Fear-Free Veterinary Visits: The Stench of Fear—Is There Good and Bad Timing for Vet Visits?

There is no good reason why your dog’s veterinary visit should be a terrifying experience.

It’s hard on the dog, and it is counter-productive. Fear-free veterinary visits have since become a movement that even comes with a certification.

There are many ways of taking the fear out of visiting the vet. But would you think that the time of the day could make a difference?

Fear-Free Veterinary Visits: The Stench of Fear—Is There Good and Bad Timing for Vet Visits?

Our story

With the exception of Roxy, our guys always loved going to the vet. Even Jasmine, with all the bad stuff she’s gone through. She didn’t like needles or thermometers but she loved seeing the vet (and staff). None of our guys were ever fearful of the vet’s office, on the contrary, rushing us on the way in.

I never gave a second thought to timing considerations.

We’d typically go first thing in the morning for practical reasons such as urine analysis, or because we wanted to see the vet as soon as possible. Only for physical therapy, we had afternoon or evening appointments.

It has never crossed my mind that something like that could matter.

The fateful appointment

Until Cookie’s last appointment. We took her in for an integrative consultation to figure out the best way to get her liver happy. The appointment was at 4 PM, almost at the end of the day.

The guys were excited to go in, as always. They were happy to see the vet, as always.

Then the technician walked in to draw Cookie’s blood. Cookie took one look at her and started barking. The technician was surprised, “You don’t want to be friends today?” They’ve met before and all was good and friendly in the past.

The vet asked me if Cookie was a sensitive girl.

“Yes,” I answered, “she’s quite sensitive, why?”

What happened prior to our arrival

As it turned out, just before walking into our exam room, the technician was handling/restraining a dog who got attacked by some other dogs. The dog was out of his mind with fear and anxiety, spreading alarm pheromones all over.

Apparently, Cookie immediately picked up on that.

The technician offered some treats and Cookie stopped barking. However, she didn’t want to come anywhere near the technician nor she wanted to stay in the exam room altogether.

All she wanted to do was to get out of there.

Even after the blood was drawn. The vet was doing her integrative exam and Cookie let her do it politely but her eyes were on the door.

We were going to discuss some stuff first before continuing with the exam but I asked whether all the hands-on stuff could be done right away. The discussion could wait until Cookie got to get out of there.

This has never happened before

I have never seen her so unhappy about being anywhere.

Once the exam was done, hubby took Cookie away and the vet and I finished our discussions. It got me thinking. Cookie is a confident, happy girl but got completely thrown off by the scent of utter fear from the other dog.

It makes me think about what happens to dogs who are already fearful or anxious.

How much more profound effect something like this would have on them, already expecting horrible things happening and then having the evidence of a dog in anguish right under their noses?

I realize these things are not happening all the time but I imagine that stress does accumulate through the day, leaving its traces everywhere.

We are changing our strategy

From now on we’ll stick to first appointments in the morning as much as possible.

What about you? Did you notice that afternoon appointments might inadvertently end up more stressful for your dog? Do you think it might be because of things that happened through the day and left their traces?

Related articles:
What Makes a Good Veterinarian: Veterinarians Are People First

Further reading:
7 Tips for Fear Free Veterinary Visits

Categories: Dog health advocacyReal-life StoriesVeterinary visitsWorking with Veterinarians

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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