“Doc, Is This Really Necessary?”: Forceful Restraints During Vet Visits

On a visit to the vet clinic it is sometimes distressing for an owner to see their precious pet get forcefully handled and restrained by the veterinarian, vet assistant or groomer. The pet that is not used to being handled by persons other than those of their human family is at a huge disadvantage in these situations – they have no confidence in the clinic setting, are easily stressed and often – to facilitate examination and treatment – are necessarily restrained by the veterinary staff through methods that some pet owners might find overly harsh and injurious. Muzzles, ropes, and a great many hands and arms are utilized to subdue the  fearful, resistant animal – not a pretty sight.

Is this really necessary? Here are some of the reasons why it might be:

  1. In an emergency situation where the speedy administration of medication is paramount.
  2. To protect the vet and to protect the animal from itself
  3. When vets do not have the luxury of time owing to the fact that other clients and patients are accumulating in the waiting room.
  4. When the client is in a hurry.

3) and 4) seem rather cold and selfish on the part of the vet and the client but they are a reality.

In my opinion, forceful restraints should be tolerated and forgivable if the procedure is not routine, and when getting it over quickly may prove to be the less stressful option. But if you are uncomfortable with and unsure about what the vet is doing to your pet let her know (in as nice a way as possible) that you are distressed. We vets sometimes get so wrapped up in wanting to get the job done that we lose sight of the emotional state of the animal and its respective owner. At other times we overlook the fact that a client would benefit from having veterinary procedures explained to them in simpler terms so that you the client can be sure that forceful restraints are in fact necessary in the case of your pet.

Vets and clients, however, should be aware that  for routine procedures (e.g. nail trimming, ear cleaning, handling for general check-ups, etc.) the animal could benefit from some conditioning exercises that will allow her to get used to being handled on a regular basis.

The best thing an owner can do to prepare their pet for a visit to the vet clinic is to condition the animal at an early age to accept being handled and examined. From puppyhood, practice handling, gentling and cradling exercises with your puppy.

One way to do it is this: Rest the puppy on your lap with her feet in the air and her back resting against your thighs. Let her nibble on treats in your one hand while massaging parts of her body with the other hand. Massage the head, both ears, the tummy and inner thighs, each leg and foot and even the tail. This way she will get used to your touch. Let other people handle your puppy as well, and schedule visits to the vet just for the purpose of conditioning. Explain to your vet what you are trying to achieve and I’m sure she will be eager to help you out.

Conditioning as was described above is also applicable to older dogs, however, it may take a longer time to get them used to this exercise especially for dogs in which negative conditioned emotional responses to vet visits have already been established.

To help you get the idea of handling and gentling, watch the following videos from dogstardaily.com:

 

 

 

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