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July 15, 2021

Pet Poison Helpline offers wellness lessons

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Dr. Renee Schmid said veterinary medicine is rewarding but taxing. The Pet Poison Helpline has started offering wellness lessons to give back to those professionals.

“Mental wellness and personal health is of utmost importance to a veterinary professional, no matter what role they’re in,” Dr. Schmid said. “They spend so much time looking after someone’s loved animal and family member that it’s easy to forget to take care of themselves.”

Dr. Schmid, who is veterinary supervisor and senior veterinary toxicologist for the helpline, said many of the free online lessons offered by the Pet Poison Helpline are useful for anyone in a clinic, whether a veterinarian, veterinary technician, or member of the front office staff.

Pet owner embracing her dog

The PPH started offering free toxicology webinars in April 2012, and the organization continues publishing new lessons at a pace of about one per quarter. In a partnership with AVMA Life, Pet Poison Helpline officials agreed to expand into wellness and enrichment programming starting in December 2016.

As of this spring, help line officials had provided 65 webinars: 50 on toxicology and 15 on wellness topics. The service is offering another three toxicology and two wellness webinars  this summer and fall.

Many of the speakers in the wellness series are veterinarians, or they specialize in helping veterinarians, Dr. Schmid said. For example, Elizabeth B. Strand, PhD, director of the Veterinary Social Work program at the University of Tennessee, provided the first wellness sessions in December 2016 and January 2017. Those were a two-part series on mental health among veterinary professionals and ways to improve their well-being.

In introducing the first wellness video, Dr. Ahna Brutlag, director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline, said leaders at the help line saw, as many others have, growing evidence that veterinary medicine had an overrepresentation of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Adryanna Siqueira Drake, PhD, clinical assistant professor and counselor at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and McArthur Hafen Jr., PhD, clinical associate professor and director of counseling services at the veterinary college, partnered to deliver lessons this past May about understanding the grief process and interacting with grieving clients. They are scheduled to give lessons Aug. 19 on relationship first aid for veterinary professionals.

Dr. Drake said she appreciates the way the Pet Poison Helpline has integrated wellness into its clinical skills lessons. She said wellness shouldn’t be treated as separate from clinical medicine, and training can help veterinarians deal with highly emotional situations and uncertainty.

“Just like any other skill that you have in veterinary medicine, why not receive some information and feel a little bit more comfortable with your approach?” Dr. Drake said.

She hopes veterinarians will dig for more information on subjects such as grief or relationship quality, rather than feel they are expected to know what to do.