Practice tip: Start otitis exams in the waiting room

January 18, 2019
Darin Dell, DVM, DACVD

Dr. Darin Dell is a veterinary dermatologist at Animal Dermatology Clinic in Indianapolis, Indiana.

When faced with an ear appointment, work as a veterinary team to examine Spots behavior from the reception area to the exam room.

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Ear appointments can be a real pain in the … well, ear. The pain, fear and anxiety that often accompanies otitis can cause appointments to go from a cakewalk to chaos quickly. To ensure that ear appointments go as smoothly as possible, try starting the examination in the waiting area. Let's walk through it.

What factors increase ear-related anxiety?

> The breed. If the breed is typically more anxious at the vet, it's likely going to experience anxiety during an ear appointment.

> Time spent suffering. Not only does this include time spent suffering during the current episode, but the time spent suffering between the previous and current episode of otitis.

> The owner's anxiety. Dogs pick up on their owner's anxiety about cleaning or medicating ears.

First, receptionists start the process by observing the dog in the waiting area. Then, technicians note behaviors when moving the patient to an exam room. Finally, the veterinarian must watch with a keen eye to pick up on subtle movements and actions in the exam room. All of this helps the veterinarian ask more specific questions, such as:

> “Our receptionist, Lauren, noticed that Spot was rubbing his head against the chair in the lobby, then whining. Does he do that at home?”

> “Our technician, Molly, saw Spot with his head tilted a little and veering off to the side when you came to the exam room-have you seen him do this before?”

> “I realize that Spot may be nervous today, but he seems to be avoiding your hand when you try to pet his head. Is this a change from his usual behavior?”

Gather as much information as you can before the physical exam to avoid stressing out an already stressed out pup.

Darin Dell, DVM, DACVD

Animal Dermatology Clinic

Indianapolis, IN