By Robert Weiner, VMD, ABVP, of County Animal Hospital
Most of my patients are happy to see me but some are fearful. We strive to reduce the stress pets experience at the veterinary office. A fear free veterinary visit starts before the scheduled appointment.
Cat owners should purchase secure cat carriers that are large enough for your cat to be comfortable in. Never transport more than one cat at a time in a single carrier. The carrier should open from the top and the sides. Either hard side or soft side carriers are ok but the cardboard ones are not optimal. End opening carriers are ok if the bolts that hold it together are easily removable. Leave the carrier out in your home all the time. Put a t-shirt that you have worn in the carrier or you can use a towel that has been sprayed with Feliway. Feliway is a calming cat pheromone. Toss special cat treats in there from time to time or even a dish of favorite food so that you cat develops a good association with the carrier. If your cat happens to be in the carrier shortly before the visit just close the door. Try and avoid chasing your cat around the house. Hold the base of the carrier when transporting your cat, so your cat feels more secure. This will help reduce motion sickness and stress. When you arrive at the office set the cat carrier on a chair rather than the floor and certainly try not to set it in front of a curious dog. The hospital staff will get you and your feline family member into an exam room and out of waiting room traffic as soon as possible. Leave your cat inside the carrier until the doctor or the LVT (Licensed Veterinary Technician) is ready.
Dog owners should bring your dog to the office hungry and bring along a supply of your dog’s most favorite special treat — something that you would normally not feed. Even fast food is ok if your dog is particularly fearful. You can purchase Adaptyl, a Dog Appeasing Pheromone, to spray the car with (you can’t smell it) or even spray a bandanna that you put around your dog’s neck. If your dog doesn’t do well around other dogs let us know in advance so we can schedule your appointment appropriately. Maybe call us on your cell phone from the parking lot so we can make sure the waiting room is clear when you come in. Use a nylon or leather six-foot leash. Retractable “flexi leashes” are never a good idea and especially not in the animal hospital. For some dogs, medications administered prior to the visit will help alleviate anxiety and make the visit less fearful for your dog and happier for you and for the hospital staff. With a little planning we can work together to make animal hospitals truly fear free.
This article was previously published in New City Neighbor magazine, April 2018