Reducing Handling- and Restraint-induced Stress at the Vet

October 4, 2016
American Veterinarian Editorial Staff

Debbie Martin, LVT, VTS (Behavior), animal behavior technician for Veterinary Behavior Consultations, co-owner of Team Education in Animal Behavior, discusses ways to reduce handling- and restraint-induced stress at the vet.

Debbie Martin, LVT, VTS (Behavior), animal behavior technician for Veterinary Behavior Consultations, co-owner of Team Education in Animal Behavior, discusses ways to reduce handling- and restraint-induced stress at the vet.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“There are a lot of really easy techniques that veterinarians, technicians, and even the whole veterinary team can incorporate into making handling and restraint in the veterinary visits less stressful for the patients. Some of them are [related to] just setting the mood or the tone.

I often talk about creating a spa-like atmosphere so that you feel that you’re at the spa: hushed tones, not real loud voices, you talk calmly and softly; we have ambient music that sets that mood. The lighting that we have can even calm things down. Then, some really important things for the patients would be making sure that we have non-slip surfaces for them in the areas that the dog, or even the cat, is going to be placed on. They need to have a comfortable surface [where] they feel [that] they have good footing, because if they feel that they’re slipping and sliding, that [will make] them nervous and more anxiou, [which] makes them want to struggle more, so [we] want to make sure that we have good footing for them.

We also want to make sure that we’re using an approach that is appropriate for the species, that we’re not overwhelming them with our enthusiasm to be their friend. Those are some key concepts that we’ll talk about with Fear Free as well. Easy things [like] incorporat[ing] non-slip surfaces, creat[ing] an environment that is inviting and calming, as well as incorporate[ing] something [that] the animal really likes, whether that be a special food treat, gentle touching or grooming ([for] a cat that likes to be brushed); catnip (if it doesn’t make them all agitated and excited) can be a nice distraction for them. Also, we can incorporate play or toys.”