There are no stand-alone degree programs in doggie dietetics; however, canine nutrition is part of the curriculum studied in associate's degree programs for veterinary technicians, which are fairly common. These programs are available through in-class or online hybrid formats, and usually result in an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology. Students learn about nutrition through a variety of related courses such as animal anatomy, health and disease, veterinary nursing, and others. In-person requirements may include lab sessions, practicum or internships. Applicants to these programs will need high school coursework and some work experience.
Most states request that vet techs graduate from a program accredited by the American or Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Credentialing exams and licensing regulations vary by state. Even still, a passing grade on the Veterinary Technician National Examination is a common necessity before working as a vet tech in most states.
This article explores online associate's degree programs for veterinary technicians.
Vet Tech Associate's Degree
As stated earlier, canine nutrition is part of a veterinary technician training program. Students also study related sciences such as biology, chemistry and pathology. These online associate's degree programs generally require a clinical mentorship or internship. This is necessary to meet state licensure requirements, and most employers of veterinary technician's prefer to hire graduates of an accredited associate's degree program including both didactic and clinical laboratory coursework. Prerequisites may include work in an animal care setting and high school coursework in science and math. Graduates are awarded an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree.
Information and Requirements
These programs generally take two to three years to complete, and some schools require completion within four years. Students complete some of the courses entirely online, while others (especially labs or practicums) require in-person attendance. Some students work in veterinary hospitals or other animal care settings to fulfill internship requirements.
All students must have access to the Internet to participate. Online classes are accessed via a personal computer, and some schools require Windows applications. Library resources are also typically available online. Specific hardware, memory, performance and software requirements vary by school.
Online courses in vet tech programs cover the nutrition requirements for a variety of animals, including dogs. In addition to that, students learn about microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology. Some common class topics are outlined below.
Anatomy of Animals
This class covers the study of all major body systems in domestic animals, their similarities and differences. Students learn about organ systems, skeletons and musculature.
Physiology of Animals
Students study the physiological processes, systems and diseases in domestic animals. Topics emphasized include metabolism of cells, tissues, blood, reflexes and senses, as well as the nervous, muscular, cardiovascular, skeletal, digestive and respiratory systems.
Animal diseases are explored in this class along with signs, prevention, diagnosis and treatment options. The course also covers healing processes, vaccinations and immunological responses. Canine, equine, porcine, ovine and bovine diseases are some types included in the curriculum.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups veterinary technicians with veterinary technologists in compiling and reporting occupational statistics (www.bls.gov). The two jobs are very similar; however, technologists typically hold a bachelor's degree, while technicians hold an associate's. According to the BLS, jobs for technicians and technologists will grow by 19 percent between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the 7 percent average growth rate for all occupations.
The better-than-average job outlook for vet technicians and technologists is attributed to a couple of things. According to the BLS, pet owners are increasingly demanding more complex vet care for their pets. In addition to that, more and more veterinarians are expected to replace lower-skilled assistants with technicians and technologists. As of May 2015, the median salary for vet technicians and technicians was $31,800, reported the BLS.
Meanwhile, veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers earned a median annual wage of $24,360 (www.bls.gov). High occupational turnover is common for assistants, providing a steady flow of opportunities for these workers, reported the BLS. The job growth rate for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is a faster-than-average 9 percent for the reporting period, 2014-2024.
Further education in canine nutrition and veterinary medicine is available through bachelor's and master's degree programs in veterinary medicine or animal science. Students who wish to practice as full-fledged veterinarians can pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. These programs are rarely available online.
Students interested in canine nutrition can pursue an online Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology, which may still include some in-person requirements. Graduates will have studied concepts like animal disease and anatomy to prepare for careers as veterinary assistants, technicians or technologists.