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What Tools Do Veterinarians Use

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Gold medalist veterinary student from UVAS Lahore writes captivating articles and is passionate about animal care.
Published on
Monday 17 August 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
what tools do veterinarians use
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Being a prospective veterinarian, your profession is highly specialized and requires specific instruments. Just like with any other profession, there are specific “must-have” pieces of equipment you need to run an efficient veterinary clinic. So what tools do veterinarians use? And why does every vet need them?

Whether you’re looking to become a veterinarian or are a curious pet owner, here’s a list of the most essential tools for any clinic!

Tools Used by Vets for Basic Consultations

When asking what tools does a veterinarian use, it’s important not to overlook those used in basic consultations! Here, we list just a few of the most common tools in mixed-species practices.


A veterinary speculum is a tool for investigating body orifices such as the ears, nasal cavities, or vagina. Speculums can be disposable or made with medical grade stainless steel. By using fiber-optic lights, the speculum focuses light on surgical areas without compromising the field of vision. This also allows for closer inspection of the true tissue color. Speculums also help a vet to investigate the mouth of large ruminants. An oral speculum holds the mouth open for intubation or to look for any abnormalities in the mouth.

Nail Clippers

Nail clippers are tools for efficiently trimming animals’ nails. Dogs, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and other small pets need to have their nails trimmed regularly to avoid overgrowth. Good nail clippers will allow you to trim the nail in one swift motion below the quick. However, there are some situations wherein owners might be hesitant to trim their pet’s nails at home.

Pets with black nails, extremely long nails, anxiety towards nail clippers, or aggressive behavior might benefit from a trip to the vet to get their nails trimmed professionally. There are different nail clippers for different species and your vet should carry several types. For example, rabbits have round nails and consequently need clippers with a rounded edge. Your vet might also carry scissor clippers, guillotine clippers, and dog nail grinders. Basically, most vets have a grooming kit available at all times!

Hoof Grinders

Hoof grinding discs are essential for cattle, goats, and horses. These hoof grinding discs grind the bottom of the hoof as well as between the toes if necessary. A coarse rasp puts an extra-fine finish on the hoof or to smooth out flaky or dead sole. A fine rasp, on the other hand, trims a miniature or juvenile hoof, making the process less invasive for younger animals. But why does a vet need to use a hoof grinder?

Overgrown hooves cause serious discomfort and lameness in horses. Regular trimming helps to prevent this uncomfortable problem. Similarly, cattle suffering from overgrown hooves can face lameness and difficulty standing up. To prevent overgrowth, it’s common practice to trim the hooves twice yearly. However, some farmers will call in a professional hoof trimmer rather than using their own facilities or calling a vet. Some farmers work in collaboration with a hoof trimmer and a vet for the highest standard of hoof care.

Ear Syringes

An ear syringe is a medical instrument for carrying out ear irrigation on your pet. This procedure is done to treat severe ear infections like otitis externa or ear mite infestations. Using the syringe, sterile isotonic saline solution flushes into the ear to remove wax. Your vet may use a syringe made of stainless steel or plastic for the procedure. Depending on the size of the animal, your vet will have differently sized ear syringes for the job.

ear syringe for pets
Ear syringes are used for severe ear infections.


Dehorners for sheep, cattle, and goats can be powered by electricity or gas. If the dehorner is the correct size, the burner makes a complete ring around the horn’s base. This method is bloodless but requires the use of local anesthetic and sedatives. A hydraulic dehorner, on the other hand, physically shears a horn close to the skull.

Portable Ultrasound Scanner

When asking what tools does a veterinarian use, one of the most common answers is the ultrasound scanner. Ultrasound scanners provide high-quality abdominal and cardiac imaging for small animals, farm animals, and equine practices. Portable ultrasound scanners in particular are ideal for busy veterinary practices, or for those who attend calls on farms. There’s a lot of variation in the market for portable ultrasound scanners. Some are touchscreen and handheld, while others include a keyboard as well as a screen.

Veterinarian Tools for Surgical Operations

When taking your pet for surgery, it’s understandable to ask yourself, “what tools do veterinarians use?” Here, we explain what these tools are and how they help your pet to get better as quickly as possible.

Surgical Clamps

Surgical clamps and forceps are surgical instruments for holding tissue or securing surgical swabs. Depending on the use, forceps are divisible into two groups: traumatic and atraumatic. Traumatic forceps crush tissue, whereas atraumatic forceps preserve tissue. Surgical forceps can also be disposable or non-disposable. Non-disposable surgical forceps are commonly made with carbon steel or stainless steel alloys. During surgery, your vet might use artery forceps, mosquito forceps, or intestinal forceps to work with your pet.


Most orthopedic procedures involve the use of saw blades. Orthopedic saws are common tools for arthroplasty or osteotomy for cutting bone. Adjustable bone saws allow for finer techniques in delicate surgeries, such as those to relieve conditions like luxating patella, hip dysplasia, or severe osteoarthritis. Small bone saws typically contain stainless steel with chrome plating to prevent rust. The most popular bone saws for amputation are the Gigli and Satterlee. Gigli saws are useful for amputation work, as its flexibility allows for smooth cuts. Satterlee saws have a large and sturdy blade, making it suited to sawing through large bones.


A catheter is a thin tube fed into a body cavity, duct, or vessel. When inserted, catheters allow for drainage or administration of fluids or gases. In most cases, catheters are thin and flexible but vary in stiffness depending on what they’re for. But what are their applications?

catheter for dogs
Veterinarians use catheters to administer fluids.

Peripheral indwelling IV catheters are commonly fed into the cephalic vein of dogs and cats. This type is commonly for administering drugs and fluid therapy directly to the venous system. Indwelling urinary catheters are commonly brought in for the treatment of acute kidney injury in dogs and cats. They also empty the bladder before surgery and prevent urine contamination of the surgical area.

Electric Razors

Razors are essential for pre-operational surgery, typically to prepare for the insertion of an IV catheter. Most vets will use electric clippers, although some will use curved scissors to reduce noise which can help more sensitive pets.

But why is this done? Shaving around the site gives a clear visual of where the vein is. As well as this, it prevents hair from falling into the insertion site. Pet hair can carry bacteria that can infect the insertion site.

Snook Hooks

Snook hooks, also called spay hooks, are surgical instruments for spaying animals. This hook is made with a blunt end that retrieves the uterine horns. To use the hook, a vet will retract the abdominal wall with forceps and insert the hook caudal to the kidney. The hook inserts into the abdominal cavity and turns 180 degrees to engage the uterine horn. This must be done carefully as inserting the hook too far can pick up the ovary rather than the horn.

In female animals, spaying is abdominal surgery to remove the ovaries and uterus. In some cases, only the ovaries are removed. Spay surgery can be done either through a traditional open approach, or laparoscopic keyhole surgery. It’s common practice to spay young pets as soon as it’s safe. The AAHA endorses spaying kittens by five months old to prevent unwanted pregnancies.


Cautery is the intentional burning of tissues. Chemical cautery involves applying acids or other caustic chemical compounds, such as silver nitrate. This procedure seals blood vessels, surgically separates tissues, and destroys cells. Cautery is performed to treat severe canine orbital ulceration. Chemical cauterization is also used for disbudding calves in the first week of life. This involves applying sodium hydroxide to the horn bud to prevent growth.

One of the most frequent uses of cauterization is to stop bleeding. Surgery often requires the veterinary surgeon to cut through skin and muscle. However, cutting these delicate tissues can cause a lot of bleeding. This is where extremely hot and sharp surgical instruments come in. When making incisions with heated tools, blood vessels seal off which stops bleeding.

Anesthesia Machine

An anesthesia machine is an essential device for any veterinary practice. Anesthesia machines generate and mix fresh gas flow and anesthesia agents. Most modern machines come with an oxygen failure alarm and a hypoxic-mixture alarm. It’s impossible to deliver any hypoxic mixture in modern machines, as they will add oxygen automatically to the gas flow if something is amiss. Sounds similar to an anesthesia machine built for humans? Some veterinary anesthesia machines are actually ex-hospital machines!

Many veterinary procedures require anesthesia. Not only does anesthesia prevent pain, but it also keeps the patient immobile and unaware. Notably, procedures such as airway endoscopy, bone marrow sampling, and urinary catheterization cannot be ethically performed without general anesthesia. Exotic animals in particular frequently require anesthetic, even for simple procedures. This includes radiography and catheter placement.

Infusion Pump

Infusion pumps infuse fluids, medications, or nutrients into an animal’s circulatory system. These fluids are given intravenously, subcutaneously, or epidurally. With the use of an infusion pump, fluids can be given continuously or intermittently as necessary. In the veterinary practice, infusion pumps are brought in when animals are given analgesia, antibiotics, and sedatives. Infusion pumps are paramount for any practice because they protect animals from accidental overdosing or under-dosing of medication.

veterinarian stethoscopes
Vets use stethoscopes regularly.

Tools Used by Veterinarians – FAQs

Still wondering what tools does a veterinarian use? Feel free to browse our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details!

What equipment do you need for a veterinary clinic?

There are tons of tools to acquire for a veterinary practice – defibrillators, microscopes, calculators, forceps, and more. From examination tables to infusion pumps, there are many tools that are a must-have for any new veterinary clinic!

To best examine your pet patients, you’ll need veterinary tables in every treatment room. These may be electric tables, hydraulic tables, or lift tables. Whilst examining patients, you will need maximum visibility – large surgical lights or concentrated exam lights can be used for the most accurate exam. Stethoscopes are standard for listening to the heart and lung sounds of any animal. For diagnostic imaging, you will need veterinary ultrasound equipment and digital radiography. Anesthesia machines and infusion pumps are essential for many surgical procedures. To carry out surgery in a sterile environment it’s vital to have autoclave sterilizers and other infection control products on hand.

Do veterinarians use stethoscopes?

Veterinarians regularly use stethoscopes during examinations. A stethoscope is a device for listening to the internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, and bowels.

Since companion animal vets work with small patients, stethoscopes with small heads are essential for accurate auscultation. Your vet may use a stethoscope with a pediatric head for this purpose. For mixed practices, a dual-head stethoscope may be more appropriate. These can accommodate pediatric and adult heads, so a vet can switch to the adult head when the need arises. More versatile stethoscopes are even applicable to specialist environments, such as those at zoos and marine parks.

What do veterinarians wear?

Every profession has its appropriate attire, and the veterinary profession is no different. Unless in surgery, a vet may wear a white lab jacket. Collared dress shirts or polo type shirts are also acceptable in some practices. Scrubs should be appropriate colors. Athletic or close-toed shoes can be worn. The shoes must be safe to wear on damp flooring. When working in a veterinary practice, all vets should have neatly groomed hair and clean fingernails. Loose hanging jewelry poses a strangulation risk to both a vet and their patient.

Some practices forbid visible tattoos as well as unnatural hair colors. However, not all practices reject candidates with tattoos, colored hair, or piercings, especially when they don’t pose a safety risk.

How much does veterinary equipment cost?

According to How To Start An LLC, surgical equipment alone can cost $40,000. Lab equipment may cost up to $30,000. Kennel equipment can cost up to $5,000. There are many other costs alongside these. The waiting room setup can cost up to $10,000, practice management software up to $3,500, and marketing materials anywhere from $2,300 to $8,000.

The Balance Careers suggests that the overall cost of opening a veterinary practice can reach $1 million, including all of the necessary equipment.

So, what tools do veterinarians use? Nail clippers, speculums, hoof grinders, ear syringes, dehorning equipment, and portable ultrasound scanners are just a few essential pieces of equipment for any mixed-species clinic.

One comment on “What Tools Do Veterinarians Use”

  1. Asfand

    I totally agree with the blog, it highlights the importance of equipment used by veterinaries in the field.

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