How to Create Low-Stress Vet Visits

Author: , VMD, MBA 

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last few years, you’ve probably caught wind of veterinary medicine’s practice management “concept du jour:” the low-stress veterinary visit.

Finally! A practice management idea we can all get behind without feeling like we’re “selling out.” What’s not to love about reducing our patients’ stress and boosting our bottom lines too?

Want to dip your toes in the water without sacrificing more time and energy than you would like to in the future? No problem. Let’s break it down into five key areas, with some tips you may find useful.

1: Transportation Desensitization

Cage matters: Make carriers dark, friendly, and soft (if we need to administer a shot quickly, soft carriers make for a handy squeeze cage).
Acclimatization: Take the mystery out of carriers by recommending that clients keep them out and visible at home.
Pheromones work: It’s no silver bullet, but Feliway works. Use and recommend it liberally.
Leash selection: Flexi-leads and loose collars are the worst. Keep slip leads at your front desk.

2: Visual De-stimulation

The black box: Less is more, especially for cats. Dim the lights or, better yet, turn them off. If that’s simply not possible, stash some Feliway-spritzed towels near the front of your hospital so clients can cover their cats’ carriers.
Reduce contrast: Cats see black/white contrasts best; while dogs see red/green contrasts more acutely. Minimizing contrasts in your working environment can help reduce overall sensory stimulation that can contribute to stress.
Line of sight: When at all possible, don’t put animals in the direct line of sight of another. Negative inter-species and cross-species reactions are way more common than positive reactions. Why risk it when you don’t have to?
Objects in motion: It doesn’t help when cats see human feet scurrying rapidly around their box enclosures. The motion itself is a stressor, especially for a hunting cat who’s highly attuned to such inputs.

3: Audio Deprivation

Isolate barkers: Whether they’re in the lobby or in the back, barkers must be isolated for the sake of everyone. Sacrifice a dark, quiet office space if you have to, but treat them as an emergency.
Sound-proofing: Foam insulation is your friend. I cut out shapes and stick them to the walls and doors to dampen sounds. Lining the back of your cages and the underside of lobby benches with foam works wonders for soundproofing as well. Used animal books and magazines are great too. Keep these as decor in cubby spaces or on top of shelves (make sure you can easily dust them though).

4: Distraction Attractions

Distract your dogs: Offer dogs treats and toys in every room. And make sure they come in hungry!
Work fast on cats: We all know that cats have a time limit. Before you know it they’re over the edge. So don’t dally. Make sure everything’s ready before the carrier gets breached and make sure it all happens fast.

Distract your dogs: Offer dogs treats and toys in every room. And make sure they come in hungry!
Work fast on cats: We all know that cats have a time limit. Before you know it they’re over the edge. So don’t dally. Make sure everything’s ready before the carrier gets breached and make sure it all happens fast.

5: Don’t be Afraid to Use Chemistry

Don’t hesitate to sedate: The time to sedate is when you first think that maybe, just maybe, you should sedate. Do it before she ramps up and maims every staff member on her way out of the building and into the parking lot (You know you’ve seen it happen).
Pre-medicate: Surgical patients don’t need to sit there all day stewing in their stress.
Pain control measures: Take them. Nuff’ said.

Have any more simple tips to offer? We’d all love to hear them!

Mind if we pay your vet bills?

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Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2016 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.