Q: Our Dalmatian gets so nervous at her veterinarian's office that she literally has to be dragged into the waiting room. She will try to spend the entire time in the exam room under my chair. It's embarrassing and traumatizing. We tried trazadone the last time, and it barely did anything. She has a heartworm test coming up and we are dreading it. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
A: Most veterinarians are more aware, and understanding of, the stress a clinic visit can cause than many patients. Veterinarians also want a good experience with your pet and a thorough exam requires some cooperation on the part of the patient.
If you have some time before your next appointment, you should try short visits to the clinic with plenty of treats as rewards for just remaining calm in the parking lot. With subsequent trips, attempt to get in the waiting room for increasing periods of time. Couple good behavior with treats, and be careful not to give attention to, or reward, bad behavior. With time, dedication and copious rewards for good behavior, your pet may make it all the way to an exam room without too much hesitation.
Trazadone works well for some pets but sometimes needs a dose adjustment or to be started a day before it is needed. In some special cases, it may even need to be combined with other anti-anxiety medications for the desired effect. If unsuccessful still, there are several other medications such as alprazolam or dexdormitor that can be prescribed.
Sedatives such as acepromazine can also be administered, but they don’t necessarily calm nerves and can make pets sleepy.
For cats that resent a car ride and subsequent exam, many of the same rules hold true. Gabapentin is currently the favored anti-anxiety for feline patients but it may take some work to find the right dosage or combination of medications.
Questions? Send them to Dr. Sandeman, Home & Garden, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801. Or, email to papertrained@ mchsi.com. Dr. Sandeman cannot answer letters or email personally, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.