At our practice we are currently doing a behavior pillar in an attempt to make our practice more welcoming to the pets that walk in the door. We are attempting to reduce the stress by examining cats in their carrier, putting towels on the scales and throwing treats around the room like beads at Maudi Gras. But before we get into all the ways we can ease the tension we first learned all the signs of anxiety that our patients show us. The licking of lips, looking away, and even yawning can be signs of stress that I don’t usually pick-up on or address in the fast pace of the exam room. When I only have 8-10 minutes in an exam room as long as I am not hearing growling sound or seeing snarling teeth I am usually diving in to get the exam started. Through our training I am beginning to notice the more subtle signs of stress and it has led me to believe that I am one scary dude.
Of course there are some dogs that will let you do anything to them as long as you return it with an ounce of attention and you truly feel loved in the exam room. But there are plenty of other pets that will not return your warm greeting with a lick on the face, albeit puppies are always the exception (that is until you give them their first shot). Yet as I now pay more attention to the yawns and the whale eyes I realize how intimidating our hospital can be. For many pets the worst part is the ophthalmic exam when the lights are off and the scary dude is shining a light in their eyes. I used to think, “come on, it is not that bad, I am not even touching you,” but now I really know why the cops do it.
So now that I know we are a scary place for most what do we do about it? The first step is diagnosing the problem, which we are on our way. The next step is finding the solutions. By working on things such as puppy play time, Feliway spray and peanut butter waiting around every corner we hope some of our stress induced patients will not be quite as terrified the next visit. In turn a happy pet makes for a happy staff that can easily work with that patient and leave the muzzles in the back room. But most of all a happy pet makes for a happy owner, an owner that is more likely to visit us more often and everyone wins. Another revelation I made through this pillar is that I can relate to dentists more than I had thought.
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