By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS July 19, 2009
“I wish someone had shown me this towel wrap technique before cats had scratched my arms for 13 years,” says technician Brandy Oates, a veteran at handling pets as she practices what I call the Burrito Wrap on a stuffed cat.
She’s attending the Low Stress Dog and Cat Handling Lab at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) conference in Seattle, Washington. While I have already taught this lab at a number of universities, including Colorado State University, UC Davis, and University of Wisconsin, this is the first time I’ve taught this particular lab at a national veterinary conference. Technicians and veterinarians are attending from all over the nation.
You might wonder why seasoned technicians would need to take such a course. Well, just as medical advances necessitate regular continuing education, handling techniques have greatly changed. With the advent of a behavior specialty in veterinary medicine several decades ago, the emphasis on behavior has finally trickled down to every-day veterinary practice.
Older techniques focused on placing a “death grip” on the pet and immobilizing them by stretching them out. Low stress techniques rely on holding the pet in a manner that keeps them comfortable.
For instance, many technicians still restrain cats for blood draw by holding their head up with one hand and stretching their front legs out in an attempt to prevent being clawed. Unfortunately, this uncomfortable position actually causes cats to struggle. The more natural low stress position requires just guiding the head upward by placing a closed-fisted hand on either side of the neck. After trying the positioning on a cat, Gerrie Brocker states, “This technique is much safer for me and the cat struggles less.”
Attendees will go back to their practices and share their knowledge. Shannon Burcham states, “(I learned) The new toweling techniques and now I feel more confident about instructing my staff on their restraint techniques.”
Hopefully their hospitals will successfully implement their newly learned skills.