No Fear Here!
Here at Blue Cross Animal Hospital, we are embracing the Fear Free program and integrating a number of changes and new procedures to make your dog’s visit more pleasant. As a pet parent, there are also a number of things you can do to ensure your pup has a positive experience at the vet. A truly Fear Free vet visit begins well before your actual appointment. In fact, it begins before you even leave the house.
Here are some ideas, that you as a dog owner, can use to help your dog be Fear Free at your next vet visit.
Before Your Visit
Bring your dog in to the waiting room any time you’re passing. Let our Client Care Team shower them with treats and loving. Have your dog step on the scale. If there is an exam room available have one of our team lead your dog in, giving treats all the way. When nothing happens but treats and praise your dog will think we’re awesome. Do this as often as you like—we’re always glad to see you!
Call ahead and explain to our Client Care Team that you have a nervous dog. We will attempt to book your appointment during a quieter time so we can put you straight into an Exam Room. Sometimes this just isn’t possible but if we can we will.
If you have a dog that already is a bit nervous about coming in, be aware of your body language and voice. If you’re nervous because your dog is nervous, he or she will pick up on that and become even more anxious. Try to be calm and use a normal voice.
Prepare your dog for whatever restraint system you will be using in the car. If you will be bringing a small dog in a carrier, leave the carrier open and accessible in the house for a few days before a visit. Spray a towel or blanket with Adaptil pheromone spray and let your dog explore, play in and sleep in the carrier. Practice closing the door and lifting the carrier until your dog is used to being in a closed carrier moving around. If you will be bringing a larger dog, using a restraining harness or pet seatbelt, let them wear the harness part around the house for a day or so before the visit.
Getting to the Hospital
If you have a dog that already is a bit nervous about coming in be aware of your body language and voice. If you’re nervous because your dog is nervous, he or she will pick up on that and become even more nervous. Try to be calm and use a normal voice.
Ideally, secure small dogs in a carrier on the floor of the vehicle. If the crate won’t fit on the floor, level it with a towel and secure it with a seatbelt. Large dogs should be fastened into the back seat with a safety-tested harness. Be aware that there are no actual safety standards for pet safety restraints, but the Center for Pet Safety has tested a number of restraint systems and has a certification system that can help you choose a crate or restraint.
Prepare your car for comfort and success. Wipe down the seats with an Adaptil wipe, and leave a favourite toy in the back seat. If your dog is in a carrier, make sure the carrier has a non-slip liner.
At Blue Cross Animal Hospital
Bring your dog into the hospital in the carrier or on a short non-retractable leash.
Don’t feed your dog before a visit and bring their favorite treats with you. A hungry dog, offered their favorite food is less likely to look around and get upset. If your dog associates the hospital with tasty treats, they are well on their way to feeling positive about being here. We have lots of tempting foods but of course, if your dog has dietary issues then we respect them.
Be ready for our team to say we need to stop the visit and reschedule the appointment if your dog is too upset. A frightened dog puts all of its energy into aggression and escape, which can be dangerous for you, your dog, and hospital staff. Your dog will remember extreme fear and be that much harder to handle on the next visit.
We are doing our best to get away from putting dogs into the exam room if they are reluctant to go. Sometimes we have to if they are ill or injured, but if we are seeing them for a routine visit, we will often ask owners if we can reschedule and work out some strategies to help your dog cope.
Everyone knows someone who pops a Valium before going to the dentist. We are focusing more and more on this approach with our frightened and anxious patients. For these extremely anxious dogs we are prescribing Trazadone or Gabapentin or both, to be given before a vet visit. These medications don’t “knock the pet out”. They just lessen their anxiety and make the visit more pleasant for them. There is less stress for you as an owner, your dog and for our team.