In veterinary medicine, patient restraint can be one of the more challenging areas to master. Here are some tips to make your life easier and the patient's visit less stressful!
1) Better away from, or with the owner?
Some animals are much calmer away from their anxious owners, and some prefer to stay with mom or dad. Try to learn which way works best for the animal and do that.
2) Sorry, Sir, that's my job
If the animal is calmer with the owner present, that's fine. What isn't okay is an insistent owner "restraining" their own animal. It seems, strangely, that there is a direct correlation between aggression level of the animal and insistence level of the owner. Needless to say, this usually ends up badly. So just don't let it come to that. Try something like "Why don't we have you give Tiny some love and attention while we hold him, I think he would like to see you while we trim his nails".
3) A little distraction never hurt anyone
A treat works wonders for a food-motivated dog. A small stuffed animal can work for angry cats. It gives them something to focus on (aka bite) while you do what you need to do.
4) Don't be a hero
It might be tempting to try to save time by taking blood or trimming nails by yourself, but be wary. Proper restraint means safety for both you and the pet. Borrow another staff member to help you.
5) Don't be afraid to muzzle
There's a lot of risk in this field. Bites are at the top of the list. If you're in doubt about a patient's intentions, a muzzle should be used. They come in handy for hyper or wiggly patients too, as they act as a distraction and the pet thinks about the weird thing on its face rather than what you're doing.
6) Use the table!
We tend to crawl around on the floor a lot in this job. Save your back and work on an exam table (if the patient is okay with that).
7) Respect your elders
Patient care should ALWAYS be at the top of the priority list. This is especially true with our geriatric patients. Use a yoga mat or towel on the table and be careful with their creaky arthritic joints. Always use a trough for any procedure that requires them being on their back. Just put yourself in the patient's position - you wouldn't want to be lying on a cold steel table with your sore limbs being yanked all over the place.
8) Sometimes, less is more
Some animals respond better to less restraint. Get a feel for the patient and work to find a way that is effective for them. You will develop a feel for this the more patients you work with, by recognizing cues from their demeanor and body language.
9) Know when enough is enough
Wrestling a stressed out, anxious, aggressive dog for 30 minutes is not good for the patient or the restrainer. Sometimes, the situation calls for more than just physical restraint. If an animal is becoming too stressed or dangerous to the staff handling it, sedation should be considered for that patient.
Use these tips and become a better, safer, more efficient restrainer! Do you have any other ideas on how to improve this part of the job? Let us know in the comments below!