Vail Daily Pet Talk: Tips for better vet visits | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily Pet Talk: Tips for better vet visits

I read an article last week about making a visit to the veterinarian a "fear free" process for your pet. Instinctively, we have been doing just that for years at our hospital. Here are a few tips we would like to pass on.

Lesson One: Chill Out. Your pet can feel your anxiety levels. So let's all just take a deep breath. By all I mean everyone. Ever feel the stress level at a doctor or dentist's office? I can; it happened to me just last week, and it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and not ask the receptionist why the atmosphere was so tense.

We want you and your pet to feel comfortable. For us, this means letting your pet move at his or her own pace if they are a dog. Let the leash loose a little and let your dog explore the hospital waiting area (but be polite and careful). To be honest, sometimes we are too loose here, but I would rather err on the loose side and let 99 percent of my pets and their parents feel at ease. We also open up the treatment area to the exam rooms whenever possible, allowing a less pent in feeling for your dog. We designed the hospital to have big open spaces. It totally works!

Cats are the exact opposite. A crate that is dark and warm and maybe even covered with a sheet of pillow case provides maximum comfort. To this end, we also use dog and cat designated rooms. Cats especially feel more comfortable in a cat room. It is the same line of thinking in kid rooms at a family practice or general dentist.

Lesson Two: Stay hungry! Food is a good reward and attention grabber for most dogs (cats are too smart to be food motivated). Some veterinarians recommend you bring your pet in hungry and bring treats. We have treats here and try to use them whenever we can. Who doesn't like a lil' snack?

Lesson Three: Acclimate. I love it when people just bring their pets in to say hello. Make it a fun excursion. Get weighed. Get petted. Get a treat. Everyone stick your head out of the window on the car ride over. Just make it a fun experience. Your dog will learn that going to the veterinarian's office isn't all doom and gloom. If you are a Lab or golden, then you already know this. Those pups love coming to the vet's office.

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Lesson Four: Medicate. I am not advocating drugging your dogs or cats to the gills. But there is no reason to suffer, and there are great nutritional and pharmaceutical products to ease anxiety and stress. It is silly not to use them when necessary. My first choice is a supplement that has theanine and colostrum in it called Composure. Some pets do better with a mild sedative like acepromazine or an anti-anxiety med like Xanax. True fear-aggressive dogs (and cats) simply cannot be medicated out of their condition. Fear is too great a power to overcome. These pets usually need an IV or IM sedative/narcotic combo. We are also experimenting with thunder shirts; some veterinarians are using them to calm anxious pets.

Lesson Five: Patience. I know my patients, and I am patient with my patients (I am also redundant). I know which ones need to be treated in the waiting room, car, outside patio, in the carrier, out of the carrier or wherever. It is all about your dog or cat. Find a veterinarian who is flexible and, again, patient.

Going to the veterinarian is enjoyable for most dogs; I can't say whether cats enjoy the visit, but I do see many that are just wonderful patients and seem to like the attention they get. Although medical procedures like injections and giving blood aren't so much fun, we want to all stay on the happy side. Vet isn't a four letter word. Neither is work!

Stephen Sheldon, D M, practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He can be reached at http://www.gypsumah.com, drsteve@gypsumah.com and by calling 970-524-3647.