I don't know about you, but every time one of my animals has to go to the vet. I want to make sure that the experience is a good one. And so, over the years, I have tried to help my animals by preparing them for vet visits, and as you can imagine, I do it by telling them what's about to come now. A recent story sent to me by one of my clients made me realize it is essential to prepare not just our animals but also the veterinarian and the vet techs to ensure the experience is pleasant and beneficial.
Let me read you the email I received from my client.
Hi Nicole, nine days ago, I took my cat to our regular vet's office to have blood drawn for her 6 months follow-up for her kidney disease. It was an extremely traumatic event for the sweet girl. She was not handled well, and her angry yelling could be heard throughout the building. The vet was not in that day; she was attended to by the vet techs. When one of the techs brought my cat out into the waiting room, she announced, "That cat has a screw loose."
My cat was in great distress, didn't eat for days, and wouldn't sleep next to me at night. It has taken her until now, nine days to settle down and start eating again. Very stressful for both of us.
Today, we had an appointment for a follow-up with the vet. I told my cat we were going for a ride and to see the Dr., the nice lady. I had yet to take her carrier out as I was getting ready. My cat started meowing, and I found her hiding on top of the kitchen cabinets! She hasn't done that in ages. That's when I said, "You can't make this s**t up!
I coaxed her down, promised her I would stay with her the whole time, that I would not leave her, and that we would come home again together. The visit went well; the vet was very gentle with her! I told the doctor what had happened last time, and the doctor put a note in my girl's file to have a different tech work with her next time.
All the details aside, when I told her we would see the vet again, my cat hid atop the kitchen cupboards! She completely understood what I was talking about and showed me she wasn't happy about it!
Thankfully, after the second visit, when all went well, and I spoke up for her, our return home was uneventful. She happily eats and sleeps. Our animals really do understand so much."
First of all, I want to say, “Yay,” for my human client preparing her cat for the trip both times.
That part makes me so happy, knowing that my clients and their animals are connecting in these beautiful ways
And, also, yes, my client is right. Our animals do understand so much if we help them wrap their mind around a situation.
And when we don't prepare them, things can quickly go wrong.
Now, this story made me realize we also have a responsibility to help the professionals communicate more clearly with our animals. This blood drawing incident was a routine visit for the staff. Take the kitty out of the carrier and place her on a table; one person holds her, and the other draws the blood. Done.
And that works with some cats.
But, it would be much more helpful for the cat and the staff if the cat was told what was to come.
If she was taken out of the carrier, placed on the table, petted, and told, "Alright, Rosali, Susie is gonna hold you while I give you a quick poke to draw some blood so we can find out how you're doing."
Chances are the cat will be quiet and helpful to get the procedure done.
Why do I say this rather confidently? A few years ago, I had a similar situation with my horse, Shana.
At that time, Shana had a discharge from her nose. Our local vet checked her teeth, sinuses, guttural pouch, and another area in the back of her teeth that can get infected and cause discharge … but none seemed to be the cause.
So, I brought Shana to the vet hospital for further exploration.
As you can imagine, the expenses for a horse to receive various tests to diagnose a cause can be ginormous. So when the vet in charge told me he had to do a scan of Shana's head that could be done under mild sedation if she stood still or required full anesthesia if she didn't stand still, there was no question what I preferred.
I wanted to avoid complete anesthesia. Because it is a lot for a body to process, and there's always a chance that something can go wrong. With horses, there is always an extra level of concern. Being a prey animal, they can get easily scared waking out of anesthesia. They can panic, and that's why their wake-up room is padded with cushy mats, so they don't hurt themselves when they struggle to get to their feet and get frightened. And, of course, general anesthesia was a much more significant expense than mild sedation.
Therefore, I aimed for Shana to make it through the scan on a sedative that allowed her to stand for the procedure.
Now came the part that required courage: speaking up for my horse.
I told the doctor, "My mare is smart. She will listen if you explain that you need to do a scan, and her job is to stand quietly."
The vet chuckled, a little uncomfortable, so I reinforced my suggestion. "Please try it," I said, "she will work with you."
The doctor laughed uncomfortably and said, I'll do that.
Of course, I waited with bated breath to hear the results and how much it would cost me. A couple of hours later, the vet called. He shared the results of the scan - Shana required surgery. I asked him if he had to put her under or if she stood for the scan.
The vet said, "She stood perfectly, just like you said she would."
How about that?
Animals are so intelligent. If we explain things, they get it.
And, in this case, though Shana needed anesthesia for the actual surgery, we avoided her having to go under twice.
Returning to Rosali, who had a terrible experience. If we prepare the animal and the veterinarian or vet tech on how to approach our animal, we can set our animal up for success.
I know that it can be uncomfortable speaking up and advocating for our animals. More than once, a professional has looked at me as a helicopter mom.
And I also know that veterinarians and their staff are overworked and understaffed these days. Therefore, helping those professionals by telling them to speak to our animal and explain the procedures ahead will help everyone be more at ease during a treatment that might not be that easy to accept.
By preparing your animal and the professional who will be working with it, you build more trust with your animal and foster the relationship they have with their vet.
Educating everybody about verbal communication ensures that even the most uncomfortable procedures can be done with as much ease as possible.
I hope this episode inspired you to advocate for verbal communication.
Until next time, auf Wiedersehen.