"NO-POKE" Visits and Desensitization Tactics

Many animals are quite fearful when in a clinic environment. This is partly due to the fact that their clinic experiences are often unpleasant ones. If your pets comes in twice a year, their visits most likely involve taking temperatures, vaccinations and blood draws. What's fun about that??

There are, however, steps that can be taken to alleviate your pet's stress level in the clinic environment. One tactic that we at Skaer Veterinary Clinic strongly recommend is called the "NO-POKE VISIT". The exact nature of this visit will vary and will be detailed to your pet's specific needs. The purpose of this visit is to increase your dog or cat's comfort level by establishing a bond with our staff members. Above all, this visit will not involve any unpleasantries such as having a temperature taken. Pets that have learned to associate familiar voices and yummy treats with a clinic visit can hardly wait to get in the door!

There is no need to schedule an appointment for these visits. However, please call ahead to ensure that there is adequate time and staff to make the most of your visit.

Treats As Tools

Treat rewards can be very instrumental in distracting your pet and lowering anxiety in the clinic environment. Small tasks such as getting on a scale or entering an exam room will be much easier if your pet anticipates a yummy reward.

  • Choose a treat that is reserved ONLY for vet visits. This treat should be special, different from your pet's daily treats and should be SUPER YUMMY. Treats should be broken up into the size of a cheerio. Suggested treat ideas: Bil-jac, turkey hot dog pieces, Pupperoni, etc...
  • Give your pet this treat throughout your visit, paying close attention to potentially stressful situations. For example, give your dog a treat just before and just after entering the front door. Door thresholds are often a source of high stress.
  • Consider bringing extra treats along. Our staff will gladly spoil your pet!! Your pet will soon associate our staff and the clinic with mouth watering goodness!
  • Remember, choose a tactic that motivates your dog the most. If your dog isn't particularly food driven but has a favorite toy, please bring it along. Our staff will be more than happy to spend some time playing. There's nothing scary about a good game of fetch!!
  • Reward your animal for calm behavior. Do not reinforce anxiety, crying or panic. The calmer you are about your visit, the more helpful that will be to calm your pet.

Handling At Home

By spending just a few minutes a day, anyone can teach a pet to tolerate being handled. The more comfortable a animal is with being touched, the less frightening a vet visit will be.

  • General handling involves touching your pet's feet and toes, looking inside the ears and opening the mouth. Think about what your dog experiences during an examination and mimic that. Lift your dogs tail, touch your dog's belly. Devote 5-15 minutes a day to general handling. Incorporate handling into your day whenever you think about it. Look inside those ears on your way out the door. Play with those feet while your watching T.V. If your pet is used to having a daily "exam", the real thing will be a walk in the park.
  • Invite everyone in the household to join in on this training. Well adjusted animals will even allow children to clean their ears and look inside their mouths. Remember, ALWAYS supervise your pet's contact with children and it is NEVER appropriate for a child to handle an animal that has shown ANY signs of aggression.
  • Invite visiting friends to join in on this training. This will increase your pet's tolerance level and reinforce that handling is just an ordinary part of life.
  • These tactics are not limited to kitten or puppyhood and should be a part of continued training throughout your pet's life.

Cats and Crates

We hear many reasons that people fail to bring their animals to the veterinary clinic. One of the most common reason is that people feel that their cats become too stressed during visits and car rides. The unfortunate thing about this attitude is that this causes cats to miss out on important medical care. Cats hide disease extraordinarily well and they often truly do suffer in silence.

We do recommend cats be examined twice yearly, and we have some wonderful techniques that you can follow to decrease stress and increase bonding with your feline friend!
 

  • Feed your cat in his crate. Using the crate as a feeding station teaches your cat that the crate is a delightful place to be!
  • Keep the crate open all the time to allow your cat to play and explore.
  • Throw a special treat in your crate from time to time to encourage your cat to go in to the crate.
  • Keep a towel over the crate while you're in the car to decrease visual stimulation.
  • Keep calm while your loading your cat up for the visit so that she doesn't pick up on your anxiety.

Please call if you have any questions about cats and veterinary visits! We love cats and want to help you keep your feline happy and healthy!
 

Author: 
Christen L. Skaer, DVM