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Fearful Pet? Consider These Steps For More Relaxed Vet Visits

Imagine this scenario:

You’re peacefully sleeping, eating or otherwise minding your own business when someone you trust and love snatches you up and stuffs you into a box and shuts the door.  This person takes you on a car ride to a place that is loud, smells funny and is unfamiliar.  The main area of this place is filled with others who might be sick or who might be threatening towards you.  You are taken to another room and forcibly removed from your box before a stranger makes you sit on a scale, then pokes and prods your body and takes a rectal temperature.  You may attempt to hide, but there is no place to go.  Soon, another stranger wearing a scary white coat comes in and pokes you some more.  You may be taken to yet another room while people you don’t know hold you down and stick needles into you, touch your feet or look in your mouth.  Eventually, you are put back into the box and taken home, having been thoroughly traumatized.

That scenario is probably what it is like to be a cat on a routine vet visit.  If your normally snuggly and sweet feline turns into Hell Cat when it’s time for his vaccines, you’re not alone.  A startling percentage of cats are terrified when taken to the vet, and while dogs tend to fare better, vet office anxiety in canines is common too.

At BSAH, we understand that it’s difficult for you to see your pet anxious, afraid or even aggressive.  We are all pet owners too!  In fact, the photo associated with this post is of Oliver, a staff pet, who was so fearful and aggressive at his last vaccination visit that he could not be handled without significant stress to him and significant risk of injury to the technicians.  Oliver received gas anesthesia so that he could be examined and vaccinated safely.

It can be tempting to put off or skip your pet’s yearly vet visit.  But animals age much faster than people do and need more frequent exams.  In addition, fecal and heartworm tests are recommended yearly and some vaccines need to be done yearly as well.  If you have a pet that suffers anxiety or fear at the vet office, try these tips to calm him.

  • Withhold food: Our exam rooms have plenty of treats available and our technicians love to offer them to pets as an ice breaker.  Don’t feed your pet before your visit so your cat or dog will be more open to taking a treat in the exam room.
  • Ask to be put into a room as soon as possible: Short waiting times are important to us at BSAH.  We know you have busy lives and don’t really have time to spend sitting around waiting for your appointment.  For animals that struggle with vet visits, even short waits in the reception area can be stressful.  The exam rooms are quieter and provide privacy.  If your pet suffers from anxiety or fear, ask to be put in a room as soon as possible.  We will always start your appointment on a timely basis, but if you would prefer to wait in an exam room, please speak up.  We are happy to accommodate your request.
  • Choose a spot: Many animals are unhappy on a slippery metal exam table.  We are happy to examine your pet on the floor, or inside a carrier with the top removed.  We can experiment to find the most comfortable option!
  • Give combo vaccinations: We use small gauge needles for vaccinations but every injection can cause increased stress.  We are happy to offer combo vaccinations that cut down on the number of injections,  Does your dog need vaccinations for leptospirosis, distemper and lyme disease?  We now have a vaccination that confers protection against all these diseases, in one injection.
  • Consider sedation: some pets do well with a sedative.  In many cases, a mild sedative given at home before a visit is enough to take the edge off.  Sedatives do not cause an animal to be fully asleep.  In other cases, such as Oliver in the picture, full sedation may be needed.  In Ollie’s case, there is a note in his file indicating that he needs gas anesthesia for exams.  As long as he is otherwise healthy, he will automatically be given gas, eliminating potentially dangerous and stressful attempts at restraint.
  • Ask for a house call: if the problem is the office or the car ride, ask to schedule a house call.  Many pets are perfectly content to be examined and vaccinated in their familiar home environments.

Fear of a stressful visit should not keep you from seeking veterinary care for your furry family members.  Ask our staff for recommendations to get started on a fear free visit!


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