The Fear Free sm Initiative at the Animal Hospital of Orleans!
We all know trips to the vet can be quite unnerving for some of our pets. At AHO, we are constantly working on ways to change this. Generally, trips to the vet are going to involve some poking and prodding, which can make it difficult for some pets to relax. But there are a number of steps we take to improve your pet’s experience. There are also ways you can lower stress and anxiety before your pet arrives at the clinic. Here are some ways we can team up to achieve low-stress visits:
1. We have separate waiting areas for dogs and cats. Cats are very sensitive to new noises and scents, and the sight of unfamiliar animals can scare them. We have a separate cat waiting area with towels to cover your carrier and elevated areas to keep your cat’s carrier off the ground.
2. We provide short wait times for appointments. Even with the separate areas, the front desk does see a lot of traffic and noise. Getting you into an exam room quickly helps reduce stress for all!
3. Did someone say treats? Treats add to more positive associations with the hospital, staff and veterinarians. They are also a great distraction for wiggly pets that do not enjoy being restrained. We are well stocked in all sorts of dog and cat treats, including hypoallergenic treats. Have a finicky baby? We recommend bringing your pet’s favorite treats with you!
4. Bring your pet hungry! If your pet hasn’t eaten yet, the treats we offer will be even more enticing. Don't feed your pet breakfast the morning of their appointment as long as your pet doesn’t have a medical condition that would be worsened by fasting.
5. Toys, toys and more toys! Some pets, dogs especially, prefer to have a task or item to direct their nervous energy towards while they are at the hospital. We have several dog and kitty toys that can give these busy babies something to do to help reduce stress. As with treats, if your pet has a favorite toy, you are welcome to bring it with you.
6. Our comfy bedding beats slippery floors and tables. Not having their feet firmly beneath them can really make our pets nervous. At AHO, we use comfortable, non-slip bedding on our exam tables. If your pet is more comfortable on the floor, our doctors are not afraid to examine them there. We can also use non-slip bedding on the floor if needed. We have a lift table in our exam room so we don’t have to pick up large dogs and scare them. Bringing something small and cozy from home can be comforting too, as it will smell familiar. This is especially true for cats.
7. We’ve got sedation, and we’re not afraid to use it. Sometimes, for some treatments or some patients, we just cannot make your pet’s visit a low-stress visit. In these situations, it is best to offer your pet sedation. This avoids traumatizing your pet, as continuing anyway when they are afraid can worsen fear in the future. It may also be better to sedate pets that come in feeling extreme pain. It is not fair to cause them more distress, pain or fear, even if we are doing treatments or tests to help them. Our doctors are well-versed in many sedative options that help ease our nervous patients’ worries.
8. We use Feliway and Adaptil. Feliway is a pheromone product that helps calm and relax our feline patients. Adaptil is a similar product but is designed for dogs. These pheromones can help relieve anxiety on a biochemical level. You won’t notice them in the exam rooms, but your pets certainly will!
9. Always bring your cat in a carrier and your dog on leash. Carriers can give cats a place to hide and a sense of security in case they do see an unknown cat or dog. Examination can also be easier if you can remove the carrier’s top. If top can be removed, your cat can remain in the carrier she recognizes and can stay with bedding that smells familiar. Smaller dogs may benefit from carriers for similar reasons as cats. Otherwise, leashes provide some control over your dog, keeping everyone safe.
10. Make your cat’s carrier a happy place and your dog’s leash exciting: If your cat only sees the carrier right before he comes to the vet, it’s likely he will become nervous at the sight of it. Instead, leave the carrier out with some fluffy bedding, treats or toys in and around it. If the carrier is a happy place, the anxiety cycle won’t begin at home! Likewise, dogs should be introduced and desensitized to wearing their leashes prior to coming to the vet, if possible. If they already connect seeing their leashes with doing something fun outside, they are less likely to be afraid on the trip here.