By: Dr. Heather Kovacevich
One of the main reasons that people are reluctant to take their pet to the vet is that they do not want to see their pet fearful, nervous, and uncomfortable during the visit. No one wants to watch their cat hiss and attempt to bite or scratch the doctor during an exam. No one wants to watch their dog cower in the corner and drool or urinate on the floor out of fear. We completely understand and agree!
Here at The Drake Center, we are always looking for ways to help pets feel comfortable during their visit and we strive to make each encounter as fear-free as possible. For many patients, this begins at home before the visit. Here are some tips, for you the owner, as well as techniques that we use at the center to create the least stressful environment that we can.
As a certified "Cat Friendly Practice", The Drake Center staff has been trained to treat cats with respect and love. We know that cats are not "being mean" but are just reacting out of fear. Our goal is to minimize these fears and make the visit enjoyable and as fear-free as possible.
- The Carrier: Making sure that cats are used to going into their carrier and that the carrier is clean and cozy is very important. We recommend leaving the carrier out at all times if possible so cats see it as a valuable resting place. This will ease the process of transport. We can provide Feliway wipes to use inside of the carrier to help calm cats as well as Feliway sprays for bedding. Feliway is a feline pheromone that aids in calming and relaxing cats. We also use it in the exam room as a diffuser. Our own house cat loves to sit with his face up against the diffuser just to take it in on a daily basis. Providing a soft clean blanket or towel in the carrier also makes the trip more enjoyable. It may also help to place some catnip or yummy treats inside.
The best place for the carrier to be is on the floor behind the passenger seat, as this will provide the most security and least amount of visual stimuli to the cat. You may also cover the entire carrier with a large towel to make the cat feel more hidden. For more tips on getting your cat to the clinic go here.
- The Lobby: We strive to move feline patients into our cat only exam room immediately to avoid any interactions with other patients. We do not recommend placing the carrier on the ground for any reason. Cats naturally enjoy being up high and feel more secure if they are off the floor. Ideally, we like the cat to come out of the carrier on their own, instead of being pulled out. If the lid can be removed, this will aid in moving the cat but the examination may also be done in the carrier with the lid off.
- The Exam: The least amount of handling is utilized by our staff. We regularly use large clean towels to assist in covering the cat and manipulating them if needed. Most cats do not need to be scruffed during exam or treatments, including blood collection, if the handler is trained to use other techniques of restraint. Cats have a natural area of loose skin (scruff) at the nape of the neck that can be squeezed that typically aids in restraint. We believe that most cats do not need this form of restraint in the hospital setting, and this is only used if other techniques have failed.
If the cat is highly reactive and historically difficult to handle, we can offer an oral sedative that is given at home a few hours prior to the appointment to help calm the cat and allow for a better examination to be performed. We can also use injectable reversible sedatives if needed.
Occasionally, we will also see dogs that don't seem to enjoy coming to see us. For these fearful canines, we recommend the following:
- Withhold food for 6 hours prior to the appointment so they will be more food motivated. We love to give our patients treats to distract them from potentially painful treatments. We want our dog patients to love coming here!
- Come in for "happy visits" where no painful procedures are performed. We just walk around the hospital and give love and cookies.
- Let them acclimate to the exam room for a while before the doctor arrives. Sometimes, the pet actually does better away from the owner so we may ask that you leave the room or try taking the pet to the treatment area.
- Loving words and massages can help too. We can always offer injectable sedatives as needed.
No animal should go without veterinary care simply because the owner or the pet is afraid of the vet. We can work together to ensure you and your pet have a pleasant and comfortable visit with us.
Call us at (760) 753-9393 to book your pet’s appointment or go here.