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FIVM Seminar Series: Improving animal welfare in companion animal veterinary clinics

Dr. Lee Niel will provide an overview of her current research program, which centers on understanding and improving animal welfare in companion animal veterinary clinics

Dr. Lee Niel

The relationship between veterinary care and animal welfare is complex. Veterinarians have a leading role in ensuring overall animal health and welfare; they are responsible for preventative health care, and diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease, and they also play a critical role in ensuring the welfare of animals in the home environment through advice to pet owners regarding routine care. However, veterinary treatment is often associated with animal stress and pain, and a significant proportion of cats and dogs display fearful and aggressive behaviours during routine veterinary appointments. Fear and aggression are obvious  negative states that directly impair cat and dog welfare, and they can also have indirect effects on the quality of veterinary care that affected animals receive

On Friday, March 18, Dr. Lee Niel will provide an overview of her current research program, which centers on understanding and improving animal welfare in companion animal veterinary clinics. Recent research has focused on developing a practical, reliable and valid animal welfare assessment tool for use in companion animal veterinary clinics, with an aim towards improving welfare through benchmarking and education. In addition, there has been a recent push towards fear-free handling in veterinary clinics, but evidence-based recommendations have been lacking.

As a first step towards determining best practice for cat handling, Dr. Niel’s research group has validated a series of measures for assessing feline stress during handling, and is using these measures to compare various methods of restraint. Practical solutions for improving companion animal health and welfare during veterinary care will be discussed.

Biography

Dr. Niel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She is the Col K. L. Campbell Chair in Companion Animal Welfare, and is affiliated with the University of Guelph’s Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare. Dr. Niel completed a PhD at the University of British Columbia focused on assessing and mitigating procedural pain and distress in laboratory animals, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto focused on behavioural neuroscience. Her current research examines behaviour and welfare of companion cats and dogs. Specifically, Dr. Niel is interested in understanding and preventing canine fear and aggression, and in reducing stress and improving companion animal welfare in relation to veterinary care