Handle with care

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Jan 01, 2008

Q What can we do to gently handle pets with possible pain issues?


Robin Downing
"We can add to a pet's suffering if we're not careful," says Robin Downing, DVM, Dipl. AAPM, owner of Windsor Veterinary Clinic and The Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colo. "So start your pain management efforts when clients call to schedule an appointment by telling them how to transport their pet to your practice." And personalize your recommendations based on the pet's size and type of injury or pain.

For acutely painful pets that may have suffered a traumatic injury, tell their owners to anticipate unusual behavior, including snapping or biting, says Dr. Downing, a certified veterinary acupuncturist. Then advise these clients to move their pet to their vehicle using a blanket as a stretcher—a procedure that usually takes at least two people, depending on the pet's size.

When these clients arrive, use a rolling gurney to move the pet inside. You may need to keep a soft muzzle on hand to protect yourself from unexpected dangerous behaviors, Dr. Downing says.

Advise clients with chronically painful cats and small dogs to transport them in a travel carrier. And an inexpensive ramp can help chronically painful large dogs enter and exit vehicles.

Once they're inside, ensure painful pets avoid walking on slippery floor surfaces. Dr. Downing says her team members create a path where they want the dog to walk by laying multiple carpet runners. For exams, consider purchasing a lift table that lowers to allow the dog to walk onto it, then lifts to the correct height. Or leave the pet on the floor for the exam and use a low, rolling stool to lower yourself to the pet's level.