Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If your dog is ever admitted to a veterinary emergency clinic: Here's one small way to help them stress less during their stay.

I worked at a veterinary emergency clinic for over 4 years before having to quit my job (because it's hard to make a living in the veterinary business...!).  I loved my time there.  I saw and learned a lot; even up until the end new scenarios would come into the clinic and I'd learn new things (always, it seemed, when I was training a new employee...  Murphy's law at work there...).  I'd like to share an observation with you in hopes that it could possibly help your dog be less stressed out if it ever has to stay at a veterinary ER, though I hope it never does (quick, knock on wood!!).

A stressful experience.
As you can imagine, it's a stressful experience for a pet to be at an ER.  And while I know taking a pet to the emergency clinic is stressful for the owner, too, this post is about it being stressful for the animals.  
How could it not be??  They're sick and injured, so they're already stressed about that, and then a barrage of strangers poke and prod at them while in a strange place with, sometimes, lots of other animals around.  We always tried our hardest to keep animal stress to a minimum (while still treating the animals and making sure they were receiving good care), but some amount of stress is inevitable in a place and situation like that.

Less stress.
One thing I noticed was that dogs would often panic less and were more calm if they were walked away from their owners as opposed to their owners walking away from them.

Let me explain.
Sometimes dogs needed to be admitted to the clinic for continued treatment and observation.  In that case, dogs would be brought back into our treatment area, where they would be housed in their own kennel or pen.  Often, especially for dogs who stayed extended periods of time, owners would come to visit their injured or sick furry family member.

When an owner came to visit, we would do one of two things:
A)  Have the owners walk back to the treatment room and visit their dog in/around their kennel, and then the owner would walk back up front when they were done.
B)  We would bring the dog to them to visit in one of the private rooms out front (normally used for veterinarians to first see a new patient).  When the owner was done visiting with their dog, we would come get the dog and bring it back to it's kennel in the treatment room.

There are always exceptions, but in many cases, scenario A would result in a very upset doggy.  Something about having their owner walk away from them while they're left behind in a strange place seemed to trigger anxiety.  Dogs clawed at their kennel door, barked, whined, and/or cried, sometimes for hours afterwards.  
Scenario B resulted in a stressed out dog much less often.

All humans subjected to constant barking can confirm that it's an unpleasant experience, but perhaps more importantly is that the increase in anxiety and stress does not promote healing for the animal itself.  It can also cause an increase in anxiety and stress for other animals currently at the clinic.
And while it probably doesn't mean life or death for your dog, if you're anything like me, I prefer to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety my dogs experience as much as possible.  And in emergency cases, I would want to give my dog the best chance at getting better as quickly as possible.

Scenario B isn't always possible; sometimes dogs are hooked up to so many life-saving things or need extra oxygen (and so are in a special oxygen cage) that they can't really be moved from their kennels.  And it's possible that a clinic could be so busy that there aren't any rooms available for an owner to visit with their dog.

But if it is possible when visiting, having your dog brought to you and then taken back to it's kennel by an ER staff member is one way you might be able to reduce the amount of stress your dog is experiencing if it has to stay at a veterinary emergency clinic.

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