I am a client of Dr. Foote’s. I live in Champaign-Urbana, where the University of Illinois’ Vet Med program is located and where we have an abundance of vets in practice. Over the last 39 years I have always had either a dog or cat companion. I’ve moved from one vet to another, trying to find the best care for them. Eight vet practices later, I discovered Dr. Sally Foote’s Low Stress Handling™ method and decided it was worth the 40 minute drive to Tuscola to give that to my sensitive cats (is there any other kind?). It has made a huge difference in being able to take samples for all the diagnostic tests I want and need to make informed decisions about their care. Please let me tell you a bit about my experiences with other vets, and how Dr. Foote’s low stress handling has made a difference.
My first pet, at age 22, was a black lab who was returned to me the day of her spay, in agony. I was not given any advice from the vet on how to make her comfortable, nor any pain meds, and she suffered for several days. Being a lab, she forgave me but we never went back to THAT vet.
In the 1990s I rescued a pair of little yellow kittens, KitKat and Pixel. Pixel quickly became the Alpha being in our home, bossing me and her sister around. She was particularly hard for a local vet (not Dr. Foote) to examine. Nonetheless, I was religious about getting them their annual shots and exam. I was horrified when one vet announced that Pixel had some tarter on her teeth and took what looked like a pair of pliers, pried open Pixel’s mouth, and began using this tool to scrape her teeth. No anesthetic, no comforting towel, just a procedure that I would never have allowed my own dentist to use on me! Next vet, please.
Pixel began to be harder to exam every year. I bought a “cat sack” to put her into, with a Velcro neck closure and four zippers at each leg for the vet to open and reach through. Pixel hated it, of course. Even with her in that thing, the vet would whisk her away to a back room and I would be left wondering what they were doing to my poor kitty there that they didn’t want ME to see! Pixel was very bonded to me, and I thought that taking her away from my voice surely increased her fear, struggling, hissing and aggression. When she was diagnosed with renal failure, this vet even told me NOT to bring her in anymore — that the stress of the exams was doing her more harm than good. Pixel was my first cat, so I did as I was told, not knowing any better.
I could go on telling past vet horror stories, but you get the idea. My cats would spend their waiting time in the exam room trying to climb onto shelves, hiding behind the little fridge, ANYwhere to be out of site, anywhere but in reach of the vet. Dr. Foote has taught me to use calming pheromones (Feliway) for several days prior to our visits to her vet office, even dressing my cats in little scarves sprayed with Feliway for our trip home. She also has these calming pheromones placed around her office. She always puts down a soft blanket over the steel exam table for my cats to rest on. If she knows a kitty is afraid of being handled, her tech disassembles the carrier so the cat can stay in the bottom half during the exam. When one of my cats needed to have her renal glands expressed, Dr. Foote applied Novocain cream to area to decrease any pain BEFORE examining the sore area and we waited minutes for it to have time to work. When she needed cystocentesis, I was allowed to be right there beside her — and the kitty didn’t even struggle. Dr. Foote and her vet techs worked in partnership during exams, and I got to stand close by, reassuring my pet vocally. I was most impressed during my last visit when the vet tech noticed my kitty had been hiding under her carrier’s blanket. After I pulled the cat out of the carrier, the technician quickly put the blanket back over the cat’s head — something I would not have thought to do!
A low stress practice that allows the owner to be present for the entire exam, in sight of the pet, relieves any anxiety the pet may have from separation and shows the owner that the vet isn’t trying to hide some horrible procedure. These methods reduce the need for sedation, reducing both risk to my pet and pet health costs to me.
Vets have spent years studying animal’s bodies. It’s just as important to learn how their handling of the pet is going to both physically and MENTALLY affect it before pursuing their need to get samples or administer treatments. They need to know each pet’s personality as well as their medical history. A vet who learns and practices the best techniques to handle their patients in a calm and gentle manner is a vet who will earn the goodwill and loyalty of their clientele. Low Stress Handling™ is a win for the vet, the vet techs, the owner and most importantly, the pet. I wish every vet had Dr. Foote’s skills in making her patients comfortable. Until then, I’m just happy we’ve finally found the right vet for us.