Sniffing Your Way to Better Hospital Experiences – Materials

13 - How To Pass the Sniff Test

How To Pass the Sniff Test

A veterinary hospital can be a really smelly place. The causes can range from the unpleasantness of the typical “accidents”, to the alpha-dog who marks anything and everything he comes in contact with, to odors from relieving compacted anal glands and your everyday laundry room and kennel area stench. And those aren’t even the gross things we experience in every-day practice. To those of us working in this environment our sense of smell might even get accustomed to the odors. To our patients who encounter this potpourri of odors for the first time, it can be quite overwhelming.

Relating back to the “sniff test” you completed earlier, think about the different zones of your hospital (Animal, Pet Owner & Staff) that you might improve upon to neutralize any sense of fear or anxiety by removing offensive scents. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our senses become biased to our surroundings. While we may see that the exam table was thoroughly cleaned with germicidal sprays, what we don’t see are those scents that our canine and feline patients are able to detect.

By first evaluating the environment from the pet’s point of view (smell) you can easily identify areas that could use some special attention. Common areas include the lobby sitting area where clients and patients first encounter your hospital. The floors, walls and furniture should be regularly cleaned and scents neutralized by using products specifically shown to neutralize odors. The same approach should be taken in the exam rooms and treatment areas of the hospital.

While daily cleaning can take care of the messes and keep the hospital aesthetics appealing to your healthcare team and clients, special attention must be taken to ensure you aren’t covering up or masking scents that trigger unwanted behaviors by your patients. The scent of a lemon infused chlorine-based cleaning solution might signal to us that the floors have been cleaned, but that same scent may trigger disgust to a feline patient who is turned off by both the smell of chlorine and the underlying uric acid compounds left behind by the tomcat who sprayed each corner of the exam room. Most cleaning chemicals, including chlorine, will not remove the problem-causing components of urine. You need specifically designed products to deal with the uric acid salts left when urine dries. Products that remove the stain and neutralize the odors are key.