See Spot Heal

Simply asking a patient if he or she owns a pet can help physicians improve patient care, says Dr. Alan Monavvari, Vice President Medical Operations at Markham Stouffville Hospital. “People like to talk about their pets,” explains Dr. Monavvari. “It strengthens the physician-patient therapeutic alliance and generates a wealth of clinical and psychological data on the patient’s health environment.”

Pets build social capital, are agents of harm reduction, motivate healthy behaviours and are constructive in treatment plans. Many physicians have prescribed pets instead of anti-depressive medication, with great success

In hospitals and hospices, therapy animals are used to relieve stress. And in nursing homes, patients with advanced dementia who won’t eat will begin eating if a tank of swimming fish is placed in front of them. Horses and dolphins are also invaluable therapeutic animals for autistic children.

In 2015, Dr. Monavvari launched a pilot study with veterinarian Dr. Kate Hodgson. The goal was to educate healthcare professionals on the value of incorporating questions about pets into their examinations. In the first stage of the study, 225 healthcare professionals were surveyed to discover if they routinely asked patients about their pets. Participants in the study then agreed to query patients about the number and species of pets in the home and requested that the patient share their veterinarian’s contact information.

The study changed physicians’ practices in many ways and supplied them with comprehensive information for medical assessment and treatment: 70% reported that patients told them more about themselves, 83% learned more about a patient’s physical activity and 48% developed a better rapport.

The second stage of the study generated materials from the study’s findings for patients to offer their physicians. “The patient’s response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic,” says Dr. Monavvari, who sees no downside for physicians. “Five minutes going through a brochure could change the behaviour of a doctor and improve the outcome for a patient,” he says. “Thirty seconds of questions to a patient is a no brainer to adopt.”

Dr. Monavvari is seeking funding for the third phase of the study, a populationbased study focusing on overall well-being and health measured through quality of life scores and chronic disease management.

The Invisible Rvt: What Registered Veterinary Technicians Do

Your beloved dog Spot is sick. You take him to see your veterinarian and they take Spot ‘to the back’ to run some tests. But what, or rather who, is in the back? Likely it’s a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) who will be running those tests and caring for your animal under the direction of a veterinarian.

You have likely seen and interacted with an RVT at your clinic without realizing it. RVTs are formally educated and trained professionals working as members of the veterinary healthcare team.

“RVTs are integral members of the veterinary team, who meet and surpass the high standards that clients have come to expect for their pets,” said Laurie Williams, RVT and continuing education manager for the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT). “RVTs combine excellent practical skills and knowledge with a genuine passion for animal health and welfare.”

genuine passion for animal health and welfare.” RVTs are involved in many different aspects of pet healthcare. They help to ensure clinics run smoothly and efficiently and help to deliver the best possible care for your pets.

The following list contains just a few examples of RVT duties:

  • Husbandry, restraint and handling of animals;
  • Capturing and processing diagnostic radiographs and ultrasounds;
  • Diagnostic laboratory tests for the purposes of hematology, clinical chemistry, and urinalysis;
  • Surgical preparation and assistance;
  • Anaesthetic administration and monitoring;
  • Administration and dispensing of medication and treatments as prescribed by a veterinarian; and,
  • Nutrition management and planning.

In order to use the title RVT in, for example, Ontario, an individual must have attended an accredited college veterinary technician program, passed a national exam, submitted a clear criminal record check, completed professionalism and ethics training and be a member of the OAVT. RVTs also must complete continuing education regularly in order to keep their credentials. Each province has its own member association for RVTs. For more information about RVTs in Ontario visit www.oavt.org.

Next time you take Spot to the clinic, ask to talk to an RVT to see what they can do for you!

— Canadian Animal Health Institute