What Does a Veterinary Anesthesiologist Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Veterinary anesthesiologists are veterinarians who provide sedation and pain management for animals during surgical procedures and diagnostic tests. Because animals react differently to certain procedures than humans do — in that they may not be very cooperative with diagnostic or therapeutic procedures — anesthesia is administered in a broader range of instances, making an anesthesiologist's job that much more important.
Veterinary Anesthesiologist Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Evaluate patients before treatment.
- Develop a sedation plan.
- Administer anesthesia and other pain relief agents.
- Give fluids.
- Monitor vital signs, using specialized equipment.
- Update medical charts.
- Supervise veterinary technicians and support staff.
Veterinary anesthesiologists assist during any medical procedures that require animals to be sedated. For pets, this can be for procedures as seemingly routine as teeth cleanings or as serious as major surgery. They evaluate animals before procedures, administer anesthesia, and monitor the patients throughout.
Veterinary anesthesiologists involved in academia may have additional duties and responsibilities such as giving lectures, advising students, supervising laboratory sessions and hands-on training activities, administering exams, working in university teaching hospitals, and supervising students who are participating in a veterinary anesthesiology residency.
Some veterinary anesthesiologists also are involved in conducting and publishing anesthesiology-related research, providing continuing education programs for vets or vet techs, giving client education lectures, or making equipment purchase recommendations to veterinary clinics and private practitioners.
Veterinary Anesthesiologist Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not separate veterinary specialties into individual statistical groups. As board-certified specialists, veterinary anesthesiologists can expect to earn higher end salaries among what all veterinarians make.
- Median Annual Salary: $93,830 ($45.11/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $162,450 ($78.10/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $56,540 ($27.18/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training, & Certification
Veterinary anesthesiologists must first become licensed doctors of veterinary medicine (D.V.M.) before seeking additional specialty training in the field of anesthesiology.
- Education: Admission to a college of veterinary medicine requires a bachelor’s degree, preferably in an area such as biology or zoology. Most veterinarian school programs take about four years to complete.
- Certification: The American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA) is responsible for administering both the written and oral components of the certifying exam for anesthesiology board certification in the United States.
- Training: Candidates for board certification must complete at least three years of veterinary anesthesiology work (including a residency) in addition to having at least one year of additional experience working in general clinical practice. They must also publish at least one study relating to the field of veterinary anesthesiology in a professional journal and submit a well-documented case log before being considered eligible to sit for the board certification exam. Residencies for veterinary anesthesiology are available at many U.S. schools.
Veterinary Anesthesiologist Skills & Competencies
In addition to the training and experience necessary to be a veterinarian, there are some soft skills that can help a veterinary anesthesiologist succeed at the job.
- Communication: Veterinary anesthesiologists need to function as part of a team. They need to communicate with the veterinarian performing a procedure about the animal during the procedure and before the procedure.
- Critical and analytical thinking: Animals cannot communicate on the same level as human patients, so often there is no more information to go on than what veterinary anesthesiologists might see in images. In addition to diagnosing the problem, they have to consider how it impacts the animal.
- Problem-solving: Procedures do not always go as planned. Veterinary anesthesiologists need to adapt and address problems as they arise.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the entire veterinary profession to grow at a rate of approximately 19% over the decade ending in 2026, nearly three times the 7% rate projected for all professions.
The majority of board-certified veterinary anesthesiologists are employed by veterinary teaching hospitals at universities, but they may also opt to work in private practice. Private practice employers may include small animal hospitals, large animal hospitals, and emergency clinics.
Some veterinary anesthesiologists also specialize further by offering anesthesiology services exclusively for small animals or exclusively for large animals.
Work generally takes place during standard business hours. Veterinary anesthesiologists need to be available for emergency procedures if working in an emergency clinic or for a practice that sees patients for emergencies.
How to Get the Job
Apply directly with practices and clinics or review veterinary-specific jobs boards such as the American Veterinary Medical Association career center.
Admission to a college of veterinary medicine can be competitive. Know what to expect.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in being a veterinary anesthesiologist also might consider one of the following career paths, listed with median annual salaries:
- Veterinarian Technologist and Technician: $34,420
- Physician or surgeon: $208,000
- Diagnostic Medical Technologist and Technician: $65,620
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018