A visit to the doctor, dentist or hospital often leaves you wracked with nerves. But, if the experience is made more comfortable for us, if we feel cared for and important—our anxieties are soothed, and the visit immediately becomes less stressful.
It’s exactly the same in your veterinary clinic for both your clients and their pets.
So, when an elderly dog comes in, sliding around on the floor and struggling to get comfortable—the worry and anxiety felt by the pet and owner is heightened.
Making your clinic osteoarthritis friendly could be one of the most effective changes you make towards creating a hub of happiness for both the pets and their people, in your clinic.
Dr Nat Scroggie BSc (Hons) BVM BVS (Hons) MRCVS has extensive clinical experience in small animal and emergency care, focusing on inpatient care and geriatric medicine.
She shares her ideas to boost your OA patient’s comfort and confidence when visiting your practice.
“Osteoarthritis is a disease we see every day in practice, particularly in older patients. Here are a few easy ways the whole team can adapt your practice for dogs with OA to help make these visits as comfortable and stress-free as possible.”
In the waiting room
Whilst we aim to keep waiting times to a minimum, we all know this is not always the case! Having a store of mats or thick vet beds by reception for older dogs to lie on can help keep them comfortable whilst they are waiting. This lets their owners know you are thinking about their welfare before you even start the consultation.
In the consulting room
For smaller to medium-sized dogs, a consulting table that can be lowered to near floor level will minimise how far they need to be lifted—and saves your back.
For larger dogs who need to be examined on the floor, a non-slip mat (yoga mats work well) can help them feel supported and prevent their legs from slipping. This is also particularly useful for any procedures, such as blood samples and nail clips, where they need to sit.
Remember always to be mindful of stiff or painful joints when stretching their legs for these procedures.
In the hospital
Gentle and regular exercise is a cornerstone of effective management in patients with osteoarthritis. So, it’s no surprise that many OA signs worsen in hospitalised patients, as they are often confined to kennels for long periods.
If possible, choose a large walk-in kennel with space for them to move around, that is easy to get in and out of. Memory foam mattresses with a waterproof cover are ideal for providing plenty of padding, keeping them warm, and ensuring it’s not too slippery.
Where clinically appropriate, regular walking-out will help reduce stiffness. It goes without saying that gentle handling is even more important in patients with OA, particularly under sedation or anaesthetic, as it is easy to exceed their comfortable range of motion. They may require additional levels of analgesia compared to animals that do not have any pre-existing musculoskeletal issues.
Dr Nat Scroggie graduated from Nottingham Vet School in 2016. She is an experienced small animal veterinary surgeon with a particular interest in geriatric care in both dogs and cats. She lives in Nottingham with her partner Tom, and their much-loved golden oldie Milly – a 13 year-old Labrador x Collie.