What does an Animal Care Assistant do?

Susan Grindstaff

An animal care assistant usually has a wide range of job responsibilities. Often considered an entry-level position in a veterinary office or kennel, many of the duties are janitorial. In addition to cleaning the pets and their kennels, an animal care assistant is typically required to feed and water animals, see to their exercise, and sometimes administer medication.

Animal care assistants are responsible for cleaning cages.
Animal care assistants are responsible for cleaning cages.

In many cases, an animal care assistant also works with the veterinarian inside the clinic. They may help hold the animals still while examinations are performed. Prior to the examination, they may perform routine diagnostics such as weighing and taking body temperature. The information obtained during these diagnostics is typically recorded and then handed off to the veterinarian.

Animal care assistants help licensed veterinarians in examining and treating animals.
Animal care assistants help licensed veterinarians in examining and treating animals.

Feeding of the animals is usually one of the more time consuming tasks often assigned to an animal care assistant. This is because, in many cases, animals that are kenneled may have very different diets, especially if some of them are ill. Different serving sizes and different foods may be needed for all of the animals being housed. During this time, medications are usually dispensed.

Most of the time, an animal care assistant is required to exercise animals being kenneled. Depending on the type of animal, this could include a leisurely walk or moving them to a running lot for more vigorous exercise. While the animals are outside their cages, another assistant is usually cleaning empty cages. Animals that are kenneled are often under a great deal of stress, and caregivers are expected to play and interact with them as much as possible in order to make them feel more comfortable.

In most veterinary clinics or kennels, cage cleaning is typically performed twice per day. This usually includes hosing down the area and removing any animal feces or leftover foods. If the cage has bedding or straw, this is normally changed during cleaning. Depending on circumstances and the particular illness of the animal, an assistant may also be required to administer baths. This could include a full body wash or cleaning and treating wounds.

Ideally, an animal assistant should be someone who loves animals and enjoys working with them. The work is often very difficult, and requires a great deal of dedication. In many cases, people who work in these positions do so as volunteers. The average salary for an animal care assistant in the United States (US) is about $36,000 US dollars (USD).

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Discussion Comments


@indigomoth - It is sad when an animal has to be put down, but honestly, people get used to it when they work with animals. We had a farm when I was a teenager and even I was surprised at how quickly I got used to the occasional death among our livestock.

It's not something you should take for granted, of course, but most people won't constantly go to pieces whenever it happens.


@croydon - It depends on where you live. I'm sure there are towns where animal care assistant jobs are relatively common. Probably not so much in big cities, but in areas where there is plenty of farmland around and not so many people I'm sure there are more than a few jobs with animals available.

I do think that a lot of young people have a romantic notion that they will mostly be patting cute cats and dogs and have no idea what the real work will be like. I mean, aside from the fact that it is difficult (and smelly!) you will also have to deal with animals that have mistreated and animals which may have to be put down. Few animal lovers will be able to handle that on a regular basis.


In my experience you usually have to have a diploma or a degree to get this kind of job. Animal care jobs are in pretty high demand, because so many people like working with animals.

Unless you are willing to work really hard at doing this as a career, I would recommend that people volunteer at their local animal shelter, rather than hoping they will get paid for this work.

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