Fear-free vets: Easing your pet's stress

Kensington vet clinic part of a growing trend

SAN DIEGO -- They always know.
 
Cats and dogs dread that trip to the vet. But a San Diego veterinary clinic is trying to change that.  
 
“Fright produces stress. That changes the body chemistry. That’s not good for them,” said Dr. Patty Ungar of Kensington Veterinary Hospital.
 
The vet clinic is part of a growing trend of “fear-free vets.” They’re focused on reducing stress – for both pets and owners. “They feed off each other’s stress,” explained Dr. Ungar.
 
Instead of slippery cold exam tables, vets will often work with patients on the floor. “In the old days, everybody used to go up on the table because it’s easier, but you know, a big dog doesn’t want to be three feet off the ground,” said Ungar.
 
And she says the clinic will put a “nice warm towel” under cats so they can cuddle in it. In addition, some of the veterinary doctors will actually spray themselves with pheromones – the scent from a dog or cat. This helps calm the animals.
 
And when all else fails… try food. There’s a big container of dog treats at the clinic, and clients are asked not to feed their pets for at least a couple of hours before each visit. “We can use treats, a little bit of a food bribe… builds a little confidence, builds some trust.”
 
Dog owner Anthony Deeb and his 2 lb. teacup Yorkie are sold on the concept. “We’ve been coming here for eight or nine years now and absolutely love it.” 
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