Four year old Kiki is a pit-mix originally from Detroit who recently saw her vet visit at the Pet Authority, Waterford in a whole new light. This time her stress melted; her wild eyes fluttered into a nap and credit goes to a few simple tools that turned her from terror-filled to tranquil.
Set up for success
It was important for Kiki to enter a lobby that was dog-free so arrangements were made for an appointment that was at the end of the day. A room that was closest to the waiting area was available which was best because you don’t want to have to walk your dog through areas of the clinic and risk additional stressful triggers. Family waited with the dog in the comfort of the car until the room was setup and ready for her arrival.
Bring peace space
I set up the clinic room with a fluffy comforter. It is important to have the dog rest on a towel or blanket because it will make it easier to slide around and maneuver without having to place your hands directly on the dog.
The blanket was scented with diluted essential lavender oil. When purchasing lavender look for the packaging to list the words 100% pure essential oil. The lavender was diluted with water and was dispensed with a spray bottle. Both the oil and the spray bottle were violet glass. Oils should be bottled in amber, cobalt or violet glass bottles.
I set up a CD player with Through a Dog’s Ear, Vol. 2 which began playing softly ‘Winter Largo’ by Vivaldi.
The music of Through a Dog’s Ear builds on the ground breaking psychoacoustic research of Dr. Alfred Tomatis (1920-2001). His therapeutic discoveries redefine modern psychoacoustics — the study of the effect of music and sound on the human nervous system. There are three volumes of “Music to Calm Your Canine” along with versions for calming your dog in the car, the home, music for the elderly dog and a version for puppies.
A Thundershirt was wrapped around Kiki. The Thundershirt’s gentle, constant pressure around her torso had a great calming effect and you could see her tense muscles begin to relax. If you aren’t familiar with the Thundershirt, you should try one. To understand how it works consider how a parent would swaddle a baby in a blanket. The safe feeling that is produces in the pet can be replicated for a variety of situations such as if you are using it for a vet visit, during a thunderstorm, enduring the 4th of July fireworks or other stressful events such as traveling.
What about sedatives?
There are different sedatives that your veterinarian may prescribe your dog to help cope with stress. These are not a cure-all and are considered on a case-by-case basis. They may slow down your dog’s motion, but at the same time you may see a lowering of inhibition and for a reactive pet this is not ideal. Kiki was given a sedative prior to her visit; however, by evidence of her whale-eye, low growl and stiff posture, she was in need of some further tools to help her cope successfully.
A muzzle was a safety measure that was taken to prevent a bite. It is not uncommon for a vet or groomer to use a muzzle to keep the situation safe. Used for a short amount of time, a tube-style muzzle is appropriate. If you need to have your dog wear the muzzle for an extended period of time a basket-type muzzle is preferred as it allows the dog to open its mouth and pant.
The therapeutic touch
Mom was Kiki’s favorite person so she was the one to be present and reassure her during this whole process. I instructed her to stroke Kiki with her hand gently and slowly behind the ears, under the chin, over the nose, between the eyes and over the head. It is important that the person is breathing in a deep, relaxed manner as our pets will take cues and reciprocate our own feelings and reactions.
Kiki started to drift off and soon was snoring. Already melted onto one hip the technician who had stayed in the room was now just a part of the scenery and able to administer the shot needed. I left the room before the shot and soon heard JOY ring out - Kiki had done an excellent job and soon after was walking through the lobby back to the car to head home. Mom was ecstatic. She now had a formula to bring her dog to and through a historically very traumatic place.