Animal Sciences Staff Learn Low Stress Animal Care Techniques

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Animal Sciences Staff Learn Low Stress Animal Care Techniques

July 19, 2017, Olds, Alberta: A trip to the vet can be of the most stressful times in the life of a pet. Memories of previous experiences, a new and unknown environment, and strange people and animals all contribute to anxiety in the vet’s office. It is crucial for office staff to understand this pet anxiety, and to work in a manner that not only minimizes additional stresses, but helps the pet to soothe and relax. Olds College Animal Sciences staff and faculty recently had the opportunity to learn about Low Stress Handling and Positive Veterinary Care from renowned veterinarian and animal behaviour specialist Dr. Sally Foote.

Animal Sciences Staff Learn Low Stress Animal Care TechniquesFrom an early age Dr. Foote decided that she wanted to be a veterinarian. With a passion for biology, a desire to help people solve their problems, and a belief that animals communicate with humans in a very special way, Dr. Foote graduated from the University of Illinois’ College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984 and since then has established herself as one of the leading experts in pet behaviour.

A Certified Animal Behaviour Consultant and Certified Feline Behaviour Consultant, Dr. Foote has developed and implemented a number of low stress and pet friendly handling procedures into her veterinary clinic, and has witnessed a major difference in being able to help clients with their pet’s behaviour. She quickly learned that this would allow her to help clients improve their dog’s behaviour, and that for many, trips to the veterinarian did not become the fear inducing experience that many pets experience.

Low Stress Handling and Positive Veterinary Care are crucial in today’s veterinary practices. These skills help to better serve clients, increase business, and lower incidents in the workplace. By making the pet more comfortable in the clinic, it is much easier to work with them, and workers spend less time trying to get the pet to do what they need to do for testing purposes. Low Stress Handling is about recognizing the signs of fear and anxiety in cats and dogs, and identifying common errors that workers might make when approaching an anxious or fearful pet. It teaches workers to learn to approach and handle pets in a relaxed, non-threatening manner. It isn’t only about the actions of individual workers, it is about identifying potential stresses in the veterinary practice - how the smells, sounds, surroundings, and even other pets and clients affect the stress in these patients, and discovering ways to create a more calm, safe environment. Most importantly, Dr. Foote’s Low Stress Handling training taught staff and instructors a number of new types of body control, so that the worker can properly hold the pet without hurting them or making them uncomfortable.

One aspect of Low Stress Handling is creating a proper handling plan. Understanding your pet’s motivation for its behaviour is an important part of creating a handling plan. Creating a treatment plan allows for everyone interacting with the pet to know the best ways to interact with the animal. This reduces stress for everyone involved - health care workers, the owner, and most importantly, the pet itself.

I recently had a situation with a dachshund named Walter. Walter was a well mannered, friendly dog who had never had any major behaviour issues. Walter’s owner noticed that he was having an issue with his eye, and that they needed to get it looked at. Walter was diagnosed with an ulcer in his eye, a condition that is not only incredibly painful, but can lead to blindness.

Walter’s treatment included getting antibiotic eye drops, but he would not let anyone put them in.  Various veterinarians and their office staff attempted to assist Walter’s  owners with putting in the drops, and even his owner could not get the eye drops into Walter’s eyes. He was visibly upset, and wouldn’t let anyone touch his head to hold it still for the  drops. Walter’s owners eventually brought Walter in to visit Dr. Foote. Dr. Foote used a new approach to ensure Walter got the treatment he deserved - rather than hold him down, Dr. Foote decided to give Walter his eye drops by going behind him, so he couldn’t see her reaching forward to put the drops in. She had both drops in Walters eyes in seconds, before he had time to become afraid of the situation, or feel nervous about.

Dr. Sally Foote

“Working with Dr. Foote confirmed that the in our animal health programs are on the right track to teaching our students the correct, most effective way to understand animal behavior," explains Becky Taylor, instructor in the Animal Health, Veterinary Technician and Veterinary Medical Receptionist programs. “It is so important for us to work with them in a way that minimizes stress and makes each interaction with us a pleasant and rewarding experience. Without a doubt, using low stress handling techniques is better for  animal care professionals, better for the animal owning public and most importantly, better for the animals we care for.”

Dr. Foote’s expertise brought a number of new techniques for faculty and staff to bring to students in future intakes of the Olds College animal health programs. It is crucial that students learn that everyone working with pets in high anxiety situations understand that every reaction - from picking up, to moving, restraining, or even just approaching an animal, affects their perception of you and their willingness to cooperate. Dr. Foote’s training will result in students learning new ways to position and move their bodies and adjust their movement to provide the direction and guidance that the animals need.

View our Animal Sciences programs