What Is Cooperative Care?
Cooperative care is a specific type of training designed to help your pet experience as little fear, anxiety, and/or stress (FAS) possible during home, grooming, and veterinary care; this includes, but is not limited to: teeth brushing, brushing of the haircoat, bathing, cleaning ears, administering medications, vaccinations, collecting blood for routine and sick screenings, physical exam, and more. In cooperative care training, pets are carefully trained to tolerate, and even actively participate in, these parts of their routine care. To do this, training is conducted using effective, science-based methods that enhance the animal's emotional health and wellbeing. For many pets, the ability to give them additional ways to communicate consent to care and be given an aspect of control during home, grooming, and veterinary care allows caregivers to provide higher quality care and enable them to respond to a pet's signals before the pet becomes stressed.
How Might My Pet and I Benefit From It?
Every pet can benefit from cooperative care, even pets that are excited to see the groomer, veterinary staff, or have care performed at home. These pets benefit from this type of training in that they can be trained to hold still for care while still having an enjoyable experience, thus increasing the ease with which care is provided. A pet that is able and willing to hold still with minimal extra effort on the part of the handler is a pet that can receive more thorough care without causing undue stress that may result from trying to hold them still.
Pets that already experience FAS in conjunction with care benefit from cooperative care training in that a reduction in their FAS levels is achieved by normalizing care to them at their pace. A combination of gentle approaches and working at each pet's individual pace is utilized to decrease FAS experienced during care. While the team at Summer Creek Animal Clinic are certified Fear Free veterinary professionals, there are limitations to reducing FAS for many patients without actively training at home and in the hospital separately from care appointments.
Pet parents with pets that experience high levels of FAS also experience stress associated with bringing their loved one in for care. By decreasing the pet's FAS, the pet parent's stress also decreases. These pets are also often sedated out of necessity to safely provide care, which can be stressful for pet parents. With a comprehensive approach to cooperative care from both medical and training aspects, these pets may need less frequent sedation for care to safely be provided without exacerbating the pet's FAS.
Is My Pet a Candidate for Cooperative Care Training?
Your Summer Creek Animal Clinic care team will discuss with you the level of FAS your pet experiences in hospital. Referring to the attached FAS Scale, your care team will assign your pet a score based on the behaviors your pet exhibits during their visits. Pets that experience FAS levels 0-2 are in-hospital cooperative care candidates that do not require pre-visit pharmaceuticals (PVPs), or medications to reduce FAS, for consultation or training sessions. Pets that exhibit FAS level 3 are required to have PVPs prior to in-hospital cooperative care consultation and training sessions; this is due to their levels of stress being great enough that pharmaceutical assistance is necessary to decrease stress levels enough for learning to occur. Pets with FAS level 3 are at risk for experiencing FAS that may undermine training efforts if PVPs are not given prior to training sessions.
Pets that experience FAS levels 4-5 are not candidates for in-hospital cooperative care training. FAS at these levels is too great for learning to occur in a setting with strong negative associations, and so training must occur outside the hospital first before being translated to a clinical setting. Pets with FAS levels 4-5 require PVPs prior to training sessions and will need more time and skill to address their individual needs than pets with lower levels of FAS.
How Does Cooperative Care Training Work?
Cooperative care training works by changing the emotional response to routine care procedures that your pet experiences. This is done through positive association of equipment, giving the pet additional tools to communicate whether they are or are not OK proceeding with handling and care, and utilizing new and already learned skills for the pet to participate in their care with minimized FAS. A combination of gentle, humane approaches are used for every pet, resulting in custom training plans based on the individual's needs and progress.
Your cooperative care trainer will identify what techniques work best for your pet and teach you how to practice these techniques at home. Your trainer will also schedule additional training sessions to assess and continue to make progress, Victory Visits, and work with your Summer Creek Animal Clinic veterinarian to ensure that a comprehensive approach is utilized that prioritizes the pet's physical and emotional wellbeing. You will be coached on Fear Free core values and techniques to understand the why being training plan design for your pet, as well as how to read your pet's signals in regards to their emotional state during care and training. Your trainer will design your pet's plan to ensure it is practical for home life, care in the hospital, and maintenance of skills taught during training.
Victory Visits are utilized for nearly all cooperative care students. These visits are focused on creating a positive association with the facility and hospital staff to enable translation of cooperative care training and skills into the hospital. Using Victory Visits is an integral component to both preventative cooperative care training and training plans designed to aid pets already experiencing FAS here at Summer Creek Animal Clinic.
Where Can I Go for Cooperative Care Training?
Summer Creek Animal Clinic is currently the only veterinary facility in the Dallas-Fort Worth area offering cooperative care training services. Our veterinarians and staff are well-educated in the advocacy for protecting and enhancing the emotional well-being of the pets in our care. Continuing education is ongoing so as to better provide the best physical and emotional care to every pet that we see. Our cooperative care trainer and behavior technician works closely with all of the staff to uphold the core values of Fear Free, American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and provide gold-standard care to every pet.
You will need to schedule a cooperative care consultation with our behavior technician, who will review your pet's physical and emotional medical record prior to your appointment. During consultation, the behavior technician will discuss your concerns with you and assess your pet's care sensitivities to formulate a thorough training plan. From there, you will be scheduled for training sessions and/or Victory Visits based on your pet's needs. A summary of your consultation and training plan will be provided to you within 72 business hours. Cooperative care appointments are subject to Summer Creek Animal Clinic's appointment cancellation policy.