Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why would you want to take my cat "in the back"?

It can be a little distressing when the veterinarian or technician announces that they are taking your pet back to the "treatment area" for a nail trim, blood draw, blood pressure exam or other procedure. What goes on behind closed doors? Why do they request that you remain in the exam room?

The treatment room at Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital is a large room with special spotlights, tall tables, anesthesia machines, and various equipment for anything from a nail trim to a small surgical procedure, such as abscess treatment. The boarding rooms are off this room, as is the ICU area. It is the center of the hospital.

Just like small children, pets will often act out in front of their "parents" either because they are feeding off the emotional state of their owners, or because they know what to expect as a reaction from their owners if they make certain sounds or motions. Once removed from the exam room, they usually calm down somewhat to evaluate the unknown environment and unknown people around them.

In some cases, with extremely stubborn or unruly patients (we call them "fractious"), it may be for your own safety that we take your cat "to the back". Ultimately, even though we are an animal health facility, our professional responsibility is also to make sure that no harm comes to the human caretakers in our office (i.e. YOU). Cats generally lash out at anyone nearby when they are upset, and don't care whether they are friend or foe. It is our wish that no client receive an injury from their cat - especially not while at our office! Cat bites can be extremely traumatic, both emotionally and health-wise. Some people are extremely sensitive to the bacteria that is found in many cats' mouths - it is possible that a cat bite could send a person to the hospital for IV antibiotics! While we don't want to frighten anyone, we do want clients to take cat bites seriously, and to allow us to remove a stressed-out or aggressive cat to a more controlled situation if it appears that someone might get injured.

Additionally, while we all love animals - that's why we chose to work with them, our job is to make sure that procedures are accomplished with minimal stress and maximum efficiency for the sake of the cat. Once the pet is in the treatment area, we still treat your cat with respect and care - we NEVER scruff them, and still speak reassuringly towards them, but we may work more quickly and with less conversation than we would if you were present.

Even if your cat is the best patient ever, and acts better in your presence than away from you, it is often preferable to use the treatment area because a wider variety of tools are available, along with better lighting, better tables, and additional staff close at hand in case they are needed - other doctors for a quick second opinion, or another technician for additional handling, calming or for running additional tests, etc. again, all in the interest of providing your pet with the care it needs in a professional and efficient manner.
Also, your pet is not the only cat in the treatment area. We often have multiple procedures occurring on different tables - a blood draw on an uncooperative patient, a wound treatment or anal gland expression - something that is not for the faint of heart to observe, or a family may be visiting one of our critical care patients, or there may be a very high-tension cat waiting for surgery (the kind that screams when someone walks by the cage). Having extra commotion in the treatment area could disturb these procedures or aggravate cats that are close to the end of their ropes. In addition, we use chemotherapeutic medications, radioactive iodine and x-ray equipment - these are things that our highly trained staff has been specially educated to use safely, but which could be risk factors for people visiting in the back. In fact, we are legally bound not to allow non-staff-members to be in the room when we take x-rays or to allow anyone into the Radioactive Iodine boarding room other than those registered with our Nuclear Physicist. For these reasons, we often discourage people from coming back into the treatment area when we take their cats "in the back".

There are definitely times that we welcome you "in the back" - to visit a critical patient that is hospitalized with us, to say goodbye to your cat if you are leaving them with us for the day, to see our boarding facilities, or to show you the result of an exam performed under anesthesia. However, most of the time, we hope you understand when we ask you to wait in the exam room, or tell you to go grab some lunch while we run diagnostics. It's not because we don't like you! It is for the safety and well-being of all involved. If you ever feel uncomfortable with a request or recommendation that we make, please do let us know - our goal is to make sure that you and your cat get the best care that we can provide!

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