Hospitalized veterinary patients need enrichment too


Pets stuck away from home can be the ones most in need of diversions.

Offering enrichment tools and techniques to hospitalized patients can be challenging, says CVC educator Debbie Martin, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, LVT, VTS (behavior), but it can also be especially important for these patients who, on top of not feeling well, are in an unfamiliar place.

Start with creating a comfortable spot to rest, says Martin. Play calming music to drown out potentially distressing hospital noises.

“If they're eating OK, we can consider using some puzzle-type food storage items or exploratory items to get their natural behaviors going,” Martin says. She suggests using toys that can be easily cleaned. (Editor's note: Check out this client handout on how to keep food puzzles clean and safe-you might even find some handy tips for yourself!)

“There's a new one I just heard about that I'm looking forward to using-the Wooly Snuffle Mat,” says Martin. “It's similar to ‘70s fringe carpeting, but thicker.” You can put a dog's dry kibble in the mat and allow the dog to forage for its food. And the best part: It's machine washable. (What about cats, you say? Here's an article about cat-tested food puzzles.)

Watch the video below to hear about enrichment for hospitalized patients in Martin's own words.

Want more on enrichment? Click here to learn about postoperative enrichment techniques from veterinary behaviorist Ellen Lindell, VMD, DACVB.

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