Cooperative Care For Animals

Last month we talked a lot about How Animals Learn 1, 2, 3, & 4 in the Tulsa Animal Rehab & Wellness Learning Portal. We learned how to better communicate with the animals we share our lives with through classical and operant conditioning. With this new or deeper understanding, targeting can be a really great behavior to start to bridge the gap in communication. If you haven’t checked out the Learning Portal post where we talk about targets and how to teach one, click HERE.

Cooperative care is the process of training for the day to day procedures and behaviors that are necessary for an animal’s physical health and wellbeing; in a manner that decreases anxiety and increases emotional comfort and trust.

The foundation of cooperative care is that animals that have a choice, and have a positive association with an activity, are more likely to opt into that activity.

To help communicate choice, targets are frequently used in both family animal and exotic animal veterinary cooperative care.

Here are some Zoological Veterinary Cooperative Care Examples:

When I was the veterinarian at a zoological facility that values high animal welfare principles, a large part of my responsibility was working with animals and their caretakers to get the most care to the patients with the least amount of stress.

This is a serious concern that appropriate zoological facilities work hard to address on a daily basis. Cooperative care is in every part of their day. From the morning DPE (Daily Physical Exam) that the professional caretakers perform to voluntary ultrasounds to monitor health and even fully voluntary lifesaving injections, cooperative care is a critical part of improving animal welfare and veterinary care.

Check out some amazing things the Tulsa Zoo has done with their tigers and targeting by following this link to the news report and video HERE.

Some guiding principles:

· The animal has the right to give and withdraw consent

· The animal has a true understanding of what will happen when they give consent

· Animal guardians respect the animal’s choices and act accordingly.

By creating a positive emotional response to various grooming and veterinary procedures, as well as handling and examinations, we can provide our companion animals with the care they need in a low-stress manner.

Hard work being patient while practicing cooperative care has many benefits:

· A more confident friend who willingly participates in their own care.

· Improvements in your friend’s quality of life.

· Creates less stressful events for you as an animal guardian.

· Proactively prepares your friend for future procedures.

· Builds a relationship that is built on mutual communication and trust.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about how you can improve animal welfare for our animal companions. I sincerely hope you feel inspired by what you have seen is possible with cooperative care and that you continue your exploration. The ABMA YouTube Channel is a great place to get excited about cooperative care:

This month, to celebrate the unconditional love animals give us, it is time to give back to the animals in our care through giving them the opportunity to be an active and willing participant in their health. We will continue to have regular Learning Portal posts and they will all have a cooperative care theme.

Don’t want to miss one? Follow our Facebook or Instagram to get the news as soon as a cooperative care Learning Portal posts!

Written by: Dr. Emily Hall, DVM, CCRT, CPAT-KA