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Fear Free Veterinary Visits- Taking the “pet” out of Petrified

Author: Dr. Lacy Gilmer, DVM

For a lot of people, going to see the doctor is a stressful experience, even for routine care.  Seeing the doctor often means getting poked and prodded with needles, which can be nerve wracking for even the most stoic human- and we know what and why it’s being done! Imagine your beloved Fido, who doesn’t understand why these things are happening. It’s not hard to understand why they don’t always come in with their tails wagging to their veterinary appointment.
Recently there has been a change in the veterinary world to make these visits less stressful for pets and owners alike, and here at Calvert Veterinary Center we have taken up the charge. Here are some ways that we are helping make the veterinary visit a more inviting experience for our beloved canines (and things you can do at home too!).
1) Use of canine pheromones (Adaptil) in exam rooms. Dog Appeasing Pheromone (or DAP) is a naturally occurring pheromone that dogs produce after giving birth to help calm and bond the puppies to them. We use a  synthesized version of  this pheramone in the form of a spray and room diffusors that we have in canine-only rooms in our veterinary center. This helps many dogs feel an aura of calm in what would normally be a new and possibly scary environment. We can even spray some on a bandana for your dog to wear the pheromones and even take them home.

2) Minimizing restraint techniques. Gone are the days of wrestling dogs to give a vaccine- today we try a “less is more” approach. We coax with yummy treats, scratches under the chin and ear rubs to distract from the pokes. Sometimes a big hug is needed to calm them down, but most dogs respond to a little more TLC and less handling.

3) Sedation. Sometimes a dog is way too nervous (or painful) to be looked at thoroughly without risking injury to themselves or the humans in the room. We may recommend injectable or oral sedation to help calm your pooch before their anxiety ramps up. This allows for a thorough exam, complete assessment, and hopeful resolution of any problems, all while removing the stress from the visit. Most pets and owners are much happier when we don’t have to fight, and a lot of times we can give you oral sedative to give before the exam to make the care ride less anxious too.

4) TREATS! We are not above bribery in this profession. We are stocked with a variety of treats to hopefully tempt even the pickiest of eaters. Bringing your pet to the visit “hungry” helps them respond to our treats and it also makes any bloodwork we run more accurate. If your pooch has a specific treat or toy they love, bring that in! Just like your human kids may have a favorite toy or blankie that can help calm them, pets will respond to their favorite things too!

For other ways to help your pet have a happy vet visit, please visit our website or call us! We are happy to discuss your concerns and brainstorm other ways for making your dog’s visit more enjoyable. We are available at, or by phone at 410-360-7297.

Stay tuned next month for Part 2-  Fear Free Veterinary Visits for Cats!

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