By using Fear Free and Low Stress training programs we are able to provide educational resources to veterinary team members, emphasizing low stress handling and calming techniques in order to provide the most positive experience for pets (and their owners too - since it’s stressful to us as owners to see our pets anxious or stressed). We have undergone a series of training programs emphasizing calming techniques, low-stress handling, recognition of symptoms of fear, anxiety, and stress, as well as the use of pharmacological aids when indicated.
Signs of stress in the veterinary hospital can be subtle, but usually include:
Turning Away or Avoidance
Not so subtle signs can include:
Overt aggressive behavior
The best approach when dealing with a stressed pet is often to temporarily stop and re-evaluate the immediate need for the procedure being done - do we “need” to do this, or just “want” to do this procedure? In some cases, our best course of action is as simple as giving the patient a minute to relax; other times, the patient may already be so wound-up that no matter what type of gentle handling techniques are employed the procedure will not be able to be safely performed. In these cases, the suggestion may be made to reschedule the visit.
If rescheduling is recommended, it is important to ask ourselves what can be done differently for the next visit. In many cases, a low dose of an anti-anxiety or mild sedative drug given several hours prior to the visit can have a significant effect in relaxing the patient. There are also calming pheromones that can be sprayed on carriers, towels, and beds prior to the visit.
We also find that food is an extremely powerful motivator for most dogs, so we try to use it as often as possible in during exams and treatments. Please let us know if your pet has a known food allergy! Because treats are such a great distracting and calming agent, we recommend bringing your pet in on an empty or semi-empty stomach so they are more food-motivated.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, some patients just aren’t able to get to a point where they are calm enough for us to safely work with them. In that case, rather than cause further stress, it is often best to more heavily sedate them with injectable drugs. This is safer (and less traumatic) for both the pet, owner, and veterinary staff.
Want to learn more? Check out the videos below!