Proper animal handling is a skill so fundamental to all that veterinary medical professionals do, that often we forget to properly emphasize its importance to new folks entering the field. Whether you’re still learning handling skills or you have the basics down pat, I highly recommend watching other people handle animals. That way you will pick up new tricks—like the “less is more” strategy when it comes to feline restraint or the magic slip lead for aggressive dogs—and perhaps even begin to notice the things that DON’T work when approaching animals. Don’t be afraid to ask people why they are choosing a particular restraint method, or to ask staff members to correct one of your restraint holds. If you’re like me, simply seeing a restrain technique doesn’t equate to knowing when and how to perform it; I need a verbal description, too.
Once you feel confident in your animal handling skills, be careful not to place these skills on a back burner. You should strive to handle every dog in a soothing, gentle manner, and not just pull out your best handling skills for the nervous or aggressive animals. You should aim to handle every cat in a way that keeps them calm and stress-free, not just the cute or timid ones.
Another animal handling tip is to always be aware. It’s fine and dandy to chat with your coworkers or discuss the patient’s case while performing some simple medical procedures like a nail trim or a blood draw, but remember that you are responsible for the well-being of the pet, your coworker, and yourself when you are the one restraining an animal. That means you should be aware of the animal’s mood at all times, and be tailoring your restraint method to match. Some animals are great for all procedures except those involving the head, while for others the paws are the problem area. Other animals lie still for the majority of a procedure, and then decide at a certain point that they are finished with all this poking and prodding. It’s up to you to remain alert and act promptly when the situation changes.
Proper animal handling keeps the pet calm and ensures your safety, while proper animal restraint keeps the pet calm while ensuring the safety of you and your coworkers. The purpose of this blog post isn’t to overwhelm you with responsibility, but rather impress upon you the important safety role you’re playing. So get out there, have fun, and be safe!