From Keeper to Veterinary Technician (3 weeks)

By Alison Mott, Zoo keeper/ Veterinary Technician

I have been a Zoo keeper for 4 years and have worked here at the Sacramento Zoo for the last 2 1/2. I also have my veterinary technician certification and have worked in our veterinary hospital on occasion, so when our resident vet tech had to go on medical leave I was able to fill her shoes for a few weeks.


A typical keeper day starts out a lot like a typical veterinary technician day. Check on the animals in your care and prepare their diets. One big difference is that as a keeper I was taking care of many animals in one day. Now I am taking care of only one. Our new Red river hog, who is going through his quarantine period before he is placed in his new exhibit. If you ever stop by the hospital and see us wearing purple scrubs then you will know that we are working with an animal that is in quarantine.

From there my days are very different and are never the same. I have to get the hospital ready for the day’s procedures. So far one of the animal procedures I assisted with is our North American river otter annual exams. We start by putting them to sleep. They have sharp teeth and they know how to use them, so for our safety and theirs we work on them while they sleep. We do an all over check, their fur, eyes, teeth, ears, feet and so on. We will draw blood and take x-rays. I monitor the Otter and the anesthesia during the procedure and help out whenever the veterinarian needs me. After everything is done the otter wakes up in their crate and later that morning is taken back to their exhibit.

Some mornings include going around the Zoo and checking on animals that have been seen by the veterinarian. Sometimes I help give medication to these animals, other times it’s just to stop by and see how they are doing.

The afternoons are usually busy with laboratory work. You may see me running blood through our chemistry machine or using a microscope to look for parasites in fecal samples. This is all very important to help keep the animals here healthy.


Ask our front gate staff is an animal exam is scheduled on the day of your visit or peek into the viewing windows at the vet hospital.
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