Preparing for your visit: Reducing stress for fearful and anxious pets
We strive to make our home visits as stress-free as possible. By keeping your pet at home, he or she can remain in a familiar environment surrounded by family. It allows us to avoid several potential triggers for anxiety in your pet, such as traveling in the car, going into a clinic setting, and being exposed to the smells and sounds of other animals. Even in a home environment, however, some animals may be nervous around unfamiliar people, afraid of needle pokes, or in a state of heightened pain causing increased sensitivity to touch. Suggestions are provided below to help minimize stress.
Pre-Visit Sedation Kit
Pets likely to be anxious and/or painful may benefit from a "sedation kit," which consists of prescription medication to use in advance of the visit. We typically recommend a combination of gabapentin, clonidine and trazodone for dogs, and gabapentin +/- trazodone for cats. These medications have anti-anxiety and sedative effects. Gabapentin is also a pain reliever.
Cost of sedation kit, including home delivery: $50 ($100 out of radius)
We typically recommend giving a dose of the medication(s) the night before the visit, and again 2-3 hours ahead of the visit. If there is enough time (at least a few days) before the appointment, we recommend doing a trial dose of the medications in advance to assess efficacy, determine the optimal dose and timing, and identify any side effects. Most animals tolerate these medications very well, but some individuals are more sensitive to the sedative effects than others. Sedated pets may become wobbly, and should be kept away from stairs or uneven surfaces. Rarely, we may see unexpected effects such as agitation or restlessness. Also rare is for pets who may otherwise "freeze" with fear to lose some of their normal inhibitions and become more likely to escalate to aggression if they surpass their stress threshold. The vast majority of animals, however, have a gentle response that allows them to be more relaxed and comfortable.
For pets with very mild anxiety, a naturally-derived product may be sufficient to reduce stress. These products can also be used in combination with a sedation kit/prescription medication for pets with more significant anxiety. Examples of naturally-derived supplements include Vetoquinol Zylkene Behavior Support Capsules (ideally started at least 3-5 days before the visit), Rescue Remedy Pet, or VetriScience Composure Chews. These products are available over-the-counter from pet pharmacies and some pet supply stores. Lavender in a diffuser or a few drops of lavender applied to a bandana or blanket may have a calming effect in some pets.
Preparing the Space
We can typically work wherever your pet is most comfortable, but if possible it should be an area that is easily accessible and free of loud noises. Classical music or white noise will sometimes help to reduce anxiety in pets. Cats often prefer a warm location. If your pet wants to hide, you can offer a pet bed or resting spot in a quiet part of the house with minimal traffic, or an open carrier or open box lined with a blanket. The resting spot should be easy for the pet to enter and exit on their own so they can change locations if desired and have access to their water and food.
Pheromone diffusers or sprays can be used in the home for anti-anxiety effects. Adaptil is a synthetic calming pheromone for dogs, and Feliway is a synthetic calming pheromone for cats. A pheromone diffuser can be plugged into one or more rooms where your pet likes to spend his or her time, at least 24-48 hours in advance of the visit. Alternatively, the spray version of Adaptil or Feliway can be applied to blankets, bedding, or furniture; it should be allowed to dry for 15 minutes before your pet interacts with the sprayed item. You can re-spray the pheromone every 4-5 hours as needed.
During the Visit
Treat distraction: If your pet is still eating, we recommend having plenty of their favorite treats nearby. We can have you feed treats to distract the pet when we give the sedative injection.
Pre-injection medication: For some pets, we may recommend application of a gel medication to the gums for anxiety relief and sedative effects in advance of any injections. We will assess the need for this on a case-by-case basis.
Gentle handling and interacting with your pet: If you do have a very anxious animal, it is often helpful for us to avoid eye contact with the pet and give them space before and after the sedative injection to make our presence non-threatening. When handling, we try to avoid sensitive areas. Please let us know if your pet is painful in certain parts of the body, as this may affect where we give the sedative injection. Please also inform us if your pet has any tendency to nip, bite, or scratch when scared or painful so that we can adjust accordingly.