Pet Corner: Creating a stress-free veterinary experience

The newest trend in veterinary medicine is for us to develop a “fear-free” environment for our patients or your pets.

Veterinary architects  suggest specific clinic designs for eliminating pets’ stress and fear during their visits.

They recommend everything from high ceilings, live plants, natural light and separate entrances for dogs and cats.

They even suggest implementing separate laundry for cats and dogs to prevent the transfer of odors.

All of these ideas for a fear-free environment for pets make a lot of sense. It also seems effective to eliminate stress and fear with some simple behavioral modification techniques.

For example, pet owners could limit their pet’s food intake beforetheir appointment and bring the pet’s favorite treats and give them treats during the appointment, which causes their pet to associate something positive with the exam and helps distract them during certain parts of the exam.

The bottom line is  every patient, whether a dog, cat or other species, is different.

The most effective way to minimize a pet’s fear and stress is to figure out the techniques that work best for that particular patient.

Some dogs behave better if a vet examines them on the floor while others do much better if they are placed on the exam table.

Many dogs are easier to handle away from their owners, but a few  behave better in their owner’s presence.

To be most efficient, pet owners and their veterinarian should work together to determine the best approach for every pet.

Your veterinarian can provide certain positive enrichment environmental structures such as climbing structures for cats and non-slip mats for dogs in the exam room. The pet owner knows their pet’s likes and dislikes better than anyone else.

I could play pet-pleasing music at a low volume in areas of the clinic where animals are housed either for surgery, grooming or boarding.

One common technique used by veterinarians is to spray pet-appeasing pheromones in the exam room, hospital room and boarding rooms. These special pheromones are odorless to people but are smelled by animals and are formulated to have a calming effect.

The pet owner may know something about their pet which could be very helpful for their veterinarian.

For example, a pet owner may share information such as their dog does not like his ears touched or he likes being scratched behind his ears.

At the same time, a veterinarian may find a particular technique which works well for a patient and share the information with the pet owner.

It usually takes more than one visit to figure out which techniques work well for each patient.

Many times the techniques can be determined by paying close attention to the pet’s body language. Sometimes trial and error is the only way to find out how a patient will react to certain things.

The new trend in veterinary medicine of fear-free pet visits seems to be a “win-win” situation for all parties.

It is a good thing for the pets to have less stress and fear when visiting the veterinarian’s office.

Pet owners can have the peace of mind their pet is benefiting from this kind of positive treatment.

Veterinarians and their staff benefit from having the pets behave better since they are not stressed or fearful.

The ideal situation for fear-free pet visits requires both pet owners and their veterinarian to work together to determine exactly what techniques work best for each and every patient.

If your pet is having any symptoms of illness; contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.

Dr. Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.