It’s a horrible feeling, leaving your pet for an operation. It’s that lump-in-the-throat feeling you get when you walk in with your furbaby and then go home without him, even if it’s just for a few hours.
Recently, I helped out at a nearby vet surgery clinic, and this shed a new light on familiar practices. Not knowing where the equipment was kept and watching staff ready things around me, I felt as though I were seeing things for the first time — all these tiny touches that staff and vet techs give behind-the-scenes. It assured me that pet guardians can rest easy knowing their friend is in good hands.
So let’s go over some of those unseen actions that make your pet’s stay as comfortable as possible.
1. Painless Blood Draw
Pre-anesthetic blood tests are an important part of a workup, especially in older patients. However, not all patients understand it’s for their own good and are naturally less than enthusiastic about the needle.
Enter the trusty vet tech. She’s already sussed out the stressed cats and applied EMLA cream as they come out of the carrier so they don’t feel the needle. EMLA cream is a local anesthetic cream that numbs the skin. This means that, with gentle handling and keeping things low key, the cats don’t even realize they’ve had blood drawn.
2. Pain Relief
Animals feel pain just as people do — fortunately, we have the tools to help lessen it. It is routine to give pain-relieving medication well in advance of a procedure so those nerve endings never get fired up to their full potential.
But the story doesn’t end there — careful thought is given to the nature of the pain and how long it will last. This may mean combining different families of pain relief for a better overall effect, or adding a CRI (constant rate infusion), which is a drip containing analgesics (pain relievers).
What’s even more important is that this is done on an individual level. Take 2 patients undergoing the same procedure, where 1 is in greater discomfort than the other. No problem — their pain score is assessed and managed accordingly.
3. Common Sense and Compassion
Having bumbled around looking for things, I was ready to sedate my first patient. I went to the kennel room, but his bed was empty. It turned out the dog didn’t like being in a bed and had been crying. I found him asleep on a vet bed by the practice manager’s feet.
Other examples of staff’s common sense and compassion go on all the time, such as taking dogs for regular toilet breaks. And for our fearful feline friends, this means providing a place to hide, such as a box or a heavy towel to snuggle under in bed.
4. Timing Matters
Indeed, care isn’t always about the latest tech but about being aware of what you do and when, such as placing intravenous catheters well ahead of providing the anesthetic.
This means the patient gets to settle back down in between times of action, so when a nurse gently holds her for the anesthetic to be administered, all the dog is aware of is a nice cuddle.
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5. Diligence About Details
Progressive vet practices follow the example of gold-standard human hospitals. This means all patients have a checklist protocol attached to their bed so each staff member knows exactly what’s been given and when, and any concerns about the patient are flagged.
For example, I know the exact time my dog had his pre-med, what drugs were given and who gave them. I also know his pre-op check was normal, although he’d been breathing heavily in bed (hence he moved to the practice manager’s office).
And the attention to detail doesn’t stop there. It continues with the anesthetic monitoring chart, which details drugs given, amounts and times, and records oxygen levels, heart rate and respiratory rate.
But above all, this reminded me just how great it is to have truly caring people watching over the pet at all times. From sitting with animals during recovery to taking them for toilet breaks, veterinary staff members give outstanding, dedicated care to these pets who need comfort during trying times.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Jan. 27, 2017.