Fearless Vet Visits
Picture this: You are sitting in your doctor’s waiting room. You feel your blood pressure increase and your heart rate speed up. You think about the needles, the blood, and the cold equipment. You smell the cleaning solution. You’re a little nervous. Something about being at the doctor’s office is just a little disconcerting, even for the most brave at heart.
Now imagine being an animal. Your human loads you into the car and brings you to a building that has so many new, strange smells. Your human is acting kind of odd, maybe a little stressed. There are a lot of other animals, different species and different sizes. You aren’t allowed to go near any of them and some of them look really upset! It’s enough to intimidate any pup or kitten!
In addition to their annual wellness exams, sometimes our four-legged friends get sick and need to visit our Fear Free Certified Doctors, Dr. Hampton and Dr. Sausner. So, what can we pet-parents do to help reduce Felix or Fido ‘s fear, anxiety, and stress at their visit to the doctor’s office??
Let’s start at the beginning. If possible, schedule your appointment at a time that fits best into your own schedule, giving yourself enough time so that you don’t feel rushed. If you feel stressed and anxious because you’re running late, Fido will pick up on that feeling and manifest it as well. Fido doesn’t understand you are anxious to get back to work for a conference call; he just knows that you came to the vet’s office and got very stressed out! Fido thinks that means something bad is about to happen and he needs to be on alert. Fido’s added stress can have many undesirable effects on his visit. It can increase the risk of Fido hurting himself as well as the vet staff, who is trying to provide the best possible care to him. Stress hormones such as adrenaline can also alter lab results and mask pain during the doctor’s exam, preventing accurate and/or timely diagnoses.
We try our best at AAVH to teach pets to have a positive association with being in our building. What’s more positive to a pooch, and even some kitties, than food?! If able, we recommend bringing Fido when he is slightly hungry! We LOVE to give out treats to our patients; it builds trust between your pet and us, his veterinary care team. If Fido is on a special diet, we highly encourage bringing in treats or kibble from home for us to give out! Always let us know about any dietary restrictions. You may even consider dropping by for “happy visits” during which we give pets praise, belly rubs, and treats with NO needles or scary parts at all! These are complimentary in an effort to create those positive associations with our building and with us!
Does Fido have a security blanket or favorite toy at home? Bring it in with him! For my dog, if you put a ball in front of his face, you can do literally anything you want to him and he won’t move. I almost think Dr. Hampton could do a full dental cleaning with just a ball held in front of him! But we won’t try that because that wouldn’t be safe!
Something that smells like home or Fido’s favorite person can be very comforting. This is especially important now with our curbside and drop-off appointments due to COVID-19. Scents are SO important to animals! We highly encourage the use of pheromone sprays called Adaptil and Feliway; we even sell them! These products are designed specifically for dogs and cats to ease their anxiety. You can spray something like a towel or blanket, which you can then bring with you to your visit to help comfort your pet. We believe in these products so much that we even have Adaptil and Feliway plug-ins in each of our exam rooms, which diffuse the scents throughout the day. Sometimes, despite all best efforts, some pets still get very anxious at the veterinarian’s office. If you are concerned about your pet’s level of fear, anxiety, or stress, please do not hesitate to ask our veterinarians about Pre-Visit
Pharmaceuticals. These are calming medications you can give your pet prior to coming into the appointment, which can help make his experience a more positive one and keep everyone involved safe. Please do not be upset if our staff recommends these medications; plenty of our own pets are on them when they come for their check-ups!
Every animal is different, and as such, each will need an approach tailored specifically to him. Things that work for your neighbor’s dog might not work for yours. Talking with one of our Fear Free Certified staff members about your pet’s individual needs and anxieties is the best way to set your pet up for the best vet visit ever!