Mercy Gets Adjusted
Options Exist to Soothe our Pets during Veterinary Visits
Options Exist to Soothe our Pets during Veterinary Visits
Before I took the extra time, money and energy to become
certified in animal behavior, I used the
traditional methods of pet that I was taught in school and on the job. The
approach rubbed me the wrong way, so I
would try to avoid a lot of struggling
by rescheduling an appointment breaking
up procedures and using tranquilizers
as needed. I had a gut feeling that
holding dogs and cats tighter was not helping the overall experience for the
pet, the client or myself. A few years later at a veterinary lecture, I
discovered I was right. There I learned
the concept and protocols of rewarding
during the exam. This not only validated the use of treats,
"baby talk" and avoiding strong hold tactics, it opened my eyes to the effect of our
traditional handling techniques. The effect is fear of the exam. This is why many dogs and cats hate coming to the
veterinary office. This anxiety and
stress results in staff becoming bitten
which can be avoided by handling and approaching exams in a different way.
Traditional handling techniques focus on holding animals
tightly, using force or sedatives to prevent the animal from biting or
scratching the veterinarian. It makes
logical sense, but completely ignores the effect on the animal. What does the
animal learn? That exam tables, scales,
needles and the people who use these items may take you away from the person
you trust and know (owner) and hold you down no matter how much you resist. These methods have actually caused a lot of
pets to be afraid of the clinic and each exam is more difficult.
Why do so many clinics still practice this way? Few
schools of veterinary medicine and technology are incorporating less
stressful/rewarding methods of handling into the curriculum. A few do,
but it is not yet the standard of
education. A primary reason is that the liability insurance companies
attorneys have strongly advised to only allow veterinary staff to be
during exams to avoid legal suits in the event of any human injury
injury). It was about 20 years ago that
this dictum came down from the major supplier of malpractice/liability
insurance and there were no formal
protocol, articles or information to counter the traditional handling
approach. So as the "take them in
the back" or "please wait in the waiting area as we treat"
approach was used, animal behaviorist recognized the fear inducing
this. Specific ways to reward during injection, modify holds that would
as uncomfortable were introduced into veterinary lectures. Now practices
are beginning to use some of
these techniques but it may vary from one practice to the other.
That lecture gave me the methods and training information to
transform our practice. Our office uses
only low stress/ rewarding and pro active pain reducing strategies thru out the
exam process no matter the age or temperament of the dog or cat. In my
opinion it is too harmful to your
pet's mental health handle them in any other way. There are options for exams and treatment,
some of which will not be convenient for the owner. It may involve returning on another visit,
waiting as calming pheromones, anti anxiety medication or mild tranquilizers
take effect. If you pet starts to
struggle, it is much better to stop, and only stress the pet mildly than to
struggle and have a really bad experience.
If you don't want to
use sedatives, then bring your pet into the clinic for just weight checks, say
hi to the staff - get a treat and go
home. These are the "fun"
visits that your pet needs to associate good things with the vet. You will need to take the time to do this -
and the investment is worth it for you and your pet. I love it when clients come in with their dog
or cat for a "fun" visit. Then
I am not the person who only sees them when they are sick or in pain. They
associate me and my staff with goodies and petting. Even if the waiting area is busy, just wait a
few minutes outside or take a seat in the corner and reward your pet as all the
hustle and bustle goes by. This still
teaches your pet that the veterinary office is not all bad.
Our cats often have the most difficult time with exams. Cats do not like to leave their own territory
and are not as food motivated as dogs.
We can still make it good for our cats.
We use Feliway feline marking pheromone in the office and even spray it
on ourselves to help your cat out. We send out bandanas sprayed with Feliway for you to use to make the
trip in easier - even for new clients.
Just ask and we will mail it out free of charge for scheduled exams.
Elderly cats are often the most cranky and that is often due to pain that is not
evident to us. Pre-emptive pain
reduction means we give older cats an oral pain reliever at the start of the
exam, which makes the exam easier on
your kitty. Now the owners are less stressed about what
their cat is feeling because they see we are taking steps to make it better for
them - and those steps work. Too few cats
get the yearly checkups and screening health exams they need because they
really don't like coming to us. When you
make an appointment, tell us how your cat acts and we can help your cat have a
better exam without automatically sedating them. We understand how your pet feels and work to
make it better for them and you.
If you are concerned about how your reacts to
visits, ask your veterinarian about what they can or are willing to do
decrease the stress on your pet. If the
clinic does not seem to understand what you want, check with other
clinics. Your pet can love the veterinary clinic. I have personally seen
dogs and cats that
were aggressive change over to calm, happy patients using these
approaches. It may seem silly to hear a
doctor of veterinary medicine making baby talk to your huge Rottweiler
that is what keeps your buddy happy as we take a heartworm test,
examine, that is what your pet will get. They deserve the best
experience as well as
the best care.
You can see videos on low stress handling at my YouTube
channel or on our website. If you have any questions about
what you can do at home to make coming to the veterinary clinic easier, call
our office (217-253-3221) and talk to
our staff. All are trained in low stress
handling and are there to help.
Cases of Rabies in animals and
humans have decreased dramatically because we have a vaccine to protect
animals and people. However we still see cases of Rabies. So it is
important to keep your pet vaccinated and protected against
Rabies. Rabies is still such an important and deadly disease, that World Rabies Day was created to help raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent it. September 28th is World Rabies Day.
had 63 cases of Rabies reported in Illinois during 2012. One case was located in Moultrie County. The map to the
right, courtesy of the Illinois Department of Public Health, shows the counties that reported cases of Rabies in 2012. As of August 7, 2013, we have had 20 reported cases of Rabies in Illinois. In 2010, the United States and Puerto Rico over 6,150 cases of rabies in
animals and 2 human cases were reported to the CDC.
people die world-wide from Rabies every year.
Dogs in the state of Illinois are
required by law to be vaccinated for Rabies. Cats vaccination
requirement varies depending on what county you live in. Champaign
County requires cats to be vaccinated. Douglas County does not require
cats to be vaccinated. We highly recommend having cats vaccinated for
Rabies. Cats who go outside are exposed to Rabies, just like dogs. Even
cats who live indoor only should be vaccinated. Mice and bats can come
inside the house and bite your cat. Inside cats can can also sneak out
of the house, without anyone knowing, and be exposed to Rabies. Dogs
and cats are given their first Rabies vaccine when they are four months
old. The vaccine is boostered every one to three years, depending on
the type of vaccine given. It is important for your pet to have an exam
prior to receiving any vaccination. If your pet is ill, the vaccine can
make them sicker. Giving a vaccine to an ill pet can also cause the
vaccine to not be effective at preventing the disease.
Rabies is disease caused by a virus
that is almost always fatal. Infected dogs, cats, skunks, foxes, bats,
raccoons and other animals can spread the disease. The virus can
be transmitted through saliva, blood and nerve tissues (brain, spine,
nerves). So, for example, your neighbor has a dog Fluffy and does not
keep Fluffy up to date on her Rabies vaccine. Fluffy is in the back yard
playing and an infected skunk wanders into their yard. Fluffy doesn't
like this intruder so she attacks the skunk. During the fight, the skunk
bites Fluffy. The skunk's saliva and the Rabies virus enters Fluffy's
body through the bite wounds. In a few days Fluffy may start to behave
differently (hide and act nervous), snap at her owners, wonder around
the house, stumble as she walks and drool. Fluffy will die from her
Rabies infection. If Fluffy had her vaccine, she would have been
protected. We do not have a cure for rabies and it is almost always
fatal. This is why vaccinating for Rabies is so important.
If your pet has been bitten by any
animal, bring him or her to the vet. We will wash out the wounds and
prescribe medication. Tell us what happened to your pet (what animal bit
yours, was the animal acting strange). If the other animal may be
rabid, and your pet has been vaccinated, we will vaccinate your pet
again and send him or her home for confinement. If your pet has not been
vaccinated, we will send him or her home for confinement for up to six
months and vaccinate your pet. Unvaccinated pets will usually die if
they have been bitten by a rabid animal.
If you have been bitten by an animal,
you should go to the doctor. The doctor's office can treat your wound
and may prescribe medication. Tell your doctor what happened and, if you
were bitten by a dog, they need to contact Animal Control. You can
reach the Douglas County Animal Control at 253-4921. Animal Control will
issue a quarantine notice for the dog. The dog can be quarantined for
10 days at a vet clinic or in the owner's home, depending on if the dog
has been vaccinated.
Some of the symptoms an animal with
Rabies show include a change in attitude, difficulty swallowing, trouble
walking, drooling, paralysis and restlessness. Wild animals will often
lose their fear of humans and may wander into your yard. Never approach a
wild animal that is acting friendly or is hurt. Contact your local
Animal Control Department or the Department of Natural Resources at
(217) 345-2420 if you see a wild animal that is hurt or acting
You can protect your pet against
Rabies. The most important thing you can do is to have your pet
vaccinated against Rabies. Encourage your neighbors to have their pets
vaccinated too. Always take your pet out on leash, so you can keep an
eye on your pet.
For more information about Rabies, visit the Center for Disease Control's website. For more information about the number of cases of Rabies reported in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health's website.