Rule #1 of Animal Restraint: Remember the Hierarchy

22 Sep

Remember the hierarchy:

Owner–>Vet–>You/co-workers (obviously animal throughout).

A]  Owner

When holding an animal in proximity to an owner the number one rule is–do NOT let the owner get bit. Or scratched or harmed in any way. It’s a bad scene and owners can SUE. Even if they are injured by their own animal. Even if they did something stupid to deserve their injury. Once they are in the hospital’s driveway, it is up to the staff to take away all risk as best as possible. Easier said then done.

Secondly, make everything you’re doing seem gentle and effortless. No client wants you manhandling their pet, and very few understand firm holding techniques. If you scruff the cat, flatten your hand and move the fingers so to the owner it looks more like petting. If you have the cat under a towel–just talk out loud and say soothing things to the animal so it doesn’t seem so horrid (to the owner). The owner doesn’t need to know you are pressing into their crazy beast with as much strength as you can muster.

Third–remain calm. And this is hard. Especially when an animal is really acting naughty and stressed and doing their best to get away or aggress. It’s pretty common for the cat to be stressed, which ramps up the owner, which in turn makes the cat MORE anxious and ornery, which makes the staff nervous, and soon everyone is a ball of nerves.  This is counterproductive.  Try to keep in your internal calm place. A calm exterior can help everyone involved feel more soothed. You’d be surprised how many pets will also calm down if you use a quiet voice, and slow deliberate movements. Even if the fractious animal doesn’t calm down, the people around you will. Your calmness instills confidence. No matter how tired you are or how much your adrenaline is pumping.

B]  When holding an animal for a vet:

The number one rule is–do not let the vet get bit.

Secondly, don’t let them get scratched. If the vet does get (even slight) injury, classically they will make a fuss.  They might shout out, and they will certainly bring it up that YOU got them hurt throughout the day/week/lifespan of your employment.  Nobody wants this.  So really make an effort to HOLD the animal–dare I say it even to the detriment of yourself.  Though you should make yourself second priority when restraining for a vet (most likely your employer) DO have an escape plan in mind.  Put a towel in proximity.  Plan to hastily push the fractious sharp-edged animal in a nearby kennel/carrier/sink if need be.  Don’t be afraid to hold up the show and ask to re-position so you have a better and safer grip.  And never be afraid to speak up and request the gloves or something that will make you safer and more successful.  Still, don’t let the vet get any teeth and claw. . .

C]  If you’re holding for another co-worker, just try to have fast hands and avoid anyone getting the teeth and claw, while avoiding a rodeo as best as possible.

The way I see it, this is all about repore.  Each person is responsible for themselves more then the first two instances of restraint (owner and vet).  Whoever is holding needs to concentrate on not getting the do-er hurt, while maximizing chances for success on the task.  And seriously, don’t ever, ever abandon a hold and let the animal frenzy and bite/scratch/hurt your co-worker.  This is one of the cardinal sins of restraint–you never just give up and let go.  Like above, have a plan to minimize the risk of all.

Whoever is DOing, needs to get it done fast, competently, and without drama.  They should not wait until a crazy animal is in the perfect position and still, or try to get a huge blood sample on a difficult draw if a couple drops will do, or say–I can only do such and such with my right hand in this terribly specific position that this particular animal HATES and refuses to do.

Finally, never be a super-douche and tell other people how your co-worker might have struggled. This helps builds trust and repore.

EDIT–> I recently thought of an important addition to this restraint post:

D]  Bystanders

The point is–if you are in the vicinity of a restraint situation, there is no such thing as an inattentive, inactive observer.  Also, there is no hierarchy when someone is about to/in the process of getting injured.  It does not matter your position in the hospital (vet, assistant/tech, receptionist, volunteer) YOU need to pay attention.  Which is a good idea inside a vet hospital ALL the time.  Just be aware and ready.  Especially if someone is in the process of getting hurt, it’s time to act.  Don’t stand there staring at the holder struggling or losing control of the scene.  Grab a towel or gloves for them or yourself.  Shur doors to decrease the area in which an animal can run.  Shout out instructions–such as, “throw it in the sink/kennel!”  Or, “Let go!”  If you have restraint skills, and are in a good position, run over and lend a hand.  Obviously only do that if you’re certain you also won’t get hurt.

If you DO get hurt despite best efforts not to–minimize your reaction.  Especially if the pet owner, vet, or others are in proximity.  A good tech does not scream, curse, or otherwise make a scene when given the teeth and claw.  Most times, these injuries are minor and will heal fine in a day or two.  This is part of the job and bound to happen–maybe frequently.  Man-up.

After the procedure is finished and the animal is safely secured, go wash with clorhexidine/betadine or both.  Really scrub, no matter how it hurts at the time.  You’ll be glad you did the next day when it no longer hurts.   If it’s really bad (warrents leaving work right away to go to the doctor, is my benchmark) immediately tell someone important.

So that’s the basic hierarchy of restraint.  Important stuff, huh?  Next up, how to get into your internal calm place.

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