Today's Veterinary Business

OCT 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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38 Today's Veterinary Business Communication As a profession, we are making progress toward recognizing and treating our patients' emotional health. We've implemented pheromones at home and in our practices, prescribed relaxation medications to give before a visit, added music and new color palettes to exam rooms, and introduced high-reward treats to enhance the patient experience. Communication FEARLESS However, one incredibly important aspect of reducing fear and stress in our patients is the exam room dance, meaning the recognition of our patient's body language and our immediate non-verbal response. A cat will display anxiety or stress in the exam room differently from a dog, and this fact should be a focus of training. While the subtle dance re- quires practice and individual ad- aptation, it carries no material cost and, when done well, can create significant revenue for a hospital through increased compliance. Let's Start With Cats An important goal at every exam is to see a relaxed and happy cat as demonstrated through body posture. When a relaxed cat is sitting or standing, she will hold her ears in a natural, upright position, her tail upright or held out loosely from the body, her eyes will be normal shape, and her mouth will be closed. If the same patient is lying on the exam table or floor, her belly will be exposed and the body stretched out, and her eyes and mouth might be partially to completely closed. We will start to see body changes when fear, anxiety or stress is triggered in the feline patient. This is an instant signal that our behavior and approach need to change, too. The trigger could be a smell, sight, sound, movement or impatient or overzealous intro- duction. The patient will start to crouch, her muscles will tense, her tail will tuck tightly into the body, her ears will swivel sideways, the head will lower, the pupils will dilate and she might hide. Ideally, recognition of increased anxiety should instantly signal the need to modify han- dling and your plan. If your new ap- proach is unsuccessful, the patient will quickly show signs of anger, fear or intense anxiety. If the patient is standing, she will arch her back, posi- tion the body sideways with hair raised, her ears will be lowered and held to the side, her mouth will be open with teeth showing, and the tail will be tense. If the cat is lying down, her body and ears will flatten, her pupils will dilate, the tail will be tucked against the body, and her mouth will be open with teeth exposed. Reading Dogs Like with a cat, the perfect physical exam for a dog means the canine patient has entered the room relaxed and happy and remains that way. A relaxed dog will have a smooth hair coat, carry the mouth open and relaxed, hold her ears in a natural position, wag her tail and keep her eyes in a normal shape. The patient might even invite play with the rear and tail raised, an interested and relaxed face, and equal weight distribution across all four paws. Any noticeable or subtle trigger might quickly change a dog's body language. As the anxiety or stress level rises, look for telltale postures. The ears will turn backward, the patient might yawn repeatedly and lick her lips, eye contact might be avoided by turning the head away, and the tail may tuck underneath. As you perfect your body lan- guage assessments and responses, By Natalie Marks, DVM Lost in translation Failure to accurately assess a patient's body language can lead to a petrified animal, an unproductive exam and poor owner compliance. A relaxed dog will have a smooth hair coat, carry the mouth open and relaxed, hold her ears in a natural position, wag her tail and keep her eyes in a normal shape. Continued on Page 40

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