17 Oct stress and fear free examinations.
When you ask most Veterinarians when the examination starts most will say when they enter the exam room. The true answer is when the pet is taken out of the home and brought to the clinic. This is a very important factor that most veterinarians fail to consider. These are some of the issues and concerns that I would like to address in this week’s blog post.
In general, I feel veterinarians tend to be a very empathic group. This feeling of compassion for animal had led most of us to the profession. But unfortunately, we’ve failed to see these visits in the eyes of our patients. I feel that there will always be some cats and dogs that are fearful of a visit to the vet. But there are many things that we can do that will either create a positive or negative experience for them. In my years of practicing I’ve had many owners cancel appointments because they we unable to catch their cat in order to bring them in for their yearly examination. Or worse, I’ve had several clients show up with bandaged scratches or bite wounds trying to get their cat in the carrier to take them to the office.
The first thing that many of us are doing wrong is not getting our pets comfortable with their carriers. For most the carrier sits somewhere in the garage or basement collecting dust, just to be brought out when we need to bring our pets to the vets. This conditions them to the carrier as a signal that they are going somewhere they may not like. No wonder they then disappear. So, to change this conditioning we should leave the carrier out with the top off and put comfort bedding in it and let them use it as a perch. Then when they’re use to it put the top on every once in a while, and leave treats as a surprise to again condition the carrier as a happy and positive place.
Then when they arrive at the vets I see them pulled out of carrier or worse dumped out. Imagine you’re waiting to see the doctor and this giant hand comes and grabs you by the back of your collar and pulls you through the door or how about if the room tips and starts shaking until you fall out the door. I wonder after that treatment what kind of mood you would be in? Ideally, we could open the door and the cat or small dog would come out at their own pace when their comfortable. Another option would to take the carrier top off and examine them in the bottom of the carrier if that makes them feel more secure.
No matter how hard we work we will never be able to completely remove some of the discomfort from some of the procedures that we do. Since we can’t explain the importance of what we are doing to our pets we rely on distraction to help them manage this discomfort. A great distraction for a lot of our pets is food. If we bring them hungry and offer them treats they rarely get and truly love we can accomplish many of our tasks. For some a good toy, brushing or petting can be distracting as well.
Need vs Wants.
Finally, one of the most important consideration is determining what we truly need or want to accomplished. Too many times have we tried trimming nails on a patient that is already scared and fearful or man handled a patient to get one last task done that may or may not have been necessary. Also, even if It is a task that needs to be performed, does it need to happen today or can we reschedule and finish the treatment another day or with help of some supplements or medication for anxiety.
So, in closing I realize there will always be fearful patient and times we need to perform treatment that our patients may not like, but by trying to see things through their eyes it may help us to provide a less stressful and hopefully a happier experience for all involved.