By Dr. Sophia Yin DVM
A couple of years ago, my friend and colleague, Jacqueline Munera, an IAABC certified cat behavior consultant, emailed me distressed about her cat’s hospital experience. “I guess I’ve been spoiled by my current veterinarian who handles my pets well,” she said. “But yesterday my cat had the worst experience. Daphne just had a surgery to amputate her leg and had to be kept overnight at the emergency hospital for pain monitoring and treatment. The hospital kindly allowed me to go back to say ‘Good Night’ to her and I was appalled at the situation that I saw.”
Daphne had been placed in a cage in the treatment room above a rambunctious dog. “He was bouncing around and hitting the sides of the kennel with his tail and every time he hit the side of the kennel, Daphne would jump,” said Jacqueline. “I thought, how she going to get any rest after surgery with that dog below her?”
The dog was only one of many issues. Daphne’s cage also had no bed or cushioning or place to hide. Jacqueline described, “She was being kept in the main treatment area, which is a brightly lit, noisy environment and she was not even provided with a towel over the cage so she could choose to hide. So Daphne was just trying to hide in the corner of the cage.”
To make matters worse, while Jacqueline was discussing alternative cage conditions with staff, the dog below chewed part of his IV catheter out. “The technician had no ability to restrain and handle the dog in an effective manner,” states Jacqueline. “She was trying to prevent blood from leaking out of his leg at the same time as she was yelling at him to sit and pushing him, all while both she and the dog were getting more and more excited. I felt bad about how the other animals must feel, exposed to the commotion, and for the dog, who was surely confused as to what the technician wanted. I also empathized with the technician who wanted to help but just didn’t know what to do. The technician hadn’t received the proper training to do her job effectively.”
As a veterinarian or a client, what can you do to remedy this type of situation?
How many times have you been in a situation where you took your pet to the hospital and were concerned that they were being put into a situation of heightened stress? What can you do as a client? And what can hospital staff do to help clients and patients feel at ease?
If you’re a client, the first step is to speak up and protect the safety of your animal. You can inform your veterinarian of your concerns and suggest that staff be trained on Low Stress Handling methods, using the textbook or a link to one of the articles on Low Stress Handling® techniques as your back-up. If you’re a behavior consultant, like Jacqueline, you have additional options.
Jacqueline immediately requested appropriate changes be made to Daphne’s kennel set-up and location, supervised as those changes were made, and then enlisted a cat savvy vet at the clinic as her care supervisor. The next morning, she wrote a letter to the hospital detailing the experience, introduced them to Low Stress Handling®, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats and offered to provide them with some training. “The veterinarians were really interested in improving the staff’s skills,” stated Jacqueline. “Not long after this, I received a call from the clinic owner who was excited to report she had received the Low Stress Handling® materials and they started implementing the techniques in the clinic. One of the veterinarians even went on to attend one of Dr. Yin’s two-day seminars. They noticed positive changes immediately! ”
For Munera, her cat, and the emergency hospital, the ending was happy.
What can you do if you are not a behavior consultant or don’t have access to one to help train your staff? You may not even be aware of where your staff needs additional training! Now you can improve conditions for the humans and animals in your clinic by conveniently get your staff up to speed on Low Stress Handling®.
CattleDog Publishing has a suite of Low Stress Handling® products designed to get petcare professionals and staff up to speed quickly on the techniques.
Since this blog post was written things have changed. Dr Yin passed away in 2014 but we finally realized her dream of being able to better spread the word about her Low Stress Handling Techniques. We’ve launched a dedicated Low Stress Handling® website and an all new learning platform. There you can earn CEs, both for DVDs you already own, or for new classes. You can also become fully certified in Low Stress Handling®. What is Low Stress Handling?
For Veterinary Technicians, Trainers, Groomers, and Rescue Workers:
Low Stress Handling® covers every circumstance you need it to. Whether you want to know about walking techniques that work in stressful environments, multiple uses for towel wraps, or effective counter-conditioning for medical procedures, you can find practical learning here. Low Stress Handling® teaches you to understand not just the body language of fear and anxiety in dogs & cats, it teaches you how to resolve the fears an animal has. You can see the problem and do something about it, so you can provide care without worry of harm to you or the animal. Everything you learn is applicable for dogs, cats, gerbils, horses, chicken, ostriches, giraffes and beyond.
Providing diagnostic care may not seem to be as focused on handling as a veterinary technician’s work, but the approach you use can determine whether or not you have an easy time with an exam, or a hard time. In fact, knowing how to handle patients in a Low Stress way can determine whether or not you have a one-time patient or a long term client. A vet who knows how to handle their patients in a calm, gentle manner is a vet who will earn the goodwill and loyalty of their clientele. A parent wouldn’t be ok with a pediatrician who grabs their child roughly, yells at them and struggles with them to take a shot. Why would a pet parent be any different? You’ll be able to oversee handling in your clinic and make sure everyone is doing it right. A vet who remains calm and leads his or her team with a view that patient comfort is the utmost concern of his practice will develop the word of mouth that keeps their business successful.
So if you’ve been wondering what all this “Low Stress Handling®” is, what those certificates and badges mean, and how it benefits you, hopefully this answers your questions. If there’s any more you’d like to learn about Low Stress Handling® and Low Stress Handling® Certification, check out our “Why Low Stress Handling®” page.