The Paw Report 101: Calming Anxiety in Pets at the Vet’s Office

Today on the Paw report – Does your dog get nervous when you head to the vet’s office,
just like Teddy and Toby here? Well Dr. Sally Foote from the Okaw Valley
pet Clinic in Tuscola will be here to offer to some information, tips, and advice on how
to calm that anxiety. We’ll be back with more in the just the wag
of a tail, so stay tuned. [music]
Welcome to the PAW report today. I am here with Dr. Sally Foote from the Okaw
Valley Veterinary Clinic. Thank you for joining me today.
>>Dr. Foote: Thank you for having us on.
>>Kate: And you are more than just a veterinarian,
right? You have some other specialties?
>>Dr. Foote: Yeah, I am also a certified animal behavioral
consultant of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consusltants, it’s kind
of a long title but I’ve done a lot of additional education and continuing education in veterinarian
behavioral medicine. And so, it’s a level of, you know, showing
what I know and that and I take referrals from other veterinarians as well, people you
know may come directly to us, if they are having needing help with their pets with behavior
besides having a general veterinarian practice, small animal practice in Tuscola.
>>Kate: OK, so you know a lot about pets. [laughter]
>>Dr. Foote: Try to
>>Kate: to say the least. And we have Ranger here
with us today>>Dr. Foote:
Yes, this is Ranger.>>Kate:
We also have Butterscotch which you probably can’t see him, he’s a little off-camera there.
Maybe we’ll get him in her in a little bit. Today we are actually talking about taking
you pet to the vet, because that is something that everyone has to do and it has to happen
once in a while, and I know a lot of times, there’s a lot of anxiety for pets with this.
>>Dr. Foote: Yes,
>>Kate: So can you first tell us a little bit about
things you might be able to do at home to get your animal ready to go to the vet?
>>Dr. Foote: Yes, that’s right.
A lot of the time people don’t realize that as soon as your cat sees the carrier come
out, they know VET! and that’s why they hide under the bed, they are difficult you know
to get into the carrier. Most common complaint for people, is why they
may not bring their cat in as much as they should, it stresses the cat out, stresses
them out. So how can we make it easier?
First of all I tell my clients, make you carrier part of the living room furniture.
And leave this outside all the time. A cat does need to rub up on it to make sure that
it is theirs. And then if we feed our cat, I mean if we
take some of Ranger’s kibble here and actually put it down in the carrier, and I don’t know
if he is interested in going in there now, but when he goes in there and discovers his
food is in there, then he will eat it and associate good things with it.
Now let’s say your cat is sick though today.>>Kate:
Right.>>Dr. Foote:
Now it has always been trouble trying to get it in that carrier, what can we do differently?
>>Kate: um hmm
>>Dr. Foote: A pillow case makes a great alternative to
a cat carrier.>>Kate:
Ok I didn’t know…>>Dr. Foote:
And especially yeah, I have a video on my website with Okaw Vet Clinic showing this,
but anyway, a regular just pillowcase, and especially say if it is off of your bed, so
it has smells from home, it is even better. So you just kinda bunch it up and sit there
with your kitty at home, and get them on your lap, or even if you give them a little bit
of food, this is ok so that they are down by the dish, once I slip this over Ranger’s
head like so, actually he kinda wants to push into the pillowcase as you can see,
>>Kate: Oh he is very tolerant.
>>Dr. Foote: Even on my video, our other office cat Mercy
is not so tolerant, but she just goes right into it, and while even though she is meowing,
she stays in the case. and this is a lot easier for people to
>>Kate: Wow, that is amazing.
>>Dr. Foote: Right, they can breathe through the pillowcase
fine, you can then you know, yes, get your paw in there big guy, aw you can just bunch
it up and hello, thank you, yeah you are used to this, and they may want to stick their
head out a little bit, but anyway you basically what I would do is if he was like not happy,
I would hold it closed like this, then I can either tie it shut or even if I really wanted
him in the carrier, because it’s much safer for them in the car in the carrier, is take
this and then I put that in the carrier, and its a lot less stressful for them to get into
and out of, because the cat can’t see everything, it decreases how much stimulous that is coming
to them and that. Now there is a facial phermone calming spray for cats
>>Kate: That’s a mouthful
>>Dr. Foote: Yes, it is, that helps the cat feel like they
have already been there, and you can spray that a little bit on the carrier, you can
spray a little bit on the pillowcase too. And that will help the cat be less upset coming
into the Veterinarian’s office. Now once we are at the veterinians office, what we do,
and other vets now starting to embrace this change in how we handle pets at the clinic,
is we would say is either get him in a room quickly so he doesn’t have a barking dog in
his face in the waiting room,>>Kate:
Right more stimulous.>>Dr. Foote:
Or ask the client, let’s just leave him in the carrier in the car, until it is actually
time to come in to the exam room, again to minimize the noises, say children, or barking
dogs in the office.>>Kate:
Ok,>>Dr. Foote:
And that, and then, with dogs, what we do for dogs is say a dog, hi you want to come
out. For dogs what we do is at home with the dog we often tell a client is again, maybe
practice, putting, like loading them in the car and taking them on a short car ride, and
give them some treats in the car as well, while and they don’t go to the vet. Because
a lot of time the dog, once they are starting to get in the car, maybe the only place they
go in the car is to the vet.>>Kate:
That is what I was going to say, a lot of the time the only time a dog or animal gets
into a car is to go to the vet, and then they associate the car with that everytime, and
so>>Dr. Foote:
That is what I’ve done with my dogs, we actually take them everywhere that way they never know
when they are going.>>Dr. Foote:
That is right. So at the vet office, if we can get them, you know help them in the car
ride, then we also can give them, Butter, you want to come here, maybe show you, yeah
Mr. Butter, you can sit here Mr. Ranger, you want to hold his leash
>>Kate: Sure.
>>Dr. Foote: Butter! Come one! Good boy! Oh I know. Butter
is our little senior citizen.>>Kate
He is just off camera here.>>Dr. Foote:
That’s all right.>>Dr. Foote:
Here butter. In Butter’s case, what he is wearing right now is a little bandana, and
let’s say he was nervous about going into, yeah you are going to heat the cat’s treats
aren’t you? If he was nervous about getting into the car, we would spray his bandana with
a different dog product>>Kate:
Ok Is that something you pick up at you know your garden variety,
>>Dr. Foote: Yeah, at your pet store,
>>Kate: Ok
>>Dr. Foote: It is going to be at your pet store, or at
your veterinarian, these phermone sprays is what they are called, and anyway this actually
does directly help to calm the dog down, and will help them with travel. Then once he comes
into the vet office, as soon as he comes in the door at the reception, I say What are
you wanting a yummy? So we would like give him a little treat like so, now the key with
dogs, and rewarding is that you want to give them a piece that about the size of a half
a cheerio.>>Kate:
Ok>>Dr. Foote:
So like one treat like this turns into about twenty treats.
>>Kate: OK
>>Dr. Foote: So like I say oh Butter good boy as he arrives,
you know, in the door, so then he thinks of something good with walking in the vet clinic.
>>Kate: It is the association.
>>Dr. Foote: Right and my technicians and receptionists
say oh good morning Butter here you go and he gets a reward from the receptionist, he
get a reward when he goes on the scale, he get a reward as he walks down the hall. He
gets a reward as he comes by the exam table. And then when I come in and I start the exam,
and say pick up something like my stethoscope, he’s going to get like a little, just a tiny
treat. You know like this,>>Kate:
So one treat turns into all this, so>>Dr. Foote:
So what he then learns that all these good things with every part of the exam, and it
helps him to be less nervous, less upset,>>Kate:
um hmm>>Dr. Foote:
throughout the exam.>>Kate;
Ok, so what are some signs of anxiety? you know if you are at home and you are getting
ready to put your pet in the car or something, how can you tell that they are extremely anxious.
I mean, there’s obvious things, but maybe you can enlighten us on that.
>>Dr. Foote: Right, you know the early signs of anxiety
is what is often not understood well, not misintrepreted. etc. you know, especially
in dogs. So the earlier, of course everbody know tail tuck, ears down, drooling, you know,
thats, I dont want to walk, that’s high anxiety, so the earlier points of anxiety that we can
help give the dog some help, are things like when they start to first turn their ears down
a little bit,>>Kate:
Ok,>>Dr. Foote:
Or they start panting, now Butter of course is panting because he is excited, but it’s
like they may be sitting there and the just [panting sounds} this kind of faster paced
Ok>>Dr. Foote:
Looking around, like that, that the dog, so at that point, that when you want to put on
the phermone spray. That’s where we may want to start offering him some rewards, because
if he’ll take a reward then, if he’s low enough with this anxiety that he can take a reward,
now he can start to change his mind, and say oh wait a minute, this is actually good news
now, getting in the car, and it can help them. Other things, playing heavy beat rock music
in the car for the ride over to the vet does help them. That’s music therapy for them.
>>Kate: Ok, I wouldn’t think of that.
>>Dr. Foote: I know right, no, that’s newer stuff we’ve
learned about dogs. With cats, reducing their anxiety, a lot of it is just if we can minimize
the stimulation to them, so having them in a carrier, don’t have them loose in the car,
throw a blanket over the carrier, using the phermone product will help the cat. Yes, I
do recommend clients to maybe toss some treats in there, even if they don’t eat it, just
knowing it’s there helps the cat or of course using the pillowcase is another way because
it’s you know, covering them and they feel kind of sheilded from the things that might
be making them feel threatened.>>Kate:
So what are, you know, we’ve talked about stimulus, So are there other things that maybe
we may do that increase anxiety for pets, that we could maybe watch in our own behaviors?
>>Dr. Foote: Yes, our own body language. So first of all,
let’s just say, you are rushed. What do we do? It’s like oh my goodness i’ve got to get
to the vet, and then we’ve got to drop the kids off at soccer and so you are rushing
around and you are grabbing your cell phone, and you’re saying come on come on come on
and you’re trying to shove and push your animal say in the car, and what they are all they
can tell is something bad must be happening because the humans are rushing around, just
like in an emergency, so that increases their anxiety. So the thing is keeping yourself
calm, give yourself more time, ask for help, you know, maybe consider asking for scheduling
for an appointment that’s at a better time of day for you. If the animal really really
really is upset about the car ride and everything, there are veterinarians who do housecall.
Or even many veteranarians like myself in an office setting I do offer house calls on
a limited basis, but I do offer so ask. Maybe we could try a house call this year, would
that be easier? So high pitched, you know yelling at people, yelling at your dog or
your cat increases anxiety as well.>>Kate:
Ok, so there is some good little tips that we can remember there. And what about pets
– do they have the capacity to remember that last time I went to the vet?
>>Dr. Foote: Oh absolutely. Yes, and that’s what the whole
thing with less stressful handling and rewarding is about, because yeah, sometimes I am going
to have to say Butterscotch here you know, he’s older, he does have some arthritis. So
let’s say his knees really hurting, and pain they are going to guard their body, and they
may be not only anxious, but they may actually growl or hiss and fight because it hurts.
And until I can give him pain medication to reduce that, that’s a bad expeirence. And
I can’t change all about that yes, I can give him good things to happen throughout the experience,
and especially at the end, when I am no longer feeling that sore knee, and or maybe I gave
him some pain relief medication that acts fast in the office, and now he is not feeling
the pain, and he will take a reward. He remembers that. And they are much happier and much better
about coming in. The term for this is called counter-conditioning to the veteranarian exam.
>>Kate: ok
>>Dr. Foote: And actually I have had a lot of patients’
dogs you know dogs that are patients, cats that are patients, that used to be big fighters,
I mean really bad, and because we have started doing these techniques, are completely turned
around. and are now actually happy, dragging their owners in. And some other tools that
we do too, ok say he had an infected ear. We can even take something which usually you
think oh no dangerous mean dog we have to muzzle them, but you know really a muzzle
is really about safety. Because if I have to come close to his face and examine this
eye, his natural thing to say don’t touch me and maybe try to bite, so it puts me in
a risky place, and I may get bitten, or at home, it is hard for you to clean this ear
and treat this ear, so what do we do? We make this muzzle now a good thing, we make this
a treat mask. So what we do, and I’ve got all these on my videos on my website, I line
the muzzle with peanut butter.>>Kate:
Oh now that is something that I haven’t thought about either.
>>Dr. Foote: The first think I do is I show it to Butterscotch
who likes peanut butter, oh you are not going to like it on camera, oh yes you will. I give
him a minute or two to lick the peanut butter so he says aww muzzle means peanut butter
>>Kate: Right.
>>Dr. Foote: Now, when I go to put the muzzle on, yes you
are going to want the muzzle on, yes you are because he’s getting peanut butter, as you
can see he is licking the peanut butter through the muzzle, yes, you are, and then I can have
somebody either up here giving him more peanut butter through the muzzle while I can be,
yes, there you go, just like that, and then somebody else can be cleaning his ear, or
when I am in the office, I also will have my techs do that. Come here butterscotch,
let’s take that off now. There you go, that was a good boy.
So that’s one way that.>>Kate:
He was pretty good there.>>Dr. Foote:
Yeah, so that is one way so, now you know a lot of dogs when they see a muzzle, it was
about, oh are you going to put this on, and now everything is being held tight, we change
the meaning of the muzzle, so that way, they actually put their muzzles on better.
>>Kate: Ok so again, it is about that positive experience.
and rewards>>Dr. Foote:
Right, positive experience.>>Kate:
Well that’s great. And so are there other kinds of tricks that you use in the office
for exams, say you know there is a cat that is nervous about getting his ears looked at,
or shots,>>Dr. Foote:
Sure. There’s a couple of different ways or things that we use to handle them. Ranger
loves his liver paste. Hey you, and you are sitting over here.
>>Kate: He’s just hanging out back here.
>>Dr. Foote: Let’s just say this is the exam table, I would
take Ranger, now cats do not like to be held much, actually, when it comes to in the veterinarian’s
office now, is we examine and handle cats, we do very little actual holding.
>>Kate: Really?
>>Dr. Foote: Right, and we are much more creative about
how we will position them so say if Ranger, if this was an exam table, we might set a
blanket down, because it is more comfortable for them, and my staff would have this liver
flavored paste, it’s a treat for cats, and as you can see, he really likes it, so my
technician would actually be doing this, just this, and giving him this treat while I’ll
even site it down here where he’ll probably, or you can do this is called targeting, where
you put it on an object, I am not going to make your nice little thing, there you go,
so while Ranger is eating that, he then can so say good things as I go to say listen to
his heart.>>Kate:
Ok yeah.>>Dr. Foote:
Or if i even need to give him and injection, that’s what we do.
>>Kate: So he is doing something else.
>>Dr. Foote: He is distracted, plus he is getting a reward
when he feels my hands on his body, to feel things, or to get the shot, but we are not
holding the back of his neck, we don’t have three people trying to hold him down tightly,
because for the cat, if they feel they are trapped, they feel that they are more likely
to something bad’s going to happen to them. It’s because the cat is both the predator
and the prey.>>Kate:
Ok>>Dr. Foote:
When they are injured, if they get stuck somewhere out the the wild, see, they would be somebody’s
This is true, yeah>>Dr. Foote:
If they feel they can’t escape, or they not just sort of hidden like in a cave, then they
want to try to get away from it, so this is where with
>>Kate: Some of the instinctual stuff comes back into
play.>>Dr. Foote:
It definitely does. Definitely does. So the other things we do in the office, they like
on a mat like this in the office, I call it spin the cat, you know the cat is on the pad
like this and I give the shot, then my tech and I we just spin the pad, so we are not
touching the cat, and we do it on the other side, so
>>Kate: I see.
>>Dr Foote: It’s like eww what happened but he doesn’t
isn’t hissing and fighting, it’s again like a distraction technique. So we use a lot of
these distraction techniques on the cats.>>Kate:
Look at him sitting pretty over there, I am proud of this, a very nice cat, so, how often
should you actually take your pet to the veterinarian, because sometimes you should take them even
though they are not sick, is that right?>>Dr. Foote:
Wellness exams in other words, even though my pet is well, or looks well, it is still
good for them to get a checkup because they age much more quickly than us, so on average,
yes, on every year of the pets life, it is about seven years, as they get older, they
don’t age quite as quickly, but still. So, Ranger here, he’s about five or six years
old. So he’s like somebody about in their late 30’s you know. Butterscotch here at 16
is about like somebody in their 90’s. and He does
>>Kate: He’s an old guy.
>>Dr. Foote: Yeah, he’s got a few problems, but I’d at
least on a yearly examination we can not only do a physical exam to make sure they are healthy,
buy we can also review and cover, what’s his lifestyle like? If ranger, would say be outside
inside a lot, we want to make sure he is being treated for any possible parasites. Not only
for his health, but your family’s health. There are some worms that can be spread to
people. Also to discuss his weight. A lot of our cats are overweight. And obesity in
cats will lead to diabetes and that usually can happen at about age 9 up to age 14, and
many of our house cats may live up to 20, so you know, that’s like a middle age disease
in the cat, or problem, and if we can you know, be checking that cat’s weight ,and going
over with the client, a proper diet because certain diets helps some cats to lose weight
better than others, you know as well as screen for any other underlying problems, because
we can find those things out before they show up phyiscally.
>>Kate: Ok, and what are some of the routine things
that your animals need to have done?>>Dr. Foote:
You know, routinely, a physcially examination and maintain their core vaccinations, rabies
for both dogs and cats, a combination distemper probably for the dog, and upper respiratory
for the cat. If you cat goes outdoors, discuss with the veterinarian about feline leukemia
virus and protecting your cat from that, protecting our dogs and our cats from heartworm disease,
is very important. That’s what the monthly preventatives, and parasite, intestinal parasite
protection. Even though you don’t see worms, doesn’t mean that they are not there. The
majority of them are microscopic and they can be infectious to people, and with so many
people too, like at home on chemotherapy, and that that weaken our human immune system,
we don’t want there to be, your veterinarian is important to helping you keep the health
well for the whole family. You know, even with children in the home, and so forth you
know, there’s a lot of times where the better we take care of the pet, you now the better
it is going to be for the human as well.>>Kate:
So is that kind of you know a whole health thing, kinda the holistic approach. Is that
something that you use a lot at your office?>>Dr. Foote:
Yes, we do. Not only like traditional vaccinations and drugs and such like that, but your veterinarian
also and I do it at my office too, as say a supplemental medication. ANd also combine,
when appropriate, there are other veterinarians that office like chiropractice services and
accupuncture for pets as well. I had brought Butterscotch up to Dr. Cole in Urbana who
is a veterinarian chiropractor for an evaluation about a month ago, and she showed us some
traction technicques to use with him at home because he has certain arthritis in his back.
>>Kate: OK, I guess I hadn’t hear of a pet chiroprator
>>Dr. Foote: Yes, there are,
>>Kate: There are specialists for everybody, including
animals.>>Dr. Foote:
Right right. So oh ranger you like that over there.
>>Kate: Say I am just checking it out. So if you were
to want to seek out some of these specialists, is that something that we have available in
this area? There are animal specialists?>>Dr. Foote:
There are animal specialists, but a lot of what are called board certified specialists,
which are at the highest level, they have gone on for much more advanced degrees, ah
we have a very excellent resource at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
There are other veterinarians, that also have a higher level of expertise, like in chiropracty,
or physical therapy, or in alternative medication, like even chinese herbal medication, or like
myself in behavior and so honestly if you say you can ask you own primary general veterinarian
what they may offer, or who else they may know, or who might offer these additional
services, and talk to your veterinarian about if you want or are concerned that you want
to be sure that your pet is getting everything possibly available for them or you are interested
in that.>>Kate:
Um hmm So that is something that your veterinarian can at least refer or explain to you about,
because you know,>>Dr. Foote:
They may even offer it inhouse and you are not aware of it
>>Kate: OK, so ask?
>>Dr. FOote: Yes, ask, please ask, i mean there is a lot
that your veterinarian and your veteranian staff are an excellent resource for the health
care of your pets. You will find a lot of different information on the internet, and
not all of it is accuate and right, just like for your own health you know, and
>>Kate: Don’t believe everything you read.
>>Dr. Foote: Yes, and most veterinarians and their veterinarian
support staff are very available to you for answering questions, you know and to help
you out.>>Kate:
ok and so what would you recommend to kinda recap what we have been talking about animal
anxiety. So what would you say in closing about getting your animal ready to take to
the veterinarian?>>Dr. Foote:
I would be just aware of what what is happening right now. Like putting on that leash, putting
on that cat harness. What good thing is happening for my pet?
Because all of their learning is based on that link between something good or something
calming with this action LIke the clipping on the leash, going in the
carrier, going in the pillowcase, loading up in the car.
So anything if you find they are getting anxious, just kinda stop and take a look and go ok
what is happening now? Am I you know talking on the cell phone as
I am grabbing my phone and the keys and hollering at my kids to load up in the car?
Ok I think I better calm down here. And my pet is going ok this is how I need to be.
>>Kate: So it’s all about being aware and
>>Dr. Foote: Yes,
>>Kate: doing some positive reinforcement. That’s
kind of what I’ve gained from what you said.>>Dr. Foote:
So, really, it’s you can calm a dog to go to the vet. The thing to remember I guess
that i’ve taken away from this is just be calm, be how you want the animal to be.
>>Dr. Foote: Yes, I think that would be step number one,
just keep it calm.>>Kate:
Ok, well Dr. Sally Foote, from the Okaw Veterinary Clinic, we apprieciate you coming in today
and talking a little bit about animal anxiety, so we are about out of time for today, but
we hope to see you next time. So thank you very much.
>>Dr. Foote: Thank you very much.
[music] If you are a veterinarian, trainer, groomer,
specialist, rescue organization or shelter that would like to partner with the paw report,
by providing expert guests for the show, or animals to featured on our adoptable pet segment,
please contact us by emailing kfpleasant at or call 581-6960 or if you have a
topic you’d like to see on the show, or questions for our experts, contact us with those too.
[music] [dog barks]
[clapping] Have a video or photo of your pet doing something
funny or absolutely adorabe? We’d love to share it with our viewers here at the paw
report. Email it to me, Kate at [email protected]
and you could see it on our show. Just make sure it’s a video taken by you or that you
have permission to share. For more information about how the get that video or photo to us,
email me or call us at 581-6960.>>Holly:
We’ve all the the expression a dog is a man’s best friend, but to make this relationship
work, people need to know how to read a dog’s body language so they don’t feel threatened
and lash out or bite.>>VIctoria:
Most dogs that bite are only doing so because they are scared and they want to warn you
to back away. That’s what aggression achieves, – distance.
>>Holly: So if you meet a dog for the first time,
>>Victoria: Most important thing to remember, is give
it space. Do not go into that dog’s space.>>Holly:
Let the dog come to you, Stillwell says. Turn your body to the side, so you look less threatening.
Put your hand in a fist, and hold your hand down so the dog can sniff your fist.
>>VIctoria: When you meet a dog as well, don’t stare in
it’s eyes. Don’t smile at it. Staring in its eyes is a challenge, is a threat.
>>Holly: Pet the animal on the back of the neck or
on his back and not the top of the head, she says.
Yawning and lip licking may be signs the dog feels uncomfortable, and wants you to back
away. Try not to run from a dog or scream. If you
do get knocked over, roll into a ball, lie still, and cover your head. When it comes
to avoiding dog bites, knowing what to look for our four legged friends could help both
man and dog stay safe. For today’s health minute, I’m Holly Fervor.

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