We are a Fear Free and Cat Friendly facility
For your pets safety as well as to reduce the stress of travel and entry to the hospital we require all cats be in carriers with a removable top and all dogs be on a short, non-retractable leash. Small dogs can also be transported in carriers. All exotic pets must be in carriers or small cages. Scroll down to read why we require these transport methods.
We have an extensive New Client Form that we will need filled out on, or ideally before, your first visit. The more information we have about your pets medical and emotional history the better we can tailor visits to be low stress for his/her particular needs. Scroll down to read why we ask so many questions and what an “emotional history” is.
Questions answered in this section:
- Why must dogs be on short, non-retractable leashes?
- Why must cats be in a carrier with a removable top?
- What information is necessary for a medical and emotional history, and what is an emotional history?
- What are signs of fear, stress, and anxiety in pets?
- What might be different at Happy Tails Animal Hospital compared to other veterinary offices?
Why must dogs be on short, non-retractable leashes?
Retractable leashes generally allow your dog to roam 6 feet or more away from you which means they may interact closely with other people or pets in the reception area or even the parking lot. You may have a very friendly dog and have no worries that your pet might become aggressive towards any people or pets at our hospital; however you never know what the temperament of the other pets may be. Many smaller pets, especially cats and exotics, are fearful of dogs and even if your dog does not attempt to hurt them in any way the presence of your dog close to them may dramatically increase the other pets stress level. There is also the possibility of running into another dog that is dog-aggressive – your dog may just want to say hi but a dog aggressive pet could bite or seriously injury your dog if you do not have a short leash that allows you to quickly remove your pet from harms way. If you do not have a short/non-retractable leash please stop in our lobby prior to bringing your dog in and we can provide one.
Why must cats be in a carrier with a removable top?
While some cats are inquisitive at the veterinary office and will readily exit their carriers voluntarily, most will not. Traditionally to combat this problem veterinary professionals will either pull the cat from the carrier or tip the carrier so the cat is forced by gravity to exit. While neither of these methods are physically harmful to a cat both increase their level of stress and create a negative experience which results in increased anxiety at each visit. We will always give our feline patients the opportunity to exit the carrier, often with food lures, but in the event that they refuse to come out a removable top allows us to open the carrier and examine your cat while he/she is allowed to remain sitting in the bottom of the carrier which can provide an increased feeling of security. If we need to remove your cat from the carrier entirely we can use a pheromone-infused towel to gently wrap and lift them out. The ideal carrier for cats, small dogs, and larger exotics like rabbits has doors on the front and the top as well as an easily removable top half of the carrier. You can see one such option for sale on chewy.com –http://www.chewy.com/petmate-two-door-top-load-pet-kennel/dp/53619 – but there are many other options out there. Being able to open and/or remove the top of the carrier is the most important thing.
What information is necessary for a medical and emotional history, and what is an emotional history?
I’m sure you are used to having to provide vaccine records if you have ever changed veterinary offices before, and those are absolutely necessary to keeping your pet on the right vaccine schedule, ensuring that all necessary vaccines have been given, and that no unnecessary vaccines are being given to your pet based on his/her lifestyle. Read more about the vaccines we offer and what diseases they protect against on our Vaccinations Page. There is a lot more to the medical side of your pets history – we need to know if your pet has ever been treated for any chronic or serious illnesses; if they have had prior surgeries or dental care; if they have ever had any problems or side effects with particular medications; and if they have any food sensitivities or allergies. Food rewards are a big part of how we make your pets experience at our hospital a pleasant one but we absolutely do not want to give any treats that will upset your pets stomach or cause a skin allergy reaction. As far as emotional history goes – pets that show absolutely no signs of fear, stress, or anxiety at a veterinary visit are very rare. Even happy go lucky pets that love everybody get a little nervous about certain common aspects to veterinary care – such as rectal temperatures or blood draws. This is normal – most people get nervous at the doctor or dentist to some degree as well but we can adjust to that because we fully understand why we’re there and why painful or uncomfortable procedures must be performed. For pets we need to provide some positive rewards to help them better tolerate tests or treatments that need to be done to keep them healthy and create a positive rather than negative emotional response to the experience. To better accomplish this we need to know what your pet considers to be the best food and non-food rewards and when they have shown signs of fear, stress, or anxiety (see list below) during past visits. Are they perfectly fine except when someone tries to trim their nails? Are they very good for exams overall but sensitive about having their ears or face touched? Or are they trembling and hiding the second you arrive at the office? The more you tell us about how your pet has reacted to veterinary visits, tests, and procedures in the past, the better job we can do of making future visits a positive experience for you and your pet.
What are signs of fear, stress, and anxiety in pets?
- vocalizing – whining, barking, growling, hissing, meowing
- hiding under chairs or behind owners
- holding ears back or flat
- dilated pupils
- standing in a hunched/tense position
- tail tucked or level with body; no wagging for dogs; quick flicks of tail for cats
- freezing up/not moving
- aggression – attempts to bite, scratch, or lunge at people or pets they find threatening
- submissive urinating
What might be different at Happy Tails Animal Hospital compared to other veterinary offices?
We use a gentle approach with lots of treats/rewards to make the visit a more positive experience : appropriate health care for pets, just like people, involves some potentially painful or uncomfortable things – blood draws, vaccinations, looking into painful ears, checking sore spots, etc. Adult humans can put up with these things because we understand *why* they need to be done and that it is to keep us healthy/make us feel better in the long run. Pets are more like small children who see doctors and dentists as mean people that hurt them for no reason, not the caring professionals they are. To do what is needed for pets we veterinarians have traditionally just tried to “get it done” as fast as possible under the theory that it won’t be as bad if it’s over more quickly. The truth is if we take a little longer to go slowly, let pets acclimate to the hospital and staff, and provide positive rewards to balance out the ouchy parts, pets are more comfortable the next time they need to come in. Think about a small child. If you take them to a doctor that just holds them down to vaccinate them more quickly with no kind words or treats they will be scared at their next visit. However if a doctor was gentle, spoke softly and kindly to a child and gave them a lollipop along with the vaccine they still wouldn’t like the poke with a needle but they might very well like the doctor and be happy to see her again in the future. Instead of dragging the child kicking and screaming back to the doctor’s office you take her to see the nice lady with the lollipops. This is our goal with your pets – we want them to look forward to coming to the vet!