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Reducing Veterinary Clinic Stress for Pets

December 9th 2017

It’s no secret that most pets would prefer to stay in the comfort of their own home, rather than visit a veterinary clinic. Fortunately, there are a number of things that can help make the visit a little easier, reducing the stress for both pets and the humans who love them.

According to Dr. Dirk Dekens, DVM of Montgomery Village Veterinary Clinic & Dekens Housecall Services (and a member of the panel of experts at Kali’s Wish), the process starts before leaving the house.

“If the owner is nervous, their pet will be too,” Dekens says, recommending that owners practice calming themselves.

“Providing a natural calming supplement to the pet a couple of hours prior to the veterinary visit may take the edge off a bit,” the Calgary, AB based veterinarian adds, citing Rescue Remedy and BioCalm as effective examples.

There is also a responsibility on the clinic to maintain an environment that helps set pets up for a successful experience.

“It’s important to choose a clinic whose veterinarians and support staff are comfortable around reactive pets, and who have a good understanding of the animal’s body language, calming signals, and will take the time for the animal to settle,” Dekens explains. “No leaning over the animal, no direct eye contact, and a slow, sideways approach are all non-threatening methods that should be employed.”

A scared pet can be dangerous to those trying to transport and treat them, regardless of their good intentions, and “using towels and blankets when handling cats and small dogs may reduce stress for the animal, and keep the owners and staff safe.”

Practice can also make for an easier time, especially with our canine companions: “A good way for dogs to get acquainted is to have the owner visit for a laid back weigh-in on the vet scale, with a nice treat presented every time. It also offers the vet clinic a means to keep track of the animal’s body weight and notice if there are any issues that need to be addressed.”

For a broader picture, Dekens turns to his support team – all pet owners themselves – to reveal their suggestions:

Louise Bush, Office Manager:

  • Front desk staff that come out and greet the pet part of the way and on their terms.
    Offer minimal (if any) waiting room time by showing stressed pets into the exam room as quickly as possible.
    Allow cats to go directly into a cat’s only exam room and not linger in a busy waiting room.
    Provide a pheromone spray, such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs, to help them relax.

Elaine Powell, Training Coordinator:

  • Make sure your dog is prepared to be handled at the vet: touch their ears, lightly feel around the mouth area, look into their eyes, run your hands down their legs with gentle pressure, stroke between their toes and the bottoms of the paws, touch and gently squeeze their nails, and stroke the hind end and
    Visit the vet’s office several times before the actual appointment if possible. Get the dog familiar with the sights and sounds of the environment. Work with them to focus their attention on you, and reward them for that.

Darlene Vandevenne, Marketing and Bereavement Services:

  • Allow for separate areas in the waiting room for dogs and cats.
    Have the exam rooms look more inviting through larger spaces, cozy dog beds, and comfortable furniture.
    Provide a safe outdoor place for dogs to wait.
    Offer treats – a hungry pet can quickly become your best friend!

Pamela Porosky, Massage and Reiki Practitioner:

  • Higher shelves large enough to accommodate a standard-sized cat carrier in the waiting room can help cats feel a little more confident prior to their appointment.
    Music therapy in the waiting area and/or exam rooms in the form of low-volume pet-oriented calming music, such as Through a Dog’s Ear, to help soothe both people and pets.
    Diffusing essential oils, such as lavender or frankincense, to create a welcoming and soothing atmosphere with therapeutic benefits for everyone in the clinic.

Still, even with preparation, practice and the most ideal environment, it’s important to note that “sedation in clinic, rather than excessive handling, may prove to be a less stressful option for the pet in the end,” Dekens advises. “And in some cases, if the animal is too stressed in a clinic, a house call may be a better and less stressful option for everyone.”

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