Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Veterinarians Aim to Reduce Pets' Stress

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Veterinarians Aim to Reduce Pets' Stress

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES - Trips to the veterinarian leave Joy so scared, she gets sick.

The black Lab-mix dog shakes and shivers, her heart rate jumps, her blood pressure spikes, her temperature rises, her eyes dilate and she cowers under anything she can get beneath. After trying vet after vet for 14 years, the dog's owner Debby Trinen of Sandpoint, Idaho, has finally found relief for Joy's stress from a new approach to veterinary care called "fear-free.

The fear-free movement aims to eliminate things in the vet's office that bother dogs and cats - like white lab coats, harsh lights and slippery, cold exam tables - while adding things they like.

For example, a fear-free clinic "will have a big treat budget, said Dr. Marty Becker, the initiative's main cheerleader and the vet chosen to introduce it to the country. All the dogs and cats at his North Idaho Animal Hospital, where Joy now gets care, have space on their files to note favorite treats, from Easy Cheese to hot dogs.

About 50 practices across the country have gone fear-free, Becker said. Later this year, the initiative will start certifying veterinary professionals. The certification takes about 12 hours of online instruction. The movement hopes to register as many as 5,000 people this year.

Hospital certification could start in 2018, followed by animal shelters and homes, Becker said.

Heather Lewis of Animal Arts in Boulder, Colorado, which has been designing animal hospitals since 1979, says there are many ways to make veterinary offices more pleasant for pets.

Among them:

* Paint walls in pastels and have staff wear pastel scrubs and lab coats. To an animal's eyes, a white lab coat is like a bright glowing beacon and can be scary.

* Remove old fluorescent lights. Dogs and cats have better hearing than humans, and the buzz from those old fixtures can bother them.

* Consider alternatives to lifting animals up on to high exam tables with cold, slippery metal surfaces. Some clinics, like Becker's, use yoga mats for animal exams.

* For background music, choose classical. Becker and Lewis like collections called "Through a Dog's Ear and "Through a Cat's Ear.

A fear-free vet might also use sedatives or pheromones - chemicals secreted by animals that serve as stimulants for many things, including mating - rather than muzzles or restraints to keep animals calm during treatment, Becker said. …

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