Simple tips can help your dog or cat have a turnaround in the way he feels about health care visits
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
My dog Keeper used to be a brown-and-white tornado on the exam table at the veterinary hospital. He’s a nice boy otherwise, and I don’t know what it was in his past life that made him fear being on top of the table, but it has always been a struggle for veterinarians to examine him because he’s trying so hard to escape.
Lots of people have the same problem with their dogs and cats. Some animals are so fearful that they tremble, cry, defecate or throw up in the car on the way to the veterinary clinic. We are lucky that Keeper enjoys car rides and even going into the clinic; he just doesn’t like being on the exam table. Nonetheless, I wanted to make veterinary visits more pleasant for him, not to mention easier on the vets and staff who had to handle him.
My fellow Pet Connection columnist Dr. Marty Becker has been concerned about this problem for a long time. It’s what inspired him to found Fear Free, which trains vets, technicians and other animal professionals to recognize, reduce and prevent fear in animals who come to the clinic for care.
“Veterinarians love pets, and we want them to feel comfortable and loved when they visit us, but the strange sights and smells they encounter at the veterinary clinic can be a big turnoff and even frighten them,” he says.
Keeper’s veterinarian had already been using one Fear Free technique -- sitting on the floor -- when he examined Keeper. The past couple of visits, I remembered to bring treats or to grab some out of the jar at the clinic, and they were a game-changer.
Last week, my husband set Keeper on top of the exam table, and he started to spin around like crazy, trying to escape. I started handing him treats nonstop. That got his attention -- and kept it. The veterinary technician came in to take his temperature, and I’m not sure he even noticed. As long as I was holding treats, he focused on them and nothing else.
Keeper will eat anything, but Dr. Becker likes to offer something special. Speaking at the 2017 conference of the American Veterinary Medical Association, he said: “Food is currency in a pet’s world. You’ve got to have really good treats. Pet-Tabs are a penny in a pet’s mind, but they don’t normally get hot deli turkey or bacon-cheese-flavored squeeze cheese.”
For pets who are extremely fearful, preparation for veterinary visits can begin as much as a week in advance with what Dr. Becker calls “a magic carpet ride of pheromones.” Spray or wipe down the pet’s carrier regularly with the chemical concoctions that simulate the soothing substances mother dogs excrete or the markers that cats use to make a place or person feel familiar. Line carriers with fleece blankets that have also been treated with pheromones. That helps the car ride be less frightening.
We used another Fear Free technique on this most recent visit. I went inside to check us in while my husband waited in the car with the dogs. They didn’t enter the clinic until an exam room was ready for them, so there was no sitting around in the lobby and allowing anxiety to build up.
I don’t know whether Keeper will ever love being on an exam table, but it’s sure a lot easier now to have him on one. As long as I remember to bring treats, I may no longer have to warn vets and techs to hang on to him so he doesn’t try to flee over the edge.
Be cautious with
Q: Someone told me that the essential oils I use in our home could be harmful to my pets. Do I need to be concerned, and what should I do if my pets come in contact with them?
A: Essential oils are everywhere, it seems, used to scent homes in the form of liquid potpourri and in homemade cleaning solutions and remedies. Pets can experience chemical burns or other toxic effects if they lick up spilled oils or if the oils are applied to their skin.
Among the essential oils that are toxic to pets are cinnamon, citrus, lemon, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree, thyme, wintergreen and ylang ylang. Never apply any concentrated essential oil to a pet’s skin.
Exposure to even a small amount can cause problems such as difficulty breathing or walking, drooling, lethargy, muscle tremors, pawing at the mouth or face, vomiting, or redness or burns at the affected area.
Any time your pet has a reaction to something applied to the skin, whether it’s an essential oil, a hormone cream or a spot treatment, immediate decontamination is important. If you can’t get your pet to a veterinarian right away, gently shampoo with a mild product and rinse frequently and thoroughly to get rid of the substance. If the substance is oily, you may need to use a shampoo or detergent that contains a degreaser, such as a mild dishwashing soap. Pets with long coats may need to be shaved for quick, effective removal of the substance from their fur.
Afterward, take your pet to the veterinarian to make sure he doesn’t have any ill effects from the substance. Pets whose skin is exposed to a large amount of a toxic substance may need sedation or anesthesia to have the product removed, followed by supportive care and pain medication. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Sniffer dog hot on
pepper pest trail
-- A Belgian herding dog named Chili is helping to protect Canada’s nascent $275 million greenhouse pepper industry, which is at risk from attack by pepper weevils. The tiny beetles burrow into bell peppers to lay their eggs, killing them in the process. Chili’s job is to sniff out the weevils so they can be eliminated. For three hours a day, Chili and his handler Heide walk through the greenhouses -- each covers the area of six city blocks -- as well as loading docks and warehouses where the pests may be in hiding. Chili’s ability will be tested in the next few months as vulnerable seedlings grow.
-- You’ve heard of puppy kindergarten, but kitten kindergarten? The increasingly popular classes help to socialize kittens, but more important, they teach people what to expect from their new feline friends. Purr-fect for kittens 8 to 12 weeks old, kitten kindergarten covers cat behaviors from eating and eliminating to climbing and scratching, giving owners a heads-up on how to set up a fun and attractive environment for young cats, play with and train them, and guard their health. Ask your veterinarian or local humane society if there are any classes in your area.
-- Dog-loving readers will want to check out the best canine books of 2017: the winners in the annual Dog Writers Association of America contest. Taking the Dogwise Best Book Award was “Life With Forty Dogs” by Joseph Robertia. Winners in other categories were “Fun and Games for a Smarter Dog” by Sophie Collins; “Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog” by Jana Rade; “Rescue Smiles” by Heather Leughmyer and Tamira Thayne; “101 Things to Know Before Getting a Dog” by Susan Ewing; “Land of the Free” by Donna Ball (fiction); “Toby” by Hazel Mitchell (children’s); and “The Leonberger” by Caroline Bliss-Isberg. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.