Dr. Lila Miller, D.V.M., ASPCA Sr. Director Animal Sciences & Vet Advisor
THE BASIC HEALTH EXAMINATION
The behavior assessment is important for determination of the amount of restraint that will be necessary to complete the physical exam, as well as for the adoptability of the animal.
Ideally speaking, the person performing the examination should always have an assistant hold the animal, regardless of how friendly he or she may be.
Restraint can range from virtually no restraint at all, to resorting to tranquilizers.
Physical exams can often be performed with the assistant simply keeping one’s hands on the animal’s neck to keep him from moving around, and to restrain him if he unexpectedly tries to bite.
Unless the animal is overtly aggressive or menacing, the least amount of restraint necessary is usually best. More restraint, or holding the animal too tightly frightens the animal and causes more struggling, which makes it virtually impossible to perform a thorough physical exam.
Sometimes the only safety precaution necessary may be to tie a gauze muzzle around the animal’s mouth. This may be easier than trying to use a leather or nylon muzzle.
Although it varies according to the animal, the situation and personal preference, it is usually best to examine an animal on the exam table rather than the floor. This usually provides more control, better lighting, and is much better for the examiner’s back!
Some shelter examination rooms have rings in the wall or “squeeze gates” that can be used as an aid to restrain a difficult animal for tranquilization. Assuming that it is possible to get a rope around the animal’s neck, it can then be passed through the ring, so the animal’s head can be pulled close to the wall and a tranquilizer injected into the thigh muscle without the danger of being bitten. The squeeze gate swings back against the wall and immobilizes the animal enough so that a tranquilizer may be safely given.
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