A visit to the doctor, dentist or hospital often leaves great nerves behind. But when the experience becomes more enjoyable for us, when we feel cared for and important, our fears are alleviated and the visit immediately becomes less stressful.
In your vet clinic, it's exactly the same for both your clients and their pets.
So when an older dog walks in, fidgets on the floor and struggles to get comfortable, the pet's and owner's worries and anxieties increase.
Making your clinic osteoarthritis-friendly could be one of the most effective changes you can make to create a center of happiness for both pets and people in your clinic.
dr Nat Scroggie BSc (Hons) BVM BVS (Hons) MRCVS has extensive clinical experience in small animal and emergency care with a focus on residential care and geriatrics.
She shares her ideas on how to increase your OA patient's comfort and confidence when visiting your practice.
“ Osteoarthritis is a disease that we see in practice every day, especially in older patients. Here are a few simple ways the whole team can customize your practice for dogs with OA to make those visits as comfortable and stress-free as possible.”
in the waiting room
While we aim to keep waiting times to a minimum, we all know this isn't always the case! A supply of mats or thick pet beds at the front desk for older dogs to lie on can help keep them comfy while they wait. This lets their owners know that you have their welfare in mind before you even begin counseling.
In the consulting room
For smaller to medium-sized dogs, an advisory table that can be lowered to ground level minimizes how far they need to be raised—and is easy on your back.
For larger dogs that need to be examined on the floor, a non-slip mat (yoga mats work well) can help them feel supported and prevent their legs from slipping. This is also especially useful for any procedures, like blood samples and nail clips, where they need to sit.
Always remember to take care of stiff or painful joints when stretching the legs for these procedures.
In the hospital
Gentle and regular exercise is a cornerstone of effective treatment for patients with osteoarthritis. It is therefore not surprising that many OA symptoms worsen in hospitalized patients as they are often confined to kennels for long periods of time.
If possible, choose a large walk-in kennel with freedom of movement that is easy to get in and out of. Memory foam mattresses with a waterproof cover are ideal for providing plenty of padding, keeping you warm and ensuring they aren't too slippery.
Regular walking helps reduce stiffness where clinically appropriate. It goes without saying that gentle handling is even more important in OA patients, especially under sedation or anesthesia, as the comfortable range of motion can easily be exceeded. They may need additional painkillers compared to animals that do not have pre-existing musculoskeletal problems.
dr Nat Scroggie graduated from Nottingham Vet School in 2016. She is an experienced small animal veterinarian with a particular interest in geriatric care for dogs and cats. She lives in Nottingham with her partner Tom and her beloved golden oldie Milly - a 13-year-old Labrador x Collie.