Friday, September 22, 2017
Making the Vet Visit Fear Free:
Part Two

Welcome to part two in the series about making the vet visit fear free. If you didn't catch part one I  recommend you check it out as there are tips you can use at home to help make getting to the clinic easier. This edition we will cover thundershirts, the use of sedation and tricks we use in the hospital to make our day and overnight patients more comfortable.

 You may be wondering what the heck is a Thundershirt?! The Thundershirt is a vest made to fit your cat or dog that is pulled snug with velcro attachments.  The snuggness applies an even pressure around your pet's mid-section and this has been shown to reduce anxiety in animals. The concept originated from the use of weighted vests and blankets in people and is also similar to the idea of swaddling a baby. In the animal world a similar concept is employed when using a squeeze shoot for cattle. It is called a thundershirt because one of its main uses is in helping dogs cope with thunderstorm anxiety.  It is effective at reducing fear in about 66% to 75% of animals, which I think is a pretty great result for something that is non-invasive and not pharmaceutical.  We can use a Thundershirt in a variety of ways to help pet's cope with their visit to the doctor. If your pet is anxious about their vet visits and needs to come in often, then purchasing a thundershirt to put on your pet before you arrive at the vet is a good investment. It can also be helpful for those pets that stuggle with fear at the groomer or during nail trims. We also have some feline Thundershirts in clinic that we use during exams to help make grumpy cats more amenable to our poking and prodding.
A cat wearing the Thundershirt

In Clinic
When patients need to stay with us in the hospital, whether for a day procedure or overnight due to an illness, we want to help make them as comfortable as we can. If you know your pet will be staying in the hospital for a planned procedure consider bringing a small bag of their regular food with.  Similarily a favorite blanket or toy can be reassuring for your pet.  Cats feel very safe when they are able to stay hidden which is why I will often build a small fort with towels for inside the kennel of our hospitalized cats.  This is another instance where we use our feliway and adaptil calming pheromones.  We spray the towels and blankets we place in the kennels with the species appropriate pheromones prior to introducing your pet into the kennel.  These seemingly small steps can all add up to a more pleasant day in the clinic for our pets.

The use of mild sedatives for patients who are extremely anxious in the clinic can be very beneficial.  When choosing sedation for our patients our first choices are drugs that are very safe and can be given by mouth at home. These drugs tend to be very well tolerated and we rarely see side effects. They do not completely knock your pet out but tend to "take the edge off" of their fear. They are also very cost effective. Some pet owners feel badly giving sedatives to their pets but it really does make the visit much less stressful. I don't think there is any reason to feel guilty about helping your pet manage their fear.  In addition, your veterinarian will be able to do a much more thorough examination and potentially perform needed treatments in a safe manner. If you feel your pet might be a good candidate for using a mild, oral sedative before their next visit please mention this when you call to book your appointment. A lot of owners are surprised at how well things go with the use of a very mild sedation or anti-anxiety medication.
An ear examination for a sore ear can go much more smoothly with the use of a mild sedative.
Photo courtesy of

It is always our goal to help make your visit and your pets visit more enjoyable while also giving the best medical care we can. Hopefully some of these "fear free" techniques can be tested out at your next visit!

thanks for reading
Dr Ingrid

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