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Veterinary Forum September 2007 (Vol 24, No 9)

Doctor to Doctor: "Keeping up your kennels"

by Ronald E. Whitford, DVM

    Although personal interaction among you, your staff and your clients plays a large part in the image and reputation of your practice, proper boarding and kennel facilities can contribute to repeat business and peace of mind for your clients. When owners leave their animal in your care, it is important to maintain their trust by treating the patient properly and ensuring adequate temporary living conditions.

    Maintaining the calm

    To keep a practice peaceful and reduce stress on both pets and people, you can take several steps to keep your boarding area free of noise and odors.

    Soundproofing rooms can keep the larger or louder animals from frightening the smaller ones. The sound of dogs barking will never be completely eliminated in most practices, but absorptive materials and sound baffles should be used on all walls and ceilings to minimize the ambient din.

    Cats should be afforded a separate area from dogs to avoid feline panic. Roomy, elevated runs should be made available for larger animals to keep them active and happy, but take note that outdoor runs may cause any nearby neighbors a constant and possibly actionable annoyance.

    Odor control is essential. The sense of smell is powerful, and for new clients it can be a deciding factor for repeat business. A practice with an unbearable scent of animal waste may indicate that the animals are not being well cared for.

    Ceiling fans should be used when available, and all exhaust fans and heating/cooling vents should be kept clean and open. Proper air circulation is critical for controlling odor.

    Routine observations should be made of all animals, and all sources of pungent odors, such as feces or vomit, should be removed and disposed of immediately. Towels and other cage bedding should be washed regularly to reduce the smell, as well as to lower the chance of spreading diseases. Water bowls should be washed in a bleach"water solution, rinsed well and left to air-dry.

    You and your staff should maintain a professional appearance, which includes clean uniforms or clothes. Make sure your clothes are free from stains, and change them every day.

    Custodial equipment and supplies should be stored properly. Equipment used in the surgical suite should not be used in the boarding area. Proper cleaning protocol checklists that list the equipment needed and other details about specific cleaning routines should be posted in visible areas. This will let your staff know what needs to be done, as well as reassuring your clients that cleanliness is a regular part of your practice.

    The kennel experience

    Often clients will ask to see boarding facilities before they leave their pets in your care. Owners also may want to visit their pets while they are hospitalized, so keeping the area as pleasant as possible is important.

    • Temperatures in the kennel should not reach extremes. Drafts should be sealed and thermostats tested to ensure proper control.
    • All equipment needed for boarding should be organized and stored in a way that minimizes clutter. Piled boxes and crowded floors present a danger to both humans and animals.
    • Food should be stored in airtight containers. Both wet and dry foods can present a health hazard when allowed to sit too long. Make sure everything that needs to be is refrigerated and that nondisposable food and water bowls are clean.

    Additional safety

    Safety should be a high priority. No one likes to see accidents in the workplace, especially if an accident involves animals.

    Lighting should be ample. Immediately replace any bulbs or lamps that burn out. Make sure that all areas of your practice are well lit. Place anti-slip mats at various areas that require sure-footedness under all conditions. Put wet floor signs out after mopping for the benefit of your staff and your clients, many of whom may have an animal on a leash.

    Make sure you have plenty of personal protection equipment available and that your staff is trained to use them.

    Returning a happy pet

    Make adequate grooming equipment available to staff and keep it well-maintained. For some older, less mobile pets, steps leading to the bathtub may be necessary. Appropriate ventilation and lighting in the grooming area also are necessary for a well-run kennel. Safety equipment and proper checklists should be easily accessible.

    When a pet is ready to be discharged, it is necessary to show owners that their friend has been well cared for.

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