Well, it really follows in the footsteps of the human medical world. Have you been to a pediatric ward in a human hospital lately? When I was a kid and had my tonsils out in the early 70’s it was an awful experience; being poked with needles, sleeping in a room that wasn’t my own that was bare and boring, and the worst part was being 6 and having my parents drop me off and leaving as visiting hours were over. I was alone and scared. The human medical field has worked hard at improving medical care for children. Hospitals hire child-care workers whose job is basically keeping the kids happy. There are movies and video games. Dogs, including my Winston, go to the hospital to visit the sick and injured kids and give them a break from worrying about their next treatment. Parents now stay in a bed beside their child and are no longer restricted to set visitation hours.
Another field that has worked hard to remove the fear is dentistry, which has a reputation of being a frightening place to go. Dentist offices use TVs in the ceiling to entertain the patients; and, those patients with real dental phobias can receive conscious sedation.
Now it is our turn to change. We are always improving our standard care and learning new medical techniques, but now it is time for us as veterinarians to help our patients in the most basic way. We need to make our hospitals not a scary place to have to visit – after all our dogs and cats are part of our family so why wouldn’t we want to do the same for them as we would for our kids. Dr. Sophia Yin, an animal behaviorist, started working with handling and training techniques to decrease the anxiety in our patients. All our staff at Fraser Valley Animal Hospital work here because of our love of animals. So, when I suggested to my team that we learn Dr. Yin’s techniques to help our patients, my team jumped, and we spent our evening in workshops learning Dr. Yin’s techniques.
It was a great start but I wanted to do more. I wanted to be able to offer our patients the very best. That is when I found the Fear Free group and took their course and became Fear Free certified. With their help we built Abbotsford’s first and presently only Fear Free Hospital. A year ago, when I contacted the fear free group, they were willing to give me their research and what they were recommending for a Fear Free Hospital. This spring (May 2017) we should be moving into our new hospital. So, what is so unique about our space?
1. We have a cats only entrance, waiting area, treatment rooms, exam rooms, and kennels. No cat loves being in a kennel when a large dog comes charging in and puts his wet nose up to the kennel door. But it is not just the cat only area. It is also about the sound proofing in the walls so the cats don’t hear a barking dog; and, it’s about the improved ventilation so our pets can’t smell each other with their amazing sense of smell.
2. We know animals have different ability in their senses. They see differently than us: colour, wavelength, night vision. So, our new hospital we have taken this in to consideration from the LED lights, the dimmers in our wards and the paint on the walls, all chosen to help keep our patients calm.
3. In our cat boarding, we focused on making sure our guests have stimulation to minimize stress and boredom. What cat doesn’t want to look out a window and see some birds?
4. Our dogs have also been thought about. Our new dog scale is sunken in the floor to that dogs only have to sit on a carpet for us to get their weight. We also have a large dog exam room that has no table to give our oversize patients their needed space.
6. Did you know there have been studies to show that classical music not only decreases stress and anxiety but also lowers anesthetic rates in our patients. So though out our hospital we will have classical music playing and though it may not be our client’s choice in music, it is our patient’s, and our new hospital is all about our dogs and cats.
These are some of the few physical changes that help make our new hospital Abbotsford’s first pet hospital built specifically to minimize anxiety when pets have to visit us. Along with our new handling techniques, our new protocols and we hope to be the start of a new wave in veterinary care.
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