by David S. Thomson, DVM
Lots of dogs and cats hate to go to the veterinary hospital. Hauled out of their home, loaded into the car, driven who knows how far, dragged into a noisy, slippery-floored, odd-smelling building by their anxious owner, they then encounter other noisy, stressed-out pets, and unknown people. And this is just the start. Next, they are poked and prodded, grabbed and squeezed, probed with Q-tips and thermometers, and maybe even stabbed with needles. Ouch! Who wouldn’t tremble and growl, mess in the waiting room, and try to bite the doctor!
At Riverbend, we understand. We have always tried to do things to turn this potentially unpleasant experience into a positive one. We take plenty of time. We get to know our patients. We give lots of treats. We talk quietly and move slowly. We may leave a kitty in the carrier for the exam, working with the top off. We might sit on the floor with a dog if that helps. We scratch the ears and belly a lot. We use lots of small rugs on the floors which give better traction for elderly or disabled animals. And our hospital is very clean but doesn’t smell antiseptic.
Our staff went the extra step and took a course for “Fear-Free” training. This is a 9-hour online class that delved into all the causes of fear and anxiety in hospital patients, and then taught new ways to minimize the stress. As a result, you may notice we now give even more treats in the exam rooms, use special hormone-infused blankets and scarves for nervous pets, and prescribe pre-visit calming medications for our patients who need them. We document which pets show signs of stress and anxiety when they’re here so that we can consult with their owners before their next visit in order to set them up for a successful appointment.
No one wants to struggle with a stressed 90-pound rottweiler or with a cat who feels cornered. Anxiety-reducing techniques are a win-win for everyone. With collaborative planning and some innovative ideas and methods, our dog and cat patients are more relaxed, so their exams can be even more thorough and their treatments better.
We hope their owners are happier, too. Here at Riverbend, we certainly are!