5 Tips for Avoiding Aggression from Animals Visiting Your Vet Practice

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How vets work safely with anxious animals

It’s not news that veterinarians and vet techs are constantly dealing with highly stressed pets. Many animals have long memories, and they know when they are headed into that back room where they were hurt before. Concerned owners do their best to mitigate their pets’ anxiety ahead of time, but even the most loving and attentive owners can only do so much.

Experienced veterinarians know that they will suffer the occasional bite, scratch or peck. For the most part, vets learn to tolerate the inevitable animal attack as an unpleasant part of the job. Still, there are some things that people working with animals can do to avoid aggressive outbursts from the creatures that visit their practices.

Better safe than sorry

An experienced vet learns to think defensively even when the animal in front of her isn’t exhibiting overt signs of aggression. Be vigilant for small signs of anxiety that might indicate the animal is close to lashing out. It’s also helpful to keep detailed notes for the office staff about a patient’s history of aggression, so that everyone knows what to expect. Most normally sweet-tempered dogs and cats are somewhat anxious in the vets office, but if you suspect that an animal has a generalized aggression problem have a talk with the owner about meeting with a behavioral specialist.

Use the proper restraints as needed

Having a tech in the room who can hold and calm an animal makes a big difference. The pet becomes less anxious the vet is able to work unencumbered to get through the visit promptly. Some animals might need a firmer approach. Many aggressive dogs actually become calmer once they are wearing a soft muzzle, which allows the exam to proceed peacefully. As soon as the vet is done the dog is properly rewarded for his good behavior and can leave with his owner.

Drugs are a fine choice when they are necessary

It’s better for vets and pets to get through a visit safely and peacefully with drugs than suffer unnecessarily without them. Pet owners can play a helpful role in determining the right dose for the animal. They can administer a low dose and work up to a higher one under the vet’s supervision until it’s clear that the dosage is right for a visit. Since an animal’s physiology is unique, and even varies within the same species, this can be an involved process.

Calming the owners will calm the pets

Often pets will pick up on their owner’s mood. If the owner is feeling anxious about the pet’s visit they can transmit this feeling to their pet. The more the pet’s anxiety rises the more the owner’s anxiety rises, and so on. Work with owners to help them understand the visit and counsel them on the importance of staying calm. Information can soothe people and impart confidence, which in turn allows their pet to feel more relaxed.

Try desensitization and counter-conditioning

If a dog in particular really can’t relax at the vet’s office, you might have the owners work with an animal trainer to desensitize the pet. Simple things like exposing the dog to a lab coat, or a syringe, or training it to sit on a table for a treat, might reduce the anxiety the dog feels about certain stimuli. Once the dog begins to have a reliably positive response, you can move on to introducing the animal to the more of the stressful cues in combination. This will be a slow process, but it does get results eventually.

Think about how your clothing affects animals

Some animal species have specific reactions to colors of clothing. For instance, new research from the University of California, Los Angeles and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles has shown that several species of birds prefer orange and red clothing. Lizards, on the other hand, preferred dark blue clothing. The scent of laundry detergent or bleach can also change how an animal feels about interacting with a person. Picking the right color scrubs and laundering them in scentless detergent could improve your day at the office in ways you didn’t expect.

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