Why is it Important that Veterinary Care Specialists and VCS Pets First are designated Cat Friendly

When I began veterinary school it was 1982. Veterinary medicine was different then in so many ways. We had only begun using radiography within non-university settings about 30 years earlier. My veterinary class was predominantly male and about 50% of my class planning on practicing on large (farm) animals, now the classes are almost completely female and mostly populated by budding small animal clinicians. Analgesia and pain management in domestic animals was still in its infancy. It was definitely a different time for the profession, but it was the beginning of so much growth and development. It has been an exciting and challenging process to grow with my profession.

Staying ahead of the curve has always been a challenge that every professional must embrace in order to supply the very best services to their clientele. It allows us to be successful along with continuing to challenge ourselves to learn and grow. I think one  of the areas that our profession has seen an incredible amount of change in the past 30 years is in the care of our feline patients. When I was in school cats were essentially treated as small dogs that got a few different infections. Their anatomy and, seemingly, their physiology were the same, it seemed that it was only logical to apply the same diagnostics and therapies to the feline as well as the canine. It was a novelty to run across a veterinary practice with separate waiting rooms for cats and dogs back then, let alone doctors that had separate practices that catered to only cats.

Over the years our profession has grown to appreciate, through extensive research in feline physiology, feline behavior and feline anatomy, that the cat is not merely a dog with an attitude, but a totally different individual. Just in the area of pain management we have discovered that it is not just the dose of the medications that changes a result of their smaller size, but the choice of analgesic medication, side effects, length of the medications action within the patient and route of administration differs greatly between cat and dog. Compounding pharmacies have come to the forefront in our practice in large part due to their ability to create topical medications, flavored liquid medications or tiny tablets, otherwise unavailable to our feline friends. These different treatment options allow clients and hospital staff to easily medicate their cats, limiting their stress and diminishing the side effects of some medications.

Huge strides have been made in understanding feline behavior. We have come to recognize the influence of emotional and social stress on a cats physical health. Many illnesses such as feline cystitis are managed not only with diet and antibiotics, but also antidepressants. Again, recognizing the difference between dogs and cats we have also found that cats should be housed differently than dogs when in the hospital. They should be kept away from loud noises, given boxes or cubbies that they can cuddle within. Feline patients are handled differently by our staff as a result of learning about their response to certain handling techniques and appreciating the physical cues that cats supply regarding their stress level and comfort.

The examples of how the veterinarians best practices for the in hospital management, medical and nutritional therapies, and diagnostics of the feline patient have changed are so many that they reach beyond the scope of this article. However, note that I mentioned ‘best’ practices. As veterinarians and hospital owners we can make choices as to how our facilities are run, what our recommended best practices are for our staff and our doctors. It is actually a huge responsibility as a hospital owner, but each one of us interprets these responsibilities differently.

Fortunately, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has provided guidelines that lead us down the path of becoming a Cat Friendly Practice. Our hospital has achieved certification because we recognize the importance of implementing these best practices for our feline patients and achieving the highest standards of all patient care. At our hospital our Cat Friendly practices do not stop at receiving certification, this is more a starting point. We continue to remain aware of and implement the very best medical and surgical care for our distinctly unique feline patients.

J.A. Hass DVM, MS, DABVP (canine/feline)

Posted on August 06, 2015
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