Today's Veterinary Business

AUG 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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38 Today's Veterinary Business Communication Many variables play a role in the formation of anxious or fearful behavior in traveling pets, but when clients receive good information about preparation, desensitization and stress-reducing products, our patients can have a safer and more comfortable experience. Communication FEARLESS It Starts at Home For both dogs and cats, the key to reducing fear, anxiety and stress is preparation because, as we now know, anxiety can escalate every time a trigger initiates a fearful response. Preparation involves the patient, the carrier and the mode of transportation, such as a car. Let me give an example. I've spent time in previous columns explaining the importance of hav- ing cat carriers — and small-dog carriers, for that matter — be part of the home furniture. Encouraging pet owners to leave carriers out and open year-round in inconspic- uous areas and filled with positive reinforcements such as food, treats, soft bedding and toys reinforces the idea that the carrier is a safe, nonthreatening environment. When a cat regularly gets treats or finds toys inside a carrier, it be- comes a place of safety and security rather than an anxiety trigger. Keep- ing the carrier available inside the home also reminds the owner to keep it clean . Studies have shown that dogs and cats are incredibly sensitive to odors and how some pets can develop a permanent aversion, like when a dirty litterbox induces inappro- priate elimination. Clients should be encouraged to line the bottom of the carrier with an absorbent puppy pad to help with urinary or fe- cal accidents during travel. Staying Calm in the Car After the pet has been desensitized to the sight, smell and feel of the carri- er, the next step is coun- terconditioning with the car itself. If the only time a dog or cat travels is in a carrier to a dreaded vet- erinary appointment, cars will have a bad association. We can help clients train their dogs and cats to like the carrier and even the car ride through similar counterconditioning. Preparation includes provid- ing the dog or cat with a favorite toy or own- er-scented clothing to accompany them in the car. Some dogs respond favorably to an anxiety- reducing jacket such as the ThunderShirt during travel and other stressful events. The keys to ef - fective use of a wrap are to place it on the dog at least 60 minutes before entering the car and to remove it immediately after travel. Another essential component is a restraint system. Many options, cus- tomized to the size of the pet and the car, are available for dogs and cats . A safety restraint is always more effective if the pet has been desensitized to the carrier before the trip. I like to give specific op- tions for car harnesses and carriers. From an ease of use, sturdiness and safety perspective, I think the Sleepypod line is fantastic. The Clickit travel harness for dogs and the Mobile Pet Bed for small dogs and cats secure easily using the car's seat belt. I recommend that larger dogs be placed inside a sturdy crate in the cargo area when an SUV is used. Stress to clients that dogs and cats should not roam freely in a car. A side note: I have found the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed to work well in the clinic as it allows small dogs and cats to stay in a comfort- able, familiar place during an exam, reducing fear, anxiety and stress at the next visit. By Natalie Marks, DVM The road to fearlessness Clients can turn their dog or cat into a well-adjusted travel companion with a little help from you. Some patients who have stressful travel responses but cannot avoid frequent car rides respond better to Adaptil Comfort Zone collars, which are effective for 30 days. Continued on Page 40

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