What does it mean when our mission statement says that we strive to see our actions through the eyes of our patients and to “minimize separation from the people they love” The “separation from the people they love” part is pretty simple. It means that we know your pet wants to be with you and for that reason you are always welcome to accompany your pet anywhere in the hospital. Of course, there are a few times you cannot be in the same room due to safety concerns, such as when your pet is having an x-ray taken or when your pet is receiving some of our chemotherapy treatments. Additionally, during surgery or dental procedures when your pet is under general anesthesia and during severe emergencies, due to our need to totally focus on your pet, we request that you wait in the waiting room. Although we have staff here to provide gentle, loving nursing care to our patients all night long, we will only hospitalize a patient overnight if it is absolutely necessary because we know that your pet wants to be with you at home. It is almost unheard of in veterinary medicine to have paid staff working shifts all night (unless it is an emergency hospital such as REACH), but at Animal Hospital of North Asheville it is our mission to decrease stress in our patients and therefore, we do not leave patients unattended in our hospital at night. Only with our staff here at night are we able to monitor our patients’ vitals, monitor and treat them for pain, or administer treatments such as IV fluids and pain medications as needed. Also very important, is the emotional support your pet gets all night long, the soothing voices, the gentle reassuring care, and all the attention to the little things that decrease the stress of being away from home that our staff gives to your pet all night long.
How do we strive to see our actions through the eyes of our patients? This is harder because no human being can really know how dogs and cats perceive things. Our staff members attend classes on making our hospital low-stress for patients, and we are constantly on the lookout for all the latest information on how to handle our patients in the least stressful way possible. An earlier newsletter touched on some of our new techniques to decrease stress in our cat patients, such as allowing them to feel somewhat hidden during exams. As you know, our patients get a lot of treats anytime they are here. Dogs are usually more receptive to treats than cats are, but we do offer treats to cats as well. Treats are given to decrease stress, but that is just a small part of our program to decrease stress. Just recently several of our staff members took classes on decreasing stress in our dog patients. Some took a series of classes at AB Tech taught by Kim Brophey, others attended class at Gaston College and others in Greenville, SC. Four of these staff members, Dorothy, Jen, Laurie and Allison, are now presenting classes to the rest of the staff. They are presenting a series of four classes that take place while we are closed on Tuesdays from 12:00PM to 2:30 PM for staff education.
The following is an example of the type of information our staff is learning:
Dogs communicate mainly by means of body language. They will “read” our body language, even when we are not purposely trying to communicate. If we familiarize ourselves with their gestures/movements, and in some instances employ the gestures ourselves, we can use our improved lines of communication to convey feelings of reassurance, rather than inadvertently aggravate their nervousness. This is especially important in the hospital setting. Be aware that dogs employ calming signals to diffuse tension in themselves or others. Dogs also use these same signals to display good will or resolve conflict. Not only are these signals good to know in order to recognize stress, if we employ these signals ourselves or encourage them in our patients, then we are decreasing the stress that our patients feel.
Here is a list of a few of the calming signals we are learning to recognize in our patients:
- Looking away from what is happening
- Lip licking
- Shaking off (as if they were wet)
This is just one example of the type of information we are now employing. While we are excited to be gaining more knowledge about decreasing stress, we know that you, the pet’s family, are our best resource for what makes your pet comfortable. Please always speak up and tell us how to best make your pet feel at ease. At AHNA, we always want your pet to be happy! So if you see one of us yawning at your dog, we aren’t bored, we are just using a calming signal!