TTouch in Veterinary Practice

The Tellington TTouch recognises an inextricable link between posture and behaviour and uses a system of gentle, non-habitual movements on and with the animal’s body, including the skin, to promote relaxation whilst improving awareness, physical balance and movement.  The simple non-invasive TTouches elicit profound changes in an animal’s emotional state and relieve tension and anxiety enabling the animal to move beyond its instinctive responses. 

Aside from the obvious benefits TTouch brings to an animals education and development, this quiet, gentle approach is a valuable tool for anyone working in a veterinary practice or handling animals in general.

‘Providing comfort is not a matter of soft hearted sentimentality. The goal is to minimize counterproductive stress responses. TTouch is useful in allowing us to treat without creating iatrogenic stress. Indeed, with TTEAM we have a potent method which permits handling to reduce existing stress rather than add more stress. The animal freed from stress can respond appropriately to us and to its disease; it can participate fully in its own healing.

TTEAM has reduced the need for chemical restraint drugs for minor procedures. These drugs are safe, effective and often very useful but several inconveniences attend their use. Most require time to take effect and require time for recovery. They tend to alter the patients condition and responses in ways which are inconvenient and confuse the clinical picture. At times they are contraindicated; there is always a slight chance of an adverse reaction. They generally dull learning processes so that it is difficult to train an animal to accept treatments which must be repetitive.

We have not reduced reliance on drugs, surgery or other conventional treatment. Neither have we lapsed into a sentimental or mystical view of human-animal relating. The fact remains that with TTEAM we can accomplish things that we could not accomplish before we used TTEAM. To a degree not experienced before, TTEAM gives the ability to effectively convey our healing intent to the animal and suggest to it ways in which it can help itself get well or function better.’

Tom Beckett DVM

The TTouches can be used on any animal regardless of age or species. They offer an alternative to forceful handling, which triggers more stress, and are relatively easy to learn. They can be used to aid both assessment and treatment and to help an animal recover more quickly from sedation, injury and surgery.

Even animals that do not naturally seek human contact (such as reptiles, feral cats or wildlife) settle more quickly when TTouch is applied making any examination or treatment a faster, more pleasant and successful experience for all concerned.  When direct hand contact is threatening to an animal, TTouch uses feathers, dressage schooling sticks or long water colour paint brushes to stroke and calm the animal before it is handled and the chances of the animal making a full recovery are therefore greatly increased.

The Body work movements break down into three groups; circles, slides and lifts.  Tension held in the animal’s body increases reactive responses and the passive, non-invasive movements release tight muscles and skin. They help to establish trust between the handler/carer and the animal.

The circular TTouches can be done anywhere on the animal’s body and can teach an animal to accept and enjoy contact. They also help to alter an animal’s expectation of what hand contact might mean. 

TTouch should not be confused with massage.  In TTouch the skin is moved lightly in one and a quarter circles using the tips of the fingers.  The majority of animals prefer the circles to be in a clock wise direction but occasionally a counter clockwise circle may be indicated.   The pressure is light.  The object is to simply move the skin, not press down into underlying tissue and the hand and finger position can be varied depending on the response of the animal and the area that is being worked. The animal learns, remembers the experience and accepts handling more quickly and easily the next time.

As well offering ways to approach, initiate contact, handle and manage the animal the Tellington TTouch can be used for specific situations such as preparing the animal to be handled around neck prior to micro chipping, injecting, and taking bloods.  Light Zig Zags across the animals back can be an important step to accessing the hindquarters when checking the temperature or handling the hind limbs.

‘TTouch at the veterinary clinic gives the staff an easy, proactive, peaceful option for dealing with difficult and potentially difficult situations.  It can keep a pet that is on the verge of being upset and out of control from going over the edge and dragging me and my staff into that frustrating ravine. It helps us to win the bad dog/bad cat battle psychologically and physically. When you accomplish a medical event peacefully, quietly and pleasantly, it is much more rewarding than accomplishments accompanied by scratches, bites, sweat, poop and tears.  TTouch is not a replacement for anaesthesia or chemical restraint but it is a wonderful tool for animals that don’t understand that we just need to do this little, easy nail trim/wrap change/injection/exam and it will be over.  And it makes the people feel good when we don’t have to engage in a small war.’

                                                                           Sandra Vahsholtz DVM

Gently stroking an animal’s ears from the base to the tip lowers heart rate and respiration.  It is calming and can prevent or reduce shock if the animal is traumatised or in pain and owners/carers can be easily instructed to work their animal’s ears whilst waiting for the vet or on their way to the surgery.  Working an animal’s ears can also make examinations or treatments more tolerable and, provided it is safe to do so, can be done in most situations, even if forceful handling is unavoidable.  

It can also be used to help an animal that is fearful or under duress and can encourage a stressed or sick animal to eat.  Ear Slides are also appropriate if an animal is struggling or unsettled when coming round from a general anaesthetic particularly if the natural response is for the animal to try to leap to its feet.  It can also help an animal that may be showing signs of dysphoria.  If a horse becomes unsteady whilst sedated, Ear Slides can help to keep the horse more balanced on his feet.

Stroking or touching the muzzle area can trigger a stressed animal to bite. Working gently around the jaw using the tips of the fingers to move the skin in small one and a quarter circles prior to oral examinations can release tension from the mouth and can be combined with the Ear Slides.  If the animal is concerned, small, light circular movements can be made with the knuckles or the back of the one finger if the animal is small.  Mouth Work is also valuable for animals that are reluctant to eat and soft paintbrushes or cotton buds can be used for very small animals. If there is a chance that the animal may bite a fake hand on a long wooden stick can be used.

A high skill level is not always necessary to initiate change.  Whilst Sarah Fisher was teaching at cat workshop at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home a veterinary nurse asked if TTouch could help a small dog in her care that had not eaten for a couple of days following surgery.  The nurse had offered a variety of foods to the dog but the animal remained disinterested.  Sarah explained how to do the mouth work and when the afternoon session began the nurse was thrilled to report that after trying the Mouth Work for no more than a few minutes in her lunch hour, the dog had wolfed down all the food she had been ignoring in the bowl. The dog continued to eat and was moved back to the Sales block shortly after.

TTouch also encourages an increased awareness of the animal’s posture and therefore his likely responses.  Tension through the neck can make injections and micro chipping uncomfortable and is often present in dogs that are threatened by contact on the collar. Heat on the head and in the middle of the back can be indicative of a dog that is highly stressed and therefore more likely to bite.  Tension through the hindquarters is common in animals that are noise sensitive, have difficulties in the car and react to having their tail or hind legs handled.  Tension in the tail will naturally make an animal react to having its temperature taken or to being examined internally.  A few gentle slides, circles and lifts are often enough to achieve a happy conclusion and the calming work can usually be done on the animal in the time that it takes to explain the procedure to the client.


Feedback from a Veterinary Nurse Manager

I am the Nurse Manager at an Animal Hospital in London.

Last year I attended a 2-day TTouch workshop run by Toni Shelbourne with my own dog which I found fascinating. So when I heard about the opportunity to send some of my nurses on a TTouch course last weekend I jumped at it.

Five of my staff came to Sarah Fisher’s two day workshop at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home last weekend and are raving about it today as I hoped they would!  We currently have a stray feral kitten in the hospital that will need bringing on for re-homing and they have already started TTouch to calm him and bond with him and we are seeing real benefits already.

I am thrilled to bits that the course has made such an impact on our staff so once again many thanks to Sarah for spreading the word.