Fear, anxiety, and stress are not only unpleasant, they have real effects on your pet’s health. Our hospital’s goal is to make your loving companion’s visit as low-stress as possible. Less stress for your pet means less stress for you, and that means everyone has a more positive experience.
Why is stress bad for pets?
Fear, anxiety, and stress have a primitive effect on the body. Any stressful event or situation can activate the sympathetic nervous system—also called the fight-or-flight system—which is designed to keep your pet alive in a life-threatening situation. Hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, are released, setting into motion effects that prime your furry friend to theoretically run or fight for his life. The problem is that your pet’s body does not immediately differentiate between actual life-threatening situations and less serious threats; it reacts in the same way whether he is being chased by a predator or taken for a veterinary visit. Immediate effects of the sympathetic system include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased force of contraction, causing the heart to pound
- Widening of the airways
- Dilation of the pupils
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
These immediate effects are unpleasant to your pet, perpetuating the stress that caused the event and setting into motion a cycle of stress and its effects.
Effects of chronic stress are more detrimental to your pet’s overall health. Long-term stress causes negative impacts, such as:
- Disrupted sleep
- Chronic diarrhea
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Lowered immunity
- Weight loss or gain
What causes fear, anxiety, and stress in pets?
Pets have different personalities and varying natural sensitivity to stress. Some dogs and cats are laid back and go with the flow, while others are more high-strung and likely to experience the negative effects of fear, anxiety, and stress. Common stressors for pets include:
- Unpleasant experiences, such as visiting the veterinarian
- Changes in environment, like moving to a new house
- The addition or removal of people or pets in the household
- Pain, especially chronic pain or discomfort
Why is a low-stress veterinary hospital philosophy important for your pet?
At Lebanon Animal Hospital, we recognize that visiting the veterinarian can be a stressful event for your pet. Some aspects of a visit, like having blood drawn or an IV placed, are unavoidably unpleasant, but there are many aspects of your pet’s visit that can be thoughtfully managed to minimize his anxiety.
We want to reduce stress from the time your pet enters our facility so that when we examine him, we see his true personality. The physiological effects of stress on the body can also alter results of the diagnostic tests we run, making them less accurate. In addition, the effects of stress slow down the healing process, increasing hospitalization time and discomfort.
Your pet’s health is our top priority, and we know that if visiting the veterinarian causes undue fear and anxiety, you are less likely to bring him in. Creating a low-stress environment benefits everyone involved.
How do we reduce stress at Lebanon Animal Hospital?
At Lebanon, we work to recognize triggers for fear and anxiety in pets and reduce them as much as possible by:
- Providing separate waiting areas for dogs and cats
- Reducing fearful stimuli, such as noise, bright lights, and cold tables, in waiting areas and exam rooms
- Using calming pheromones throughout the facility
- Allowing pets adequate time to become comfortable with their surroundings, like encouraging cats to come out of their carriers on their own instead of pulling them out
- Monitoring body language to keep pets as calm as possible—this might include examining pets on the floor or in a carrier if that is where they are most comfortable or slowing down our procedures to avoid anxiety
- Using high-value treats, like peanut butter or cheese, during procedures to distract pets and keep them happy and occupied
- Using individualized techniques during exams and hospital stays to relax pets
How can you help reduce your pet’s anxiety?
One of the most helpful things you can do is stop by our hospital for occasional “fun” visits. During these brief stops, we’ll show your pet some love, offer yummy treats, and give him lots of attention and praise. These visits will help your pet form positive associations with our hospital that will extend to visits when he actually needs medical care. The more often you stop by, the more comfortable your dog or cat will become.
Questions about how to reduce your pet’s stress or anxiety? Give us a call at 615-444-4422.