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Veterinary Health Care Assistant

Program Duration: 40 weeks

The Veterinary Health Care Assistant program fully prepares the successful student to provide a large number of clinical and administrative services in a range of animal care facilities. In this health care field, the animal is the patient and the animal’s owner is the client.

The multi-faceted work of the veterinary assistant spans the duties of the animal health technician and the veterinary office assistant. The veterinary assistant develops a set of skills that is useful to both clinical expertise and administrative skills in the veterinary practice. 

The pet care field is a growing industry where an increasing number of people choose pets as a part of their household.  An aging population adopt pets as companions, and animals can require as much care as their owners.

Admission Requirements

  • High school graduation or equivalent*, or mature student** status.
  • Criminal record check (in accordance with the Criminal Records Review Act).
  • Immunization report (form provided by college)

*From an English-language teaching institution
**19 years of age upon starting classes and Pass the college's admissions test

This program has been approved by the registrar of the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) of the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

Program Courses

BC-ORIENT - School and Program Orientation

Welcome back to school! This session welcomes you to the college, introduces you to your fellow classmates, faculty, and staff, reviews the policies and procedures related to your studies, and prepares the student for their learning experience.

BC-VHCA-ITC - Introduction to Technology
The Introduction to Technology course provides information and training for using the college’s learning management system, online library resources and electronic textbooks, and an introduction to the tablet technology and Microsoft Office 365 software suite. Throughout the VHCA program, students utilize technology (electronic books, online library, tablet/computers), use e-mail to communicate with instructors and submit assignments, internet for research and class activities, and use MS Office software to prepare letters and resumes, reports/assignments, and presentations. Multiple resources are provided during this course for students to read and practice their skills throughout the VHCA program, including a two week Introduction to Computers course.
BC-VHCA-PRD - Academic Success Strategies for Veterinary Assistants
The purpose of the Academic Success Strategies for Veterinary Assistants course is to optimize learning through equipping students with effective study techniques. This course also provides an introduction to personality styles that will be encountered in the workplace and allows students to practice appropriate and productive interaction between the various styles. Emphasis is placed on the types of communication that work best with each style in order to achieve a good working relationship and to manage and resolve conflicts that arise. Students are also introduced to strategies for setting personal goals, managing time, and managing the stress that results from study or work and builds on positive group dynamics and setting expectations for student success. Veterinary assistants often work with teams and clients in a variety of veterinary and animal welfare settings. Theory, practical exercises, and activities in this course attribute to these types of settings. During this course, students are introduced to their professional portfolio capstone project (AHP110-L). The project focuses on having an effective resume, job-related correspondence and materials, and real examples of their work and volunteer experience in the health care field. This project must be completed and submitted during CES4 – Career & Employment Strategies, at the end of the program.
ITC4 - Introduction to Computers
This course is a broad-based introduction to using a personal computer. It teaches the fundamentals of an operating system and the most popular application software including word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. You will also learn about the Internet, Web browsers, electronic mail and antivirus software. The course is based on the Windows 7 operating system, Microsoft office 2013 and a variety of popular software programs for the Internet-related and security-related applications
VA1014 - Mathematics for the Veterinary Setting
This one-week course provides applied math skills as they will be needed at the front desk of the veterinary practice as well as in the clinic area. Students learn to make mathematical and unit conversions with care and attention. At the front desk, the veterinary assistant may need to make business related calculations. Within the clinic, the assistant may be calculating pharmaceutical dosages for the animal’s treatment plan. Students will be given their mathematics learning activity capstone project (VA1014-L) that is required to be completed by the end of Term IV.
AHP100 - Veterinary Medical Terminology
Students learn the appropriate medical terminology including abbreviations associated with the body systems as well as the five senses. In addition to furthering the necessary language skills of the veterinary assistant, the course provides the foundation for communication in the areas of anesthesiology, surgery and radiology. In order to be effective in this, the assistant must have the knowledge and use of the correct terminology to communicate with veterinarians, animal health technicians, and other professionals in veterinary services.
AHP101 - Animal Anatomy and Physiology
The veterinary assistant must have a well-grounded command of the language of the profession. The Animal Anatomy and Physiology course focuses on that, and relates the anatomy, physiology to diagnosis; common pathology, injuries and treatment.
AHP110 - The Veterinary Profession and Health & Safety Practices
In this core course of the Veterinary Health Care Assistant program, students are guided to an understanding of the veterinary Industry including health and safety factors that must be recognized and respected in any environment that provides animal care services. Facility cleanliness and safety are the most obvious of these. The many other topics in this course include: educational requirements of veterinary team members and their appropriate responsibilities, an overview of relevant legislation and regulatory organizations is also given, emergency protocols, biologic, chemical, and physical hazards, fire prevention, and practices that contribute to the health of the animal care worker. An overview of relevant legislation and regulatory organizations is also given.
Canadian law requires that any person exposed to hazardous materials in the workplace must be trained in the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). This course has been developed to meet and exceed the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. WHMIS 2015 training includes the new Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling for chemicals (GHS), as well as WHMIS legislation introduced in 1988.
PD-SFA-CPRC - Standard First Aid with CPR ‘C’
This two-day course suited for the general public and workplace and meets first aid requirements for Canada Labour Code Standard First Aid, and Licenced Child and Adult Care Facilities. This course is suited for police, first responders, lifeguards, ski patrollers, caring citizens and families with children.
PD-CFA - DOGSAFE® Canine First Aid
This course is designed to teach you the knowledge and skills to deal with a sick or injured dog until veterinary care is available. What you do between when an injury happens and when veterinary care is available will greatly affect a dog’s chances of a full recovery. The topics are covered in-depth so that students have a thorough understanding of the principles of canine first aid. Since this is a very comprehensive course, the student’s full attention is necessary and dogs do not come to class.
AHP120 - Veterinary Office Reception Procedures I
This course develops and strengthens interpersonal communications skills that contribute to success in workplace environments. These are essential skills that are practiced throughout the course of each day and contribute to the smooth, effective functioning of the animal care practice. Students develop a practical- and vocation-oriented approach to effective and professional communication. In addition to verbal practice, the many communications skills that are addressed here include the use of technology to communicate professionally, careful listening, accurate writing, as well as locating and documenting information. The focus of this course is to give the student the basis on how to present themselves in a professional setting and conduct themselves with appropriate and ethical behavior. The student will learn about the ethical issues and guidelines relevant to the veterinary profession and how to resolve disagreements that may arise due to ethical belief. The student will also learn how to resolve conflict in the workplace, handle complaints and deal with the destructive nature of work place gossip and bullying. Students will be assigned tasks to create marketing materials for a veterinary business and client education.
VA1256 - Breed Identification and Breeding
This course provides the foundational knowledge for students to be able to identify the various breeds of cats and dogs. Additionally, it provides an overview of how breeding happens in animal breeding environments: consideration of all factors and procedures that will produce a genetically healthy and well-conformed animal that represents the best standard of the breed. Students will also be introduced to their life span development capstone project which involves focusing on the lifespan, development, and care for a specific breed of animal.
VA1005 - Animal Nursing and Clinical Care
As integral members of the nursing team, assistants provide quality compassionate care while providing basic nursing skills, including documenting medical history, taking and recording vital signs, conducting physical examinations and recognizing normal and abnormal small animal behaviour. Included in the basics are a collection of skills that the student can use in practicum and work: taking the medical history; determining and recording the vital signs; and conducting the physical examination. Students learn about blood pressure and its monitoring, TPRs [temperature, pulse, and respiration], medication administration, ear and eye cleaning and treatments, syringe feeding, animal husbandry, patient observation, and kennel care. The basics of observation and interpretation are a large component of this course. Quality grooming skills is an important contribution that the veterinary assistant makes to the animal care clinic and it promotes the health and comfort of the animal. Basic grooming refers to such procedures as bathing, brushing, cleaning ears, de-matting, expressing anal glands, shaving, and trimming nails.
AHP170 - Basics of Animal Behaviour and Restraint
One of the foundations of the successful veterinary clinic is employees who are able to manage a variety of tasks that are associated with the requirements of a number of breeds and species. This must be done in ways that are both effective and safe. The course focuses upon the types of animal behaviour for common species, common animal behaviour problems, and the potential for behaviour counseling to address the problems. Students begin an understanding of an animal’s territorial behaviour, its aggressive and defensive behaviours, as well as social and reproductive behaviours. During this course, students observe and understand animal behaviours to ensure the effectiveness of animal care and safety for facility staff as well as the animals. Good quality skills in animal handling and restraint promote safety for the animal care professional and equally important, reduces the level of stress for the animal patient. The student will learn the handling, restraint and transport of dogs, cats and other small animals with the emphasis on personal safety and for the purpose of recognizing and preventing aggression. Students will come to understand the types of restraint including verbal, physical, leash and other methods. Learn why the least restraint is sometimes the best restraint, and why the goal of restraint is to maintain control of the animal Note: Hands-on practice may be introduced during this course. Lab times and days may vary from normal classroom hours.
AHP180 - Animal Husbandry and Nutrition
Animal nutrition is an integral part of veterinary medicine. In this course, students will learn about the connections between illness, disease and nutrition. As part of the veterinary team, the assistant must be knowledgeable about healthy pet nutrition, specific dietary requirements, and recovering patient nutrition. The veterinary assistant must understand the principles of nutrition for the small animal’s life stages, the importance of good nutrition, and the major nutrient components of the list of ingredients. Students learn to develop prescription or specialty diets for different species, as well as methods of feeding and the link between nutrition and therapy.
AHP220 - Veterinary Office Reception Procedures II
The focus of this one-week course is the proper handling of client records to ensure accurate and efficient billing of services, records management, and ultimately, the success of the business due to proper patient care. Students acquire knowledge and understanding in many skill areas, largely focused on the administrative front end of the practice. This includes reception, appointment scheduling and correspondence, medical and financial procedures and record keeping. The veterinary assistant sometimes requires some measures of grief management; the student will be coached on the core skills required at particularly difficult times. The course provides guidance in ways that the veterinary assistant can manage the difficult client and provide counseling to clients who experience the loss of a pet.
VA2005 - Animal Nursing and Clinical Care II
This course provides an advanced focus on nursing care and emergency protocols. Basics of emergency monitoring are also covered in this course; protocols often involve wound management (learning about triage and emergency readiness, common emergency preparations, chemical/physical disorders, types of wounds, including caring and healing). Students will demonstrate their knowledge of bandages, casts, and slings; use of fluid of therapy; and other vital therapeutic techniques.
VA2204 - Veterinary Dentistry
This course focuses on developing skills to assist in dentistry. Students will become familiar with the anatomy and basic terminology pertaining to the oral cavity and learn basic dental pathology, prevention, and treatment options.
VA3504 - Diagnostic Imaging
Various equipment and tools are using in diagnosing various illnesses and injuries in animals. From guest equipment salespersons demonstrating in class to visits to clinics, hospitals, and other facilities, students learn the various types of diagnostic imaging occurring in the profession including the basic procedures and practice with x-ray equipment, ultrasonography, MRIs, and others.
AHP280 - Veterinary Pharmacology and Pharmacy
This course focuses on the safe handling and dispensing of pharmaceutical products, an indispensable function of the veterinary clinic. Students are introduced to the organization of a pharmacy and its inventory maintenance. Students become familiar with the terminology associated with common veterinary pharmaceuticals, the classifications of drugs, indications and contra-indications, and routes of administration. It is important that students are prepared to produce accurate information to clients and to practice safe pharmaceutical dispensing protocols. Students will be assigned their pharmacology / prescriptions learning activity capstone project.
AHP251 - Surgical Preparation and Assisting
This course is focused on the surgery unit in the veterinary clinic or hospital. Students learn patient preparation, support anesthetic monitoring, and nursing care in the surgical environment. Students also acquire knowledge of aseptic techniques associated with the maintenance of the surgical suite; this includes the preparation and care of surgical packs. Students develop knowledge of instrument identification, including: gloving, aseptic prepping of the surgeon. Veterinary anesthesia, including sedation, induction, maintenance, and monitoring is also included. A field trip to a surgical facility is an important element of this course.
AHP252 - Clinical Laboratory Procedures
This course is focused on the laboratory located either in the veterinary clinic or other specialized labs. The course includes instruction for the safe handling and preparation of biological samples for laboratory analysis by the technician or veterinarian. A field trip to an animal diagnostic lab may be given to enhance students’ learning.
VA2026 - Pathology, Wellness, and Preventative Medicine
This course describes the pathology practiced in veterinary medicine, allowing students to recognize the common diseases and conditions inflicted upon pets and other animals. Students also are shown how to recognize these conditions, including comparative study with healthy animals and distinguishing them from the unhealthy. Client education and animal wellness programs are also discussed and students are given assignments to develop programs and literature. During this course, students will learn some of the causes of illness and disease, clinical signs, their treatment, and prevention. In addition, students are taught to identify the different types of vaccines and to understand the need for vaccine schedules. The course also introduces the causes of illness and disease. It explores the differentiation among bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi – as well as the modes of disease transmission.
VA3404 - Parasitology
This course emphasizes the most common parasites and other internal/external viruses and bacteria. Students identify various specimens both using diagrams and under a microscope.
AWP300 - Animal Welfare Practices
Issues surrounding animal abuse are addressed in this course. Field trips to animal shelters and refuges will enhance understanding for the student. Guest speakers may also be utilized to present content on food and nutrition and other animal care products. Community events such as nutrition education information sessions for the public and pet visitation activities to various groups may also occur during this course. Topics surrounding alternative and complementary medicine will also be introduced, such as acupuncture, herbology, and aromatherapy. Students will be introduced to their poster presentation capstone project by the end of Term I, which involves students researching and presenting a current topic or issue in the field of animal health and welfare. The presentations are presented during this course.
AHP199 - Veterinary Practice Education
Following completion of all of the classroom courses in the program, the student is ready to complete the program in a veterinary environment. This practicum course allows the veterinary sciences profession to confirm the skills and competencies of the student. At the end of this practicum, students will hold a poster presentation and information session on various professions and work settings in the animal health care field.
CES4 - Career & Employment Strategies

This course looks at the planning, preparation, execution, and follow-up stages of an interview: how people find jobs; employer expectations; presenting an enthusiastic attitude; focusing on the right job; transferable skills; the job interview; effective resume preparation; cover and thank you letters; effective telemarketing; tapping the hidden job market; handling objections; job search management; self-confidence and self-esteem building; mock interviews (video-taped); and individual counselling and coaching.

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