The veterinary profession is an ambassador for the welfare of animals, but visiting a veterinary practice is in itself stressful for many animals. A multitude of recommendations on how to reduce stress during a visit to the veterinarian are available, but they are often not implemented in practice. Therefore, the aim of this study was to survey veterinarians and veterinary students regarding their attitudes toward recommendations to improve cat and dog welfare in veterinary practice.
Two online surveys were conducted in Austria, asking 342 veterinarians and 258 veterinary students to rate 20 statements about pet-friendly handling and practice environment and other measures to improve animal welfare on a scale ranging from 1 to 6 regarding their importance for animal welfare and their feasibility in practice. All questionnaire items were averaged to create an overall importance score and a feasibility score. These scores and single items were then compared between veterinarians and veterinary students.
In general, the rating of welfare importance was high and the overall score did not differ between veterinarians and veterinary students. The recommendations rated as most important were “Dog ward: possibility to urinate/defecate at least 3 times a day,” “Separate cats from dogs during hospitalization,” and “Cat ward: provide hiding possibility.” Regarding feasibility, veterinarians had higher overall scores than students. The rating of 9 single items was higher than that of veterinary students. Higher feasibility ratings in students were only found for the items “Advise owner on how to reduce stress during transport,” “Use muzzle training with dogs and advise owner on how to do it,” and “Report animal abuse to the authorities.” The items “Separate cats from dogs in the waiting room”, “Exam table: let cats exit carrier on their own”, “Separate cats from dogs during hospitalization” received the lowest feasibility ratings by veterinarians. In conclusion, the greatest barriers for the implementation of recommendations aiming to increase animal welfare in veterinary practice seem to be related to constructional aspects or perceived time constraints. Furthermore, veterinarians might have experienced low compliance of owners to their advice and might find reporting of suspected abuse cases challenging.
Arhant C, Hörschläger N, Troxler J (2019) Attitudes of veterinarians and veterinary students to recommendations on how to improve dog and cat welfare in veterinary practice. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 31:10-16.
Source: RSPCA Science Update