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Care of Inpatients
An important part of a VSA's job is caring for their inpatients. An animal either admitted for surgery or because of illness need close monitoring to keep the veterinarian up to date with the pet's condition.
Terms in this set (18)
Monitoring Animals and Updating their charts
Once admitted, an animal is placed in a cage with bedding, food (if appropriate), water, and a cat litter tray. Ideally, cats and dogs are kept in separate kettle rooms to decrease stress on the cats, and excitement of dogs. Though some clinics may not be big enough for this, and so it is important to provide a cat with a hiding place.
The importance of monitoring
As a VSA, you'll be in and out of the kennel room to keep an eye on inpatients.
- Be familiar with what's normal for the animal: How did the animal behave before being admitted into the clinic? Were they generally relaxed or stressed? Knowing how pets behave before a painful procedure could be a tell for how they'll behave while in pain after the procedure.
- Be alert to changes: Being observant of an animal's behavior over time is a good way to tell of the animal's condition. If the animal didn't want to eat earlier but is now eating, they're probably feeling better.
- Checking for the abnormal: At some point, the pet needs to urinate and defecate, especially if they're staying for days. If a dehydrated animal on a drip is not urinating enough, then the drip may need to be turned up. If a pet is not defecating at least once a day, it could be that the dog is not eating enough or the animal is constipated. Either way, the veterinarian needs to know.
- Turning into the patients needs: Being observant makes a big difference to a pet's comfort. You may be able to offer a better solution than the animals current scenario.
- Hitches and glitches: After being aware of how an animal normally reacts after a procedure or taking a certain medicine or anesthetic, you can report any unusual complications if they happen.
- Spotting new symptoms: The blocked cat starts urinating or a constipated dog starts having diarrhea, the vet needs to know about this.
What should you be checking?
Here's a mental checklist of things to look for so that you don't miss an important clue:
- Breathing: Is the animal breathing more rapidly or shallow than he should?
- Panting: Hot or stressed dogs pant. Mouth breathing is rare in cats, as this could be a sign of extreme stress or heart disease.
- Rest: Is the animal curled up asleep or moving restlessly
- Grooming: Animals groom to comfort themselves as well as keeping themselves clean. A lack of grooming could indicate stress.
- Toilet Habits: Is their litter tray being used? How long since the dog's last toilet break?
- Eating: Appetant or inappetant behavior
-Demeanor: Relaxed and friendly or withdrawn and sullen
The Importance of Updating charts
Each patient has a chart attached to their bed. The exact design of the chart varies but all carry a permanent record of the pet's vital signs, appetite, and toilet habits, as well as having information such as temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. This information is invaluable in case the VSA who knew all of this is now off duty.
There's are normally parts for writing comments about the pet's behavior and condition. Come clinics require that you initial each comment in case someone has to query about the animal, and they know who to ask.
TLC- Providing The Optimal Environment
Away from home and in a strange place, of coarse the inpatients are going to be stressed. You want to do anything you can to make the animal comfortable. To do this, you have to provide an optimal environment for each individual during their stay. You will be looking out for their physical and psychological needs.
This is more than based in comfort for the animal, it also helps speed the recovery process. It requires more energy for an animal's body to heat itself up from a cold temperature; the consequences of excessive heat loss can be catastrophic if an animal is ill or recovering from and anesthetic.
- Rabbits and small mammals: Small animals have a relatively large surface are, meaning that they loose heat and quickly become chilled. After surgery, it's especially important to keep them warm. This means wrapping them in heat-retaining materials
- Animals recovering from an anesthetic: Regardless of size, animals need to be kept warm when coming around from an anesthetic.
Special note on heating pads: A patient must never lie directly on a heating pad. They should always have a blanket between the animal and the pad to prevent thermal burns.
Signs of being too hot or cold
- Ears and paws feel warm or hot to the touch
- Panting or Drooling
- Pink Skin may appear flushed or reddened
- Restless or distressed
- Ears and paws feel cold to the touch
- Shivering or piloerection
- Pink skin may appear pale
- Huddled in a corner
Under some circumstances, such as in hot weather or a pet that has seizures, the animal may get too hot and suffer a heat stroke. Also a bid dog generates a lot of body heat; a metal bed may retain this heat. Be alert to this possibility. If necessary, move the dog to another spot with more airflow, or have a fan blowing into their head.
It is severely uncomfortable for an animal to have to go to the bathroom and not have anywhere to go. This is why each cat has a litter tray, and make sure dogs are taken out on regular toilet breaks.
Fear and axiety
No one wants a pet that's anxious or fearful. You can improve their experience by taking care of small details
- Wash your hands: Apart from hygiene, washing your hands between patients gets rid of the smell of other animals. An example of what could happen otherwise is that if you had just finished handling a cat and then went to pickup a rabbit, this could increase fear because of the predator-prey mentality
- Pheromones: Consider plugging diffusers into the socket of a kennel room. These also help give dogs and cats a reassuring message on a subliminal level.
- Separate Kennel rooms: Dogs are to cats what cats are to rabbits. When a prey species is enclosed in the same room as a predatory species, though they are obviously not in the same cage, still get stressed out. This is because the scent is still in the room, and this signals a potential threat for the prey species.
- Hidey holes and boxes: For these fearful cats and dogs, giving them a means of "escape" aids very much to ease their discomforts
Special Measures - Hand feeding and Critical care
You do not want to eat when you don't feel well, and the same goes for animals; however, it is important that the patient eats to aid in their recovery, and there are skills that a VSA develops for getting an inappetant animal to eat.
Turning the animal
When an animal lie in one position for a long time, blood pools in the lower parts of the body as well as potentially causing sores. The former is more significant if the animal is feeling so unwell that they are just lying flat out. This is because the blood pools in the lower part of their lungs and causes them to develop pneumonia.
Turn the animal to prevent this. This is as simple as rolling a pet from one side to another. This should be done every 20 minutes or so. Make sure they're lying on padded bedding and ask for help if the animal is too heavy for you.
To animals, its important to keep their coat clean, especially cats. They may not be able to groom themselves due to nausea or pain, and this could make cats despondent. However gently brushing their coat while speaking to them softly could make a world of difference.
Take care of this if an animal has had a recent surgery. The incision will be sore from this.
A sick pet with a poor appetite might not have the energy to go to their bowl; this is why hand feeding is significant. Hand feeding makes a pet feel special and in turn make them want to please you by eating.
This takes time and practice, sometime spending several minutes at the pets bedside. The animal needs to make a connection with you.
You can find out what the pets favorite food is and ask the veterinarian if its okay to eat. You can even warm up the food to body temperature and make the smell more appealing.
With a fingertip, you can offer a morsel of food to the animal and see what they do. Them having a little taste may be enough to get things started. If they otherwise pull away, they're probably not ready for food.
Drips and catheters
Make sure the drips are running, and alert a clinical staff member if you suspect that it isn't.
Taking vital signs
Animals cannot speak, so their body's condition is heavily relied upon. The measures used to check vital signs are:
- Pulse rate
- Respiratory rate
Checking a pulse
The pulse represents blood flow through the blood vessel. There is one 'bump' of the pulse for each heartbeat. The pulse can be felt in many different locations such as under the jaw bone, behind the wrist, and under the base of the tail. However, the site most commonly used is inside the thigh.
To find the pulse, use the fingertips of your forefinger and middle-finger. From in front the thigh, slide your fingers inside the patient's thigh and move them slowly backwards while applying gentle pressure. The blood vessels run alongside the thigh bone, so pay special attention when your fingers reach this position. You are feeling for a 'bump bump'
This is as simple as counting how many breaths the animal takes in one minute. Watch the pet's chest and each in-out, do the ribs move (which is normal and a good sign), or does the animal use their tummy to suck the air in and out? Is the cat breathing through their mouth?
Again, be sure to record your observation on their chart.
An animal's temperature is most commonly recorded rectally (though there are ear thermometers, but significantly less common).
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