Does your dog or cat get stressed out by car rides or trips to the vet’s office? At best the anxiety they feel in the car or hospital is unpleasant. At worst, it can create a potentially dangerous situation for pet owners and veterinary staff alike. Anxious or fearful pets can bite or scratch owners or staff members, even though they might never do this at home.
The good news is there are things we can do. We already have several methods of stress reduction in operation at the Animal Hospital of Rowlett, such as DAP and Feliway diffusers in all exam rooms that release comforting pheromones specific to species. There is music in all exam rooms to block out background noise from other dogs, cats or people. The dog and cat areas are on separate sides of the lobby, and the cat lobby is enclosed to further isolate cats from dogs. The entrances for cats and dogs are separated. The hospitalization areas for dogs and cats are separated as well. We provide lots of treats to distract the food motivated pets from things like nail trims and vaccines. We provide cats with thick soft blankets to lay on or hide in. Sometimes, however, these things are not enough.
The dogs and cats that are not comforted adequately by routine stress reduction methods need additional measures. It’s important to realize that not one size fits all when it comes to optimizing things for stress reduction, and it can take time and multiple visits to desensitize the pet to traveling or being at the vet’s office. We should never force anxious pets to accept procedures or restraint that obviously scares them. It all the pet can handle is one vaccines without excessive restraint, we should try to perform other services at another time, if possible. Some pets just need several visits where nothing happens except scritches and treats to relax. Some pets need to have their visits only when it’s quiet and calm in the building. For cats, using crates that are left out all the times as beds at home can provide them some comfort. Sleepypods are crates where the top half of the crates can be removed to be a comfy pet bed. Cats, in general, do better in smaller crates, rather than large roomy crates. Some pets do better with their housemates, some do better without. Pets are frequently far more relaxed after exercise. So, play or walking prior to visits can help.
In the car, motion sickness and pain should be addressed if present. Many dogs suffer from motion sickness. Most don’t actually vomit. Some may drool excessively. A test dose of Cerenia can help determine if car anxiety is related to motion sickness. Older dogs can be reluctant to get in cars if it aggravates osteoarthritis. Pain control prior to getting in the car may help sort this out.
Some dogs and cats are so stressed, that they need antianxiety medication to learn to accept the car or the hospital. There isn’t one medication that is perfect for every dog or cat, and the optimum dose may take some time to figure out. We recommend that pet owners give their dog or cat a test dose of the antianxiety medication and then try to come to the hospital. It will be readily apparent whether the dose given is enough. If it’s not, the pet goes right back home with nothing bad happening and the dose is increased by the veterinarian. The process is repeated until a dose is given that provides enough anxiety relief that the pet can be handled without excessive fear. The multiple trips while figuring out the dose also helps to desensitive.
If your pet is overly stressed about cars or vet visits, we can help come up with a desensitization program to make it a much better experience. Please contact us at 972-412-0101 to discuss a protocol that fits your pet’s specific needs.