The veterinary profession is an ambassador for the welfare of animals, butvisiting a veterinary practice is in itself stressful for many animals. Amultitude of recommendations on how to reduce stress during a visit to theveterinarian are available, but they are often not implemented in practice.Therefore, the aim of this study was to survey veterinarians and veterinarystudents regarding their attitudes toward recommendations to improve cat anddog welfare in veterinary practice.

Two online surveys were conducted in Austria, asking 342 veterinarians and 258veterinary students to rate 20 statements about pet-friendly handling andpractice environment and other measures to improve animal welfare on a scaleranging from 1 to 6 regarding their importance for animal welfare and theirfeasibility in practice. All questionnaire items were averaged to create anoverall importance score and a feasibility score. These scores and singleitems were then compared between veterinarians and veterinary students.

In general, the rating of welfare importance was high and the overall scoredid not differ between veterinarians and veterinary students. Therecommendations rated as most important were “Dog ward: possibility tourinate/defecate at least 3 times a day,” “Separate cats from dogs duringhospitalization,” and “Cat ward: provide hiding possibility.” Regardingfeasibility, veterinarians had higher overall scores than students. The ratingof 9 single items was higher than that of veterinary students. Higherfeasibility ratings in students were only found for the items “Advise owner onhow to reduce stress during transport,” “Use muzzle training with dogs andadvise 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 catsexit carrier on their own”, “Separate cats from dogs during hospitalization”received the lowest feasibility ratings by veterinarians. In conclusion, thegreatest barriers for the implementation of recommendations aiming to increaseanimal welfare in veterinary practice seem to be related to constructionalaspects or perceived time constraints. Furthermore, veterinarians might haveexperienced low compliance of owners to their advice and might find reportingof suspected abuse cases challenging.

Arhant C, Hörschläger N, Troxler J (2019) Attitudes of veterinarians andveterinary students to recommendations on how to improve dog and cat welfarein veterinary practice. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 31:10-16.

Source: RSPCA Science Update

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