Vet videos take strain off vets

Busy vets in the US are able to offer pet owners a quick and simple answer to the most common problems of caring for their cat – such as cleaning their teeth, clipping claws, or giving a diabetic cat insulin – by directing them to a new website where they can download explanatory videos.

The streaming videos, created in partnership with the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, are available online for free at http://www.felinevideos.vet.cornell.edu/index.shtml and will be offered for sale through the website in the next few months.

While the video series, Partners in Animal Health, initially focuses on cats, later videos will also focus on dog care.

For example, the video on caring for a diabetic cat follows a pet owner through the process of getting the diagnosis, understanding the condition and overcoming their anxiety and confusion about how they will cope with the disease. It also offers step-by-step instructions on how to administer an insulin injection and monitor the cat at home, as well feeding the animal properly to control diabetes.

“A big problem is getting owners to overcome their fear of giving insulin injections,” said veterinarian Jodi Korich, director of the Partners in Animal Health Program. “They think, ‘I can’t do this,’ but these videos show them how simple it really is, and that means more cats will survive this very common disease.”

Other basic cat care videos in the collection provide detailed instructions on giving medications, taking the animal’s temperature and training to the animal to accept brushing.

Korich said other videos are being developed, including one explaining the needs of dogs and cats with cancer. The videos will discuss how pets develop cancer, what can be done to prevent cancer, the importance of early detection and treatment options.

The videos have been developed in consultation with the Flower-Sprecher Veterinary Library, and the Partners in Animal Health program is sponsored by the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Clinical Sciences. It is partly funded by Nestle Purina and Heska Corp.

Although the videos have only been available for a few months, the response from pet owners and vets “has been tremendous,” said Terry Kristensen, associate director of the Flower-Sprecher Veterinary Library. “We’ve received many thank-you letters from pet owners explaining how the videos changed their lives.”

Busy vets also find the videos invaluable, said Korich, because they can refer pet owners to online tools that they know come from a trusted source of information.

For students and practicing vets, the program offers a growing number of instructional videos and online reference tools as well. (Accessing the technical videos intended for students and veterinarians requires registration at http://w3.vet.cornell.edu/virtualvet.)

Kristensen said the Partners in Animal Health program, which was launched two years ago, is intended “to push the envelope” in the use of multimedia internet learning. “We see this as becoming an absolutely integral part of the way people learn,” she said.

In Australia, University of Queensland psychology postgraduate student Tamzin Barber, who recently completed research into people’s understanding and expectations of their pet’s behaviour, is also planning a series of educational programs.

She envisages educational programs and resources to enable vets and operators of animal shelters to educate prospective pet owners and new owners about their pet’s physical, emotional and behavioural characteristics and needs.

“My research shows the need for an intervention strategy that can be employed with new or would be pet owners, where they can identify what they expect from their pet, and be educated on how these expectations may or may not be met, and which types of pet would be best suited for them, ” she says.

While her program addresses different issues from the Cornell videos, Barber agrees that education – for pet owners and for vets – is vital for the welfare of the animals, and that multimedia would be an effective way to get the message across.

©Sue Cartledge

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