A registered California veterinary technician for the last 30 years, Gorham has picked up countless tricks of the trade from her schooling at Mesa College and from her bosses at several area animal hospitals. She’s also been a groomer and has a network of friends among pet sitters and dog walkers, whose jobs she calls “very important to the animal's health.”
And now that she’s hung her shingle under the name Tech Pet Care, the Ocean Beach resident wants neighbors to know that there’s a difference between the roles of a sitter or a groomer and that of a caretaker. It's one thing to provide kennel and companionship and transport services for dogs and cats, she said (see techpetcare.com or call (619) 807-5376 for the particulars and prices) — but Gorham’s technical expertise, which ranges from emergency hospital care to obedience training, raises the level of that care, perhaps revealing a medical issue that a veterinarian wouldn’t otherwise see.
“There are a lot of people who still leave their animals with the vet when they go on vacation when they could leave them with me,” said Gorham, herself a dog owner. “And if the animals stay at my house, I can wash them and clean their teeth, but I’m also more than just a pet-sitter. I can give sort of a cursory exam. I bring a stethoscope with me when I go to the owners’ homes just so I can give them an idea of how the animal is doing. I can take a weight, inspect their mouths, their glands and I can encourage the owner. If they brush their animal’s teeth, if they comb their hair, if they keep the fleas away, they’re going to have a healthier animal” — and thus give the pet the best line of defense prior to an exam.
California's registered veterinary technicians are required to complete a two-year associate’s degree program at a college accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association or have accumulated 4,416 hours of practice in 24 months under a veterinarian’s supervision. They must also pass a state-administered examination and submit to a criminal background check, at which time they’re issued a license to practice, renewable every two years. Locally, Chula Vista’s Pima Medical Institute offers the study program.
California Veterinary Medical Board regulations state that registered techs cannot diagnose, prognose, perform surgery, prescribe drugs or dispense appliances. Under indirect supervision, they may treat burns, apply tourniquets, resuscitate animals, run bloodwork and administer controlled substances; under closer oversight, they can induce anesthesia, insert catheters, apply casts and splints and perform dental extractions.
And as savvy animal people, they can dispense practical advice that may escape the pet-sitting community. So-called extreme sports for animals are an explicit “no-no” unless the animal is accustomed to it or unless the human brings a stroller. Every time an animal chews on itself, it may be introducing disease-causing bacteria.
“I just wonder,” Gorham said, “how much of that stuff the pet-sitters know.”
Meanwhile, Gorham is content to run a one-person operation as “a glorified pet-sitter,” sensing a need for ancillary medical services in what she calls an excellent local pet owner community. San Diego does boast many acclaimed care resources, from corporate giants like PETCO to noted pet behaviorists to the San Diego Humane Society and the Helen Woodward Animal Center. The glut prompts Gorham’s note of concern about saturation of the marketplace.
“You never really know,” she said of her venture, “how many people are doing what you’re doing until you start doing it.”
But amid the chronic shortage of veterinarians, it stands to reason that techs are in short supply too — and that makes Tech Pet Care all the more potentially valuable a community asset.