals to provide you and your fur babies with the best care possible!


Featured Image Credit: Mikhail Nilov, Pexels

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