Today's Veterinary Business

FEB 2019

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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28 Today's Veterinary Business Communication I often find that the process of letting go of a patient alongside the pet owner is, ironically, what bonds the client for life. It is during these most emotional and vulnerable moments that we, as a veterinary team, have a respon- sibility and an opportunity to make a lasting impression conveying empathy, sympathy, compassion and support. Communication FEARLESS While we can't remove the pain of grief or loneliness for that pet owner, we can offer strategies designed to reduce fear, anxiety and stress in both the patient and the client as we help them through the journey. Not only does this approach truly honor the patient's life and the human-animal bond, it builds trust and improves compli- ance with future furry family mem- bers. These are the clients who gen- erate tremendous referrals, leave positive online reviews and improve our professional satisfaction. To elevate your hospital's ser- vice and care, here are some details to consider when discussing hos- pice and euthanasia so that stress and anxiety are removed from both the patient and client. Hospice Most veterinary professionals agree that the goal of hospice is to ensure that a dog or cat's physical, social and mental well-being is assessed for quality of life. Dr. Alice Villalobos, one of the profession's first oncologists, is considered the founder of veterinary hospice. She developed a questionnaire designed to help pet owners score the quality of life. It asks: • Can my dog or cat's pain be managed by medication or oxygen therapy? • Is my pet having difficulty breathing? • Does my pet have a good appetite? • Does my pet drink enough water? • Is my pet clean and well-groomed? • Does my pet greet me and enjoy petting or other interactions? • Can my pet move around easily? • Does my pet have more good days than bad? Clients should answer these questions and discuss the topic fur- ther with their veterinarian. From here, we should work together with pet owners to assess and provide wanted physical support. Clients might look for specific recommen- dations to help meet hospice goals. If a pet's appetite is dwindling, recommend an approved appetite stimulant. Warming the food or hand-feeding are other strategies to discuss. Mixing in a smoother texture, such as baby food, should help if the patient has severe oral disease. Some patients are social eaters and prefer xto be with their owner during meal times. If water consumption is a concern, consider offering a fountain of moving water or making beef bouillon ice cubes. Matted hair coats can be uncomfortable or even painful. Grooming, brushing or sanitary shaving can help reduce pressure and prevent infection. Clients should be taught to recognize signs of pain associated with abnormal body postures and changes in respiratory rate. Pain medication is imperative with all these patients. What's just as important is supporting the pet's emotional well-being. If the pet is acting depressed or anxious, consider the immediate environment and how it can be modified. If it's noisy and busy, recommend a quieter area of the home and the addition of classi- cal or instrumental music or a white noise machine. Try pheromone therapy — a collar or room plug- in — to produce a natural calming endorphin effect. If the pet's be- havior has changed to become less tolerant or more reactive, consider an anxiety-reducing pharmaceuti- cal such as a benzodiazepine. Those strategies could help the patient sleep more comfortably. A calming body wrap or one that of- fers harness assistance can reduce exposure to static electricity and relax the patient. If the patient prefers to be on a bed or furniture but can't navigate well, recommend that the client install a pet ramp or stairs. Bedding is incredibly import- ant, especially for pets struggling to walk or move, or even those that are moribund. Please recommend soft but supportive bedding with or without a heating element, such as an orthopedic bed or one with an egg-crate topping. Many patients respond positively By Natalie Marks, DVM Fearless through the end Learning to reduce anxiety and stress during hospice or euthanasia will elevate your hospital's service and care and bring extra comfort to the patient and client.

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