Author Terry Hannum says this column was written by your pets, with her help.
1) When my person’s voice changes to a higher pitch, nervous tone and a carrier is hauled from the garage I know that this is not a typical day. I love typical days. If I have to go in a carrier, why not let me get used to it for a few days before I have to travel in it? I have heard that a trip in the car is really fun for some dogs and cats but not me. Rides make me nauseous, sometimes I throw up. There is medication for this and I would love to have some so I don’t get sick and have my people get upset. If there is a rush and I am being forced into a carrier or pulled on my leash, things are likely to go downhill from here.
2) We do not understand why we need to go to a smelly, scary place to get squeezed, poked and prodded by strangers when we would be much happier to just stay home. Why would my beloved people think that I might enjoy this? Clicker training to get on a scale, have my paws held and even get used to people touching my face is fun because it involves treats. Some simple training on what is expected of me, including a few trips to the vet’s office just to get used to the smells, sounds and people who work there would really help. No appointments, no exams, just a stop in to say hello and get a treat or two would allow me to see that its not such a bad place, after all. I think a lot of the pre-appointment paperwork information could be done at home to speed things up.
3) The wait at the vet’s office can be long. There are other nervous, loud, annoying pets waiting with their people, too. Lights are bright, sounds are amplified, I smell thousands of smells, pets crying and I sense my people getting anxious, which makes me very anxious. If the waiting area wasn’t so crowded, the floors weren’t so slippery and some soothing calm music were played, that would help. But, couldn’t we wait in the car until our turn?
4) Getting placed on a wiggly, slippery scale is not my idea of a great way to get acquainted. Perhaps some treats will help. Or, weigh me while I’m in the carrier or in my peoples’ arms with some simple subtraction after. From past experiences before I chose my forever home, white coats can mean trouble. Maybe the veterinarian can take that coat off before coming in the room to say hello to me. Human conversations are going on and I may not understand all the words, but I am paying very close attention to volume and tones. I can sense stress, impatience and irritation better than you will ever know. Remember to keep calm and speak quietly. This appointment is about me and I may be terrified.
5) Special treats and new toys can help me forget how scared I am and my people like to have something to do with me while we wait. Pack a treat bag or a comfy blanket for me if the veterinary office doesn’t have my favorite things.
6) I know that the veterinary technicians and veterinarians are very busy, but it would be great if they could remember to hold me gently and, if possible, let me stand or lay on my own. Petting and ear scratches while getting my vitals works great with me. Keeping calm and leaving a reassuring hand on me is soothing, so I wont be as worried about unexpected movements. If I’m being too fidgety, a non-slippery mat, hugging firmly instead of gripping, towel wraps instead of headlocks and being fully prepared so everything can get done as quickly as possible is better for you and for me.
7) I do not like having my face (or feet, tail, tummy etc) touched, so if my people would just let the staff here know that, they would avoid touching those areas or go extra slow there. I may be in pain or I may remember being hurt there before.
8) From the car ride, to the reception room, to the exam, I am nervous, scared and sensitive to all that is going on. I don’t normally scratch, bite, cry and roll, but I don’t know what else to do. My people are upset with me and the veterinary staff isn’t so happy either. If they would have discussed some medication for me to help calm me down, things would be so much easier
9) When my exam is done, I am so ready to go home, but the return to the loud reception area of a million different smells with a whole new crowd of nervous dogs and cats while my people wait to pay the bill adds more torture to this visit. Couldn’t all the paperwork and paying be done while we were in the quieter room so we can just leave from there?
10) My people always want to do whats best for me, even if I don’t really like it, so the regular health exams with vaccinations, prescribed medications, dietary recommendations, preventative parasite control and any specific instructions that will keep me healthy need to be done, even if I am not always cooperative because I don’t understand or am still scared.
11) I wish that all pet people, like my people, would read more about initiatives such as Fear Free which started in 2016 to educate everyone involved in veterinary practices, along with people who care for us, about tools and techniques that will help reduce fears that all pets like me suffer from.
12) Extra cuddle time, soft voices and treats are always a good idea.
Terry Hannum is a licensed veterinary technician, a farmer and an animal advocate. If you have a subject you would like to have her address, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/news/lifestyles.