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Sunday, February 21st, 2016 @ 3pm     

Dr. Gilbert helps us rethink our approach to fearful and anxious patients to provide better care.


Fear-Free Veterinary Visits from Animal Community Talks on Vimeo.


What we learned

It's no secret that pets don't enjoy going to the vet.  Pet owners routinely reveal in surveys that the anticipation of their pets' fear and distress are serious obstacles to getting them into the vet.  Some pets even go without important medical care because their aversion is so severe that medical attention is judged to be as much a threat to their health as whatever else ails them.

But why is it this way?  Have we accepted an unpleasant "reality" simply because it has always been so?

Dr. Gilbert, owner and veterinarian at Viking Veterinary Care, first helped the audience understand some previously misunderstood sources of stress which are constantly present in most veterinary clinics:

1) White lab coats

Many doctors wear white lab coats, both for practical reasons, extra pockets are always helpful, but also for professional presentation to the pet owner - the human.  But, even though we've always known that dogs and cats see differently than we do, we have recently discovered that much of the world they see resembles what we see under a blacklight, which causes a bright glow from any white material.  This can be, understandably, frightening to an animal, especially when in a strange environment.

2) Common hospital noise

Unfamiliar voices, both human and other patients who may be vocalizing, can be very unsettling.  Doors opening and closing, and phones ringing, are also common triggers of vigilance at home, which, when heard in the clinic, place many dogs and cats "on alert."

3) Odors and scents

Bleach is still one of the most powerful and least expensive disinfectants available, and veterinary clinics often use this chemical in abundance.  This is for the safety of staff and patients, but it also "blinds" the olfactory glands of dogs and cats.  For animals that "see" so much with their noses, this can cause them to feel frightfully impaired.

She addressed several other sources of stress, including human body language, and how comfortable their human is in the room.

Then Dr. Gilbert spent some time discussing ways to address these sources of stress.  Avoid wearing the white lab coat, reduce hospital nose by installing Instant Messaging programs on the computers.  This reduces the human voices, and also telephone use when paging between rooms.  Investing in simple soundproofing for exam room doors helps lock out distracting noises and smells.  She also detailed some tips for handling patients more naturally during exams, as well as keeping the patient on the ground whenever possible, instead of on the exam table.

Finally, she introduced the audience to a variety of supplements and non-invasive ways to help pets deal with stress on a physical level.  These can tip the scales of the the pet's biochemistry to a more receptive state, reducing the likelihood of negative reactions to common stressors.


Attendees qualified for 2 CE credits, approved by the Veterinary Medical Examining Board, Portland, Oregon.


ACT extends a sincere thanks to Dr. Rosie Gilbert for her time and expertise.