Guidelines for The Restraint of Dogs and Cats

Handling Dogs

Small Dogs

Dogs are usually examined on a table, and lifting them onto a table is usually the first order of business. If the dog is on the floor, it is best to stoop and extend the back of your hand toward it. As you let the dog sniff your hand, keep your fingers curled and be ready to pull your hand back quickly if the dog tries to bite. Continue to talk to the dog as you advance to pet it. The technician should then pass one hand over the dogs back and under it’s chest, just behind the dogs front legs. The other hand is used to hold the dog’s skin over the neck. The dog can then be lifted and held firmly against your body.

Large Dogs

To pick up a large dog, the handler should crouch and reach around the front of the dog with one arm and around the rear of the dog with the other arm. The dog should be pulled firmly against your body then lifted. To avoid injuries to your back, you should keep it straight and do most of the lifting with your legs while keeping the dog’s weight evenly supported. The dog can then be placed in a cage, exercise run, or on an examination table. As you release your grip on the dog, pet it and talk to it in a reassuring manner.

Table Restraint

Tables are smooth surfaced to prevent the pet form having any traction and to intimidate the dog. Because the table surfaces are slick and so is the floor a dog should never be allowed to jump from the table. Never leave an animal unattended for any period of time on a table, whether awake or anesthetized. The degree of restraint required for a dog on a table depends on what is being done. Regardless, the forequarters and the hindquarters must be controlled at all times to prevent the dog from jumping or falling off the table. The form of restraint most often used is to have the arms behind the rump and in front of the front legs with the dog pulled inward, much as in lifting. In addition, one may wish to pull the head against the chest with the hand on the neck.

For cephalic venipuncture, the holder must restrain the dog’s body, present the forelimb, and occlude the vessel to make it fill and stand up under the skin. The animal is placed on the table near one end, facing the edge. The holder stands beside the table, facing the same direction as the dog, and reaches over the back of the dog on the table to grasp the right front leg with the right hand. Pressure is applied with the arm and elbow to bring the dog close to the body and down to a sternal reclining position on the table. The left hand is placed under and around the neck, and the head is pulled to the chest of the holder. The right leg is grasped below the elbow with the thumb as far inside the limb as possible, then, with pressure applied , rotates the skin outward. The fingers should rest on the table, and the dog’s elbow be pushed forward to stabilize the leg. The elbow should be at or near the edge of the table to allow good access to the vein. Remember to release the thumb over the vein prior to injection to allow the medication to go into the vein and avoid rupture of the vein.

Jugular venipuncture is a common method for collecting blood. To hold a dog for jugular venipuncture the hand is reached over the dog and the mandible is grasped with the thumb over the nose. The other hand may be used to hold the forelegs or to hold the other side of the jaw. The head is turned toward the handler’s body and raised slightly. Care is taken not to hold the muzzle to close to the nose as to occlude breathing. Also, if the fingers are too far back under the jaw, they may occlude the jugular vein. The head position should be altered as needed to the proper angle for venipuncture.

The saphenous vein is a common location for blood collection in dogs and may be the only accessible location for sampling in ferrets, raccoons and other wild animals. Place the dog in lateral recumbency by reaching over the dog’s left side over its chest with the right arm to grasp the left foreleg and pull this leg outward while supporting the dog’s head in the crook of the left arm. The dog is then lowered slowly to its left side. To prevent the dog from righting itself the left forearm is placed across the neck to hold the head and shoulders down and the bottom foot is held up with the left hand. The bottom rear leg is held up with the right hand and the right forearm is pressed across the flank. The top rear leg is held by the person making the venipuncture. Rabbits and large eared dogs can have blood drawn from the lateral ear vein if necessary.

Fear Biters

Most biting dogs are “fear biters”. They usually can be handled without injury by being gentle and patient. As you approach a dog, it is helpful to talk to it in a low reassuring voice. Make sure that the animal hears and sees you. Move slowly toward the dog, continuing to talk to it, and letting it sniff your hand. Many dogs feel threatened if you reach over their head, so it is better to move a hand slowly along the dog’s side. It is also better to squat in front of them to appear less overbearing. Never grab at a dog: it is usually quicker than you are. If the dog growls, bares its teeth, or bristles the hair on its back, the technician should seek assistance. It is not advisable to handle a hostile dog alone.

Clients may help or hinder your efforts with dogs. Those that have no control over their animals may undermine any authority you might have with the dog by virtue of your being a stranger. These owners are best sent politely to the waiting room, if possible.

Probable fear biters should not be placed in small, hard to access cages or pens. The dog will back into a corner and be very difficult to grasp. A nylon slip leash can be manipulated over the neck and the dog pulled from the cage. Most fear biters will release stool and urine at this time, so be prepared. Try to grasp the skin on the back of the neck and allow an assistant to place a muzzle on the dog. A towel may be used to capture very small dogs in small cages by doubling the thickness of the towel and pressing the dog into a corner, covering its head and grasping the neck through the towel. Gloves are advised during this procedure.

Restraint Muzzles

To make a restraint muzzle for dogs that may bite; a 3- to 4- foot length of 2- inch gauze bandage is used. A large loop is formed in the center of the gauze and it is placed over the muzzle and pulled tight around the muzzle and the knot tied on the top then looped to the bottom of the muzzle. The ends are then brought backward beneath the ears and tied behind the base of the dog’s skull. A nylon lead rope can also be used to form a muzzle in the way described above or it may be placed around the dog’s neck first then the free end is looped around the nose in half hitch fashion to secure the mouth. Tension must be held at all times for this to be secure. Commercial muzzles are available in various sizes that are snap-on and adjustable to fit around the face of the dog. Cats and pug nosed dogs can be difficult to muzzle and an Elizabethan collar may be helpful in these cases. In general, the same procedure is followed except after the knot is tied around the neck, the free ends are brought back and tied on top of the neck. Finally, one of the free ends is passed under the loop on top of the nose and is then tied back to the other end of the gauze. This keeps the loop from slipping off the top of the short nose.

Catch-All Poles

Catch-all poles or snares are useful but dangerous methods of animal control. Only persons familiar with their use should handle animals with this device. The noose is shortened by pulling a cable or rope at the handle end. Usually the noose can only be made tighter by pulling in on the rope. There are differing release mechanisms that release the strangle hold on the animal and one should know the release device before an animal is caught…not after. Generally, the noose needs be tightened only enough to prevent escape, not tight enough to cause suffocation or strangulation. The caught animal should be restrained in another manner as soon as possible, and the noose should not be used until all is prepared for the planned procedure.

Handling Cats

Catching Cats

The basic rule in handling cats is to use as little physical restraint as possible. Though the technician should be certain the cat is kept on the examination table, minimum restraint should be applied.

Cats are often more apprehensive than dogs with strange people and surroundings. A cat that is “treed” or trapped, as in a cage may respond with flattened ears, hissing, scratching and biting. Using a towel or heavy gloves you can grab them. A leash or a noose can sometimes be maneuvered around its head then grasped by the neck. It is sometimes better to use an appropriately sized aquarium or similar container placed over the cat to contain them for gas anesthesia.

It is possible to distract some cats for short periods by scratching them at the base of the ears while the veterinarian is examining the rest of the body. Blowing small sharp puffs of air onto the cats face while the cat is having venipuncture also distracts the pet.

To give injections to cats, it is best to use more restraint by grasping the scruff of the neck with one hand and the rear legs, with the finger between the hocks, with the other and stretch the cat out. Protective gloves are rarely needed for cat handling. One person intramuscular injections can be made in cats due to their extreme flexibility. The scruff of the neck and the rear leg at the hock are grasped in one hand and pulled together. Then the injection can be made in the extended rear leg and the cat quickly released into the cage. Cats can be muzzled the same way as pug-nosed dogs.

Venipuncture in Cats

Cephalic and jugular venipuncture restraint in cats can be applied much the same as in dogs as long as the cat is cooperative. If not cooperative, then other methods must be used.
The positioning for jugular venipuncture is more appropriate for blood collection than the cephalic vein. Two ways are correct:

  1. The cat’s head is held with the hand over the top of the head, and the jaw or the zygomatic arch (the bony arch under the eyes) is grasped with the thumb on one side and two or three fingers on the other side. This leaves the index finger free to scratch the bridge of the nose to distract the cat. The other hand is used to hold the front legs.
  2. Both hands are used to restrain the head (fingers of each under each jaw with the thumbs on the top of the head) The front feet are not restrained unless necessary (then technique #1 is used). Many times the less restraint and the more distraction the better with cats. There are other ways to restrain cats for venipuncture: They all involve holding the cat on its back with the holder restraining all four legs (two in each hand, with the finger between the legs, while pushing the cat down on the table and using the little finger to occlude the thoracic inlet to occlude the jugular vein) and the person using the syringe pushing the chin down to get a straight shot at the jugular vein. Cats can also be rolled into a towel to engage the claws or it can be placed in a cat bag.

Cephalic venipuncture is accomplished much the same as in dogs. Be sure to hold the cat close to your body, only when you release it, can it bite you.

The medial saphenous vein can be used if necessary in cats: The cat is grasped by the scruff of the neck and pulled back so that the front claws cannot reach the rear where the venipuncture is made. The top rear leg and the tail are grasped with the other hand between the thumb and index finger, and the outer edge of the palm is used to occlude the vein by pressing downward at the inguinal area. The bottom foot is extended and restrained by the person performing the venipuncture.