Why Do Vets Restrain Animals?

September 20, 2016
American Veterinarian Editorial Staff

Kenneth Martin, DVM, DACVB, owner of Veterinary Behavior Consultations, co-owner of Team Education in Animal Behavior, explains why veterinarians restrain animals.

Kenneth Martin, DVM, DACVB, owner of Veterinary Behavior Consultations, co-owner of Team Education in Animal Behavior, explains why veterinarians restrain animals.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Restraint is really important during a veterinary visit because we oftentimes have to do things with animals that are unpleasant, that are uncomfortable for animals. In the past, restraint has been the gold standard. The reason why most veterinarians use restraint is because animals are afraid and they struggle and they show avoidance or they’re afraid and they show aggression. It's really a safety factor to keep the people safe [and] the dogs safe.

The problem is, is that restraint, handling, and those things, they don’t really treat the underlying motivation for the behavior; usually the underlying motivation is that the animal is afraid or that the animal is anxious. Our goal is to think: do we really have to use handling [and] restraint so much or can we actually change the animal’s emotional state to where they’re less afraid or they’re less anxious.

There are actually a lot of studies that have come out recently that have suggested [that] less is more, especially with cats; the less handling that we do with cats, usually the better they are. There have been studies that have been shown with cats [that] the less handling we do, the more passive restraint rather than active restraint, actually reduces fear and anxiety and stress and it probably is the same for dogs, as well. There are a lot of things [that] we can do to avoid that, and to make things better.”