Take a tour of “The Back”

After discussing spays last week, I realized that I’ve been at Pet Authority for 7 years, so it goes without saying that I’m comfortable there. I also realized that as familiar as I am with the hospital, clients are generally in a very unfamiliar environment. This can lead to a lot of stress during visits. Pets are often taken out of the exam room to have blood or other samples drawn, procedures, and surgery. Seeing a family member disappear into an unknown situation has to be bewildering and scary.

I’d like to share the “unseen” parts of our practice with you. We do have tour photos up on the main web page at petsloved.com, but I can add in some extras that show you how things are done when your pet is outside of the exam room. We never have anything to hide. In some cases, it’s better that a concerned owner not be right at the pet’s side — pets pick up on the stress. Granted, sometimes the owner’s presence is essential! We never hesitate to ask for help if we think an owner can make things better.

There are a few things I’d like to establish first:
•”Restraint” means comfortably and safely holding an animal for a medical procedure. We adhere to high standards for safe, humane, and current best practices.
•We do everything we can to ensure the safety of the pet, staff, and owners.
•We make sure that no pet is in undue pain. (Yes, needle pokes for vaccines and blood hurt a little. We minimize this as much as possible.)

Ok, on to the tour!

Most everyone is familiar with our exam rooms. We display information and pet health care products. If you see something you’re curious about, please ask! The metal table is where we place most pets for an exam. We utilize a calming pheromone spray for all cats and some dogs during their visits.

001 examroom

Our Treatment Room is what’s through the ‘exit’ door in each exam room. Most clients and many vet staff members call this “the back.” I don’t think that’s at all accurate! To me, that implies some kind of dingy back storage room. Absolutely not the case! This fully-equipped room has two tables, our laboratory machines, our pharmacy, some cages for recovering surgery patients or hospitalized pets, and storage for most of our supplies. In this photo, the table with the blue/green towel is our ‘wet table.’ It’s a big flat sink with a metal grate on it. We use this for things like dental cleanings or messy procedures. The tubes hanging from the ceiling deliver oxygen and remove waste anesthesia gases.

002 treatment
003 treatment2

Surgery is a separate room past the treatment tables. This suite has extra ventilation and has a specific, separate process for cleaning and maintenance. The glass-enclosed shelves are called a “passthrough,” which is where we store all of our surgical instruments. This is the table pets are placed on for surgery. The machine with all of the connections and tubes is the anesthesia machine, which delivers oxygen and anesthesia gas to pets with a breathing tube in place. We’ve upgraded a lot of the equipment you can see in this photo since it was taken. At some point in the future if folks are interested, we can do a surgery walkthrough post.

004 surgery

We have a radiology room for taking x-rays (radiographs). The x-ray machine has a table and a special tower from which the x-rays are emitted. We have to place pets in a variety of positions for taking images of different body parts. I’ll show you two we use for chest radiographs. This pet is under anesthesia, which is why you can see the tube in his mouth. The square of light with the target X in it is how we know where the x-rays are aimed. Also, you will see bare hands of the techs. We did NOT trigger the x-ray exposure, and we do NOT do so unless the techs are wearing lead-lined safety gloves and apron to protect them.

005 radiology1
006 radiology2
007 radiology3

Drawing blood is probably the most common reason we take a pet out of the exam room. There are several places we can draw blood from. The easiest and fastest is the jugular vein in the neck. I know this sounds bad, but the pets tolerate it very well — usually better than having their legs handled to draw blood from a leg vein.

008 jugblood

Toenail trims are one of our most common tasks. These can be a rodeo! Many pets are sensitive about having their feet handled. One tech gently restrains and another trims. Notice the ‘headlock’ in the photo. We don’t squeeze around the neck! If the tech needs to tighten her restraint, she will apply pressure to the underside of the jaw on the muzzle or the back of the head, but never ever by squeezing the neck itself. Pets restrained this way can breathe well and still be properly restrained. This is one of our tech’s dogs, so he’s really well-behaved. The restrainer hasn’t had to apply any pressure at all.

009 TNTRestraint

That’s about it for the most common areas and activities of the hospital. Feel free to ask questions! I can post more walkthroughs if anyone is interested. Just let me know what topics you’d like to see!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Take a tour of “The Back”

  1. Chris

    Very interesting visual tour! You’re right about clients wondering what’s behind the door. I would love to see a surgical walk-through post, as well, anytime you’d like to do that 🙂

  2. I’ll start getting the post together. I’ll ask permission from a client from one of my surgery days if it’s OK to post their pet’s procedure, so it may take a couple of weeks. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Karen Wahls

    This is an excellent post. It’s reassuring and informative. This is a great way for kid pet owners to understand some of the things that happen at the vet. I like that it’s easy to understand and not technical. Good job, Dr. Hutchinson.

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