The Belle of the Senior K9 Ball

Belle, whose full name is La Belle Petite Fe, is a 15 year old dachshund. Like most dachshunds, she is full of spunk!

Her owner has always been aware of the particular problems that can affect this breed. So, when Belle was still a young dog and needed x-rays for a different reason, they paid close attention to her back and found a narrowed disc space. At the time, Belle had no symptoms, so her owner monitored her carefully.

Back Disease

As a 9 year old senior, Belle began to show signs of back problems. Her back end would wobble as she walked, she would refuse to use stairs, and even cry at times. Being vigilant, her owner started treating these painful flare-ups. What works best for her is three prescriptions and an alternative treatment: Rimadyl (anti-inflammatory), Gabapentin (for nerve pain), and methocarbamol (muscle relaxer). She also uses cold laser therapy as a non-invasive aid in reducing imflammation and helping pain control. Over time, her flare-ups started getting closer together, so she now takes Rimadyl daily. All of these things help Belle’s pain and mobility, so she can continue to be involved in family life just like a middle aged pup!

Keep in mind that the most important thing Belle’s mom has done for her is keep her weight under control!! Back problems in long backed dogs will be far worse (as will most other problems) in an overweight dog. We cannot stress enough the importance of a healthy weight!

An important part of handling a long backed dog (or any dog) is to carry them appropriately. So many people pick up a little dog under their armpits like they would a human baby. But our furry babies back’s are oriented differently. It is important to support their whole back without letting it bend.

Many dogs struggle with mobility issues as they age. Medium to large sized dogs benefit from things like ramps. Here is another long backed dog being taught to use a ramp to get into the car. Thanks to “Finn” for his help in demonstrating!

Aside from her back,  Belle has developed other senior issues. Let’s explore by category and find out what her owner is doing to help her.

Dr Hankison - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI
Belle has had two dental procedures


Dental Disease

This is another issue known to be worse in dachshunds. Belle has severe periodontal disease for which she has had several dental procedures. Unfortunately, she lives with a chronic ulcerated canine tooth for which no remedies have been successful. Mom keeps an eye on it and softens her food for her.




Cognitive Issues

“Dementia” can affect dogs, too. Symptoms include breaks in house training, excessive barking, irritability and disorientation/confusion. When Belle was 12, she began to have more accidents in the house. Recently, she has been started on a new product called Senilife. With ingredients like antioxidants, it is a more natural medication. Amazingly, Belle’s accidents were reduced by 50-75% within a week of starting Senilife! Her owner has also noticed she is more playful!

Vision/Hearing Decline

Along with some cognitive decline, Belle can no longer see or hear as well. Her family adjusted by keeping everything in the house in the same place. This is very important for vision impaired pets so they can continue to find their way around. Belle’s family has a fenced in yard, or she would have to be on a leash at all times. She cannot always hear when called, so is much more likely to wander off. The other dogs in the home help too, because she follows their leads. At night, mom and dad carefully place Belle in their bed for the night. If that was not the case, a nightlight is a good option. For nap time, Belle has an orthopedic bed which can help with daily aches and pains. It is not uncommon for our geriatric fur friends to get callouses on elbows from needing an extra oomph to get up. Beds such as the orthopedic models can help minimize these.

As you can see, it is important to understand the problems a specific breed of dog may be more likely to encounter. Her owner knew to watch for back problems and dental problems, and due to her diligence, Belle has excellent quality of life as a geriatric pup.

“La Belle Petite Fe” is lucky to have a conscientious family, so she can trot right into her geriatric years feeling the best that she can!

Belle Senior Pet Blog - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI

Written by Angel Blenker, CVT and Karen Russell

Angel CVT - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI


Angel has been a certified veterinary technician since 2004. Oakview has been lucky enough to have her since 2006. Her passions include nutrition, alternative therapies, and client education.



Karen - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI


For the past 28 years, Karen has worked with animals in a variety of settings, most recently as a receptionist at Oakview. In her six years there, she has continued to be passionate about veterinary medicine, client education, and recently, digital marketing.

The Heart of a Tiny K9 Warrior




This is Teddy, a 17 year old Yorkipoo. In April 2017, he came to Oakview Vet to see Dr. Curtis, because his owners thought he seemed sore and bloated. He was still running and playing but didn’t seem to be breathing as well as normal.

Dr. Curtis did a complete exam, ran bloodwork and x-rays, and diagnosed Teddy with congestive heart failure. Because his heart was no longer able to handle the workload, his abdomen had filled with excess fluid. That is why he was bloated. After visiting a specialist at Fox Valley Referral Center, his owners started treatment.

Megacardia - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI
X-Ray of an Enlarged Heart
Dog x-rays - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI
X-Ray of a normal heart

An enlarged heart is one symptom of congestive heart failure. The round, white ball in the first picture is an example of an enlarged heart. The dark spaces around the heart are the lungs. Compared to the second x-ray, the heart is much larger and there is not as much lung space. The abdomen on the first image is bright white and full of fluid. On the other x-ray you can see gas in the stomach and intestines. There is too much fluid on the first example to see much else clearly.


Teddy started taking medications for his heart and we began to occasionally pull that excess fluid off of his abdomen to make him more comfortable. Over the past year, he has had his abdomen “tapped” seven times. He takes two diuretics (“water pills”) to help his heart with the fluid overload and Enalapril, a drug that helps with heart failure. As you can see below, during fluid drainage a soft catheter is placed in his abdomen while he is gently held. Gravity helps to the fluid to drain.

You can see his eyes are cloudy, that is called lenticular sclerosis and is a normal aging change in older dogs. He doesn’t see as well as he used to, but it doesn’t slow him down. He doesn’t have any teeth either, which is why his tongue hangs out. Wow, what a list of problems!

But, none of this changed Teddy’s sweet personality and good mood. In fact, the medications and treatments are enabling him to live longer!

Teddy’s initial diagnosis was scary and confusing for his owners. However, they did not hesitate to begin treatment. In a way, they consulted Teddy, too. He was still an active and happy dog, so the decision came easy.

We enjoy working with Teddy and applaud his owners for their excellent care of this special senior dog.

A word on heart disease in dogs:

One of the classic first signs of heart failure is coughing. This is because, like Teddy, the heart cannot handle the fluid load, so the space around the lungs or the abdomen can fill with fluid. So, when an older dog presents with a cough, this is one thing a vet will consider. Exercise intolerance is another sign.

Other things you can do for a dog with heart failure:

  • Check resting respiratory rate frequently
  • Reduce sodium in the diet
  • Continue moderate exercise as long as it doesn’t produce heavy breathing or coughing
  • Celebrate every day, like Teddy!

For more information about dogs and heart disease, go to Tuft’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Written by Angel Blenker, CVT and Karen Russell

Angel CVT - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI


Angel has been a certified veterinary technician since 2004. Oakview has been lucky enough to have her since 2006. Her passions include nutrition, alternative therapies, and client education.


Karen - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI

For the past 28 years, Karen has worked with animals in a variety of settings, most recently as a receptionist at Oakview. In her six years there, she has continued to be passionate about veterinary medicine, client education, and recently, digital marketing.




From Acorn to Tree: Care for a Senior Cat

Tree on bed
Tree in his favorite spot at the foot of my bed.

Tree is a 15 year old brown tabby. Overall, he has had a healthy life. He avoided medical issues until he was a 9 year old senior. Then, he was diagnosed with diabetes. He was sick for about a month before the diagnosis, which I only really recognized in retrospect. Cats are what I think of as “master predators,” and as such it is critical that they hide sickness and pain. It has nothing to do with how much they trust you; it is instinctual to hide anything that makes them vulnerable. So paying attention to subtle signs is very important with cats, especially as they age. I finally realized Tree had lost weight so brought him to the vet.

Diabetes is a lot of work to manage in any species. I wanted Tree to be with me for as long as possible, so treating him wasn’t a hard decision. Both cats and dogs can live for years with diabetes if properly cared for.

Tree also has arthritis. The majority of senior cats have some amount of arthritis. Again, cats don’t like us to see their pain, so you may not realize what is happening. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of pain medications available for cats. Please never give your cat human medication. For arthritis, there is one long term option, gabapentin, and one dog NSAID that can be used off label for cats. Otherwise, nutritional supplements like glucosamine are available.

Some of the things I have done at home to help my senior kitty:

  • I have an ottoman at the foot of my bed so he doesn’t have to jump so high.
  • I added litter boxes and gave more choices.
Oakview Pet Gazette Vet Blog - Plover WI
One of Four litter boxes for my one senior cat. One is larger and deeper, the other has a side cut down for easier access.
  • One symptom of diabetes is increased thirst, and Tree has always loved water in general, so I have three water bowls in my home. They are located where it is convenient for him, not for me.
  • He started sleeping in the bathroom in front of the heating vent, so I made him a bed and water bowl there. Again, this is not very convenient for the humans in the house, but we can adjust.
Tree bathroom bed
Tree’s bed and water bowl in front of the heat vent in the bathroom.
  • Routine Playtime: every day, we have dedicated time together. It can be easy to forget about an old, sleeping cat, but they need stimulation and exercise too. We used to play hard with a wand toy, but now I limit that when he starts breathing hard and getting tired. Our time now is more focused on brushing. He loves that, and because older cats don’t always groom as well, it helps his coat.
Tree and his carrier
Tree’s carrier is always out, so it is a safe space for him, which makes vet visits MUCH easier!
  • I also let him play apps on a tablet. They make games just for cats! He likes the ones with butterflies or fish. He does a lot of staring at the screen and then batting at it. Sometimes he tries to get under the tablet, surely the fish are hiding there! It helps keep him mentally stimulated. Like all good parents, though, I limit device time!

There are other things that could be done for Tree, but everything is on an individual basis, and Tree, like most cats, is very much an individual! Diet changes are especially hard for him. He does eat a geriatric formula now, because it is so important for a pet to eat the proper food for their life stage.

We all know how much cats like to sleep, and senior cats sleep even more! So, it is up to us to seek them out, check in, and watch for subtle signs of illness. As our pets age, they need us more than ever!


Karen - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI

Written by Karen Russell

For the past 28 years, Karen has worked with animals in a variety of settings, most recently as a receptionist at Oakview. In her six years here, she has continued to be passionate about medicine, client education, and recently, digital marketing.

The Bandit Who Stole my Heart: My Dog’s Journey Through Old Age

Bandit is a 12 yr old female spayed blue heeler or otherwise known as an Australian Cattle Dog. She came into my life unexpectedly and honestly at the worst time possible. At the time I was working at an emergency clinic on the weekends taking care of my terminally ill mother and she was brought in at 8 months of age because she was kicked by a horse and needed an amputation.  Her owners at the time did not think her life was worth living as a three legged dog.  I asked the owners if they would surrender her to me. My plan was to do her multiple surgeries and then adopt her out. They agreed.

I ended up falling into the category of people who foster or take in strays and end up keeping them for themselves.

Because of her being an amputee I knew I had to proactively get her on joint supplements and a high quality diet. I immediately put her on Omega 3 Fatty Acids and an oral glucosamine/chondroitin. We exercised everyday which wasn’t hard since she had just as much energy and spunk as a 4 legged herding breed.

Things were going well until about 7 years of age I noticed there would be days that she couldn’t go on our 3 mile walks anymore. She would just lay down in the middle of the Tomorrow River Trail and take a break. At that point I brought her in for an exam and upon finding no other medical condition started her on an NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory) called Rimadyl on an as needed basis. I did also decrease the amount of days we would go on a longer walk for only 3-4 days a week and did shorter gentler play on the off days.

2 years later I again found myself owning a dog who wanted to go for our longer walks but just couldn’t. I again brought her in and this time found she was developing a very small amount of arthritis in her only existing front leg. I increased her NSAID to daily use and switched from an oral glucosamine/chondroitin to an injectable form called Adequan. At 9 years of age she was still full of “piss and vinegar”. We went to daily 1 1/2 mile walks and completely eliminated any rough play.

Everything was going great until December 2015. She suddenly could hardly go on our 1 1/2 mile walks. I was lucky if she made it down the road and back. I did probably what most people did and placed her on an activity restriction thinking she strained her body being too active. Dr Hankison also added in gabapentin, which is a pain medication that works on nerve and soft tissue pain.  After months of activity restriction there was still no improvement. I brought her in to Fox Valley Animal Referral Center under guidance from Dr Kris Hankison here at Oakview Veterinary Medical Center.

In May 2016 Dr Bruce at Fox Valley Animal Referral Center saw her and recommended whats called arthroscopy; making a small incision by the affected joint and using a fibre optic scope to look at the joint from inside. He found the centromedial band of the MCL was avulsed from the humerous and rolled up proximally, which in everybody else’s language means a torn rotator cuff. This was not good news for Bandit.

Bandit - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI
Bandit after her shoulder surgery

Bandit had to wear a special vest that eliminated any chance that her leg was going to abduct, or splay out from her body. She kept this beauty on until September of 2016. It was a long hot summer for her.

Bandit - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI
Bandit’s Therapy Vest

After 5 agonizing months for her she finally got the go ahead from Dr Bruce to take it off and leave it off. By feel he could tell there was much more stability in her shoulder than before. We still had to do activity restriction because she had been in a vest for so long but she didn’t care as long as it was off.Bandit - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI

For a year things were going great. We were going on short 15 minute walks 1-2 times daily and we had a routine with all her pharmaceuticals and supplements. At this time she was on gabapentin, Rimadyl, probiotic for healthy immune function, Omega 3 fatty acids, and Adequan along with a high quality diet. Then in September 2017 she relapsed in her recovery. She would just stand at the end of our driveway for our walks. She didn’t even try to go. I brought her in for a recheck with Dr Bruce at Fox Valley Animal Referral Center.

We did another arthroscopic procedure and this time around found she had moderate
osteoarthritis (OA) with some cartilage loss in the medial compartment of her only existing elbow. There was a loose osteochondral fragment off the coronoid (also called a bone spur) that was causing tremendous pain when she walked.  This loose fragment was retrieved. Her shoulder where she had had a torn rotator cuff was completely healed. She again was placed on activity restriction for a 4 weeks.Bandit - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI

After 2 months her recovery was going a lot slower because of her being an amputee. There was no way that she couldn’t use her leg. A four legged dog would just go 3 legged until it didn’t hurt anymore. Since there is no way to magically get rid of osteoarthritis I needed to find alternative ways to make her comfortable.

At the end of September, as I was researching what was going to be best for her, she developed some GI issues and spondylosis on her lumbar sacral spine. Spondylosis is a bony bridge between vertebrae. This can be quite painful for animals. The GI issues ended up being a deficiency in some of her B vitamins which I am now supplementing and I had to put her on a low fat canned diet.

After my research I switched her from Rimadyl to Galliprant which is a medication that blocks the primary mediator of canine osteoarthritis pain and inflammation. Since she now had no soft tissue pain I wanted something specifically for OA. She also started acupuncture and Chinese herbs under direct supervision of a certified veterinarian in Appleton. She goes on an as needed basis but its been around every 4-6 weeks. She gets daily gentle massages and cold laser therapy as needed. I most recently started her on Antinol, which is a source of green lipped mussel. She stopped eating her Omega 3 fatty acids when she developed her GI issues and I have not re-introduced them yet. She has a special harness that she has to wear that has a handle for me to help her in and out of the car since she tries to jump out and then collapses. She has a bench that she uses to get on and off the bed. We got on short walks multiple times a day. Some days are good and some she can’t do as much.

She still has a spunky personality and wants to go. If you didn’t know she was 12 1/2 years old you wouldn’t think it by the way she acts and looks. We spend more days hanging out and exploring our woods than long hikes and runs like before but we don’t care as long as we do it together. In the last few months she has developed some cognitive issues where she is more vocal and protective of me. So I am sure there are some other therapies/modalities in our future.


Angel CVT - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI


Written by Angel Blenker, CVT

Angel has been a certified veterinary technician since 2004 and Oakview has been lucky enough to have her since 2006. Her passions include nutrition, alternative modalities, and client education.

Your Senior Pet Needs Your Help

“He can’t move around well anymore, but he’s just getting old.”

“He’s too old to jump into the car anymore.”

“My cat has lost a lot of weight because she is old.”

“He can’t hear or see as well any more because he’s so old now.”

The best news we can tell you is that

Age is Not a Disease!!

pets real age
Aging depends on the species and weight of your pet. Figure out if your pet is considered a senior.



Common problems in aging dogs:

Bandit - Oakview Vet Blog - Plover Stevens Point WI
Angel’s dog Bandit
  • Mobility Issues like arthritis
  • Cognitive Decline
  • Vision and/or hearing problems
  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Kidney disease
  • Increased risk for disease and cancer
  • Heart Disease


Common problems in aging cats:

Tree - Oakview Vet Blog - Plover Stevens Point WI
Karen’s cat Tree
  • Mobility Issues like arthritis
  • Cognitive Decline
  • Vision and/or hearing problems
  • Increased risk for disease and cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes


So, what can be done to help our senior pets? Fortunately, a lot!!

There are three categories of help for seniors that we will explore this month:

  1. Prescription medications, surgery, procedures, and other vet care
  2. Alternative therapies like acupuncture, cold laser, chiropractics, and nutritional supplements
  3. Things you can do at home

Our series of May blogs will highlight specific pets who are patients at Oakview Vet in Plover, WI. Through these stories, we hope to help people learn how to improve the lives of their senior pets.


Please join us this month as we celebrate senior care!

Get a headstart:

Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine-senior cats

American Veterinary Medical Association-Caring for an Older Pet

Included in these stories are our own senior pets, Bandit and Tree, who have inspired us for this month’s blog.

Written by Angel Blenker and Karen Russell

Angel CVT - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI


Angel has been a certified veterinary technician since 2004. Oakview has been lucky enough to have her since 2006. Her passions include nutrition, alternative therapies, and client education.


Karen - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI


For the past 28 years, Karen has worked with animals in a variety of settings, most recently as a receptionist at Oakview. In her six years there, she has continued to be passionate about veterinary medicine, client education, and recently, digital marketing.



Reducing Pet Anxiety at the Vet: Fear Free Techniques

Using Fear Free Techniques in the Clinic

Fear Free Lobby

Our Fear Free protocol starts with your phone call to our office. Please let us know if your pet experiences fear, stress or anxiety during veterinary visits and we will make suggestions for you to try before you even leave home! Once you arrive, our Fear Free protocol will begin.  We place a bandana on your dog or a blanket over your cat carrier. Each has been sprayed with a special pheromone for your pet.  Pheromones are produced by animals to either mark their territory as safe (for cats) or to help feel calm and secure (for dogs).  Many of our clients have noticed that their pets are less vocal and nervous in the exam rooms since we began utilizing these products.

In fact, most of you have likely experienced that stressful car ride to the vet with a howling cat. We have come to think of this as normal. It is NOT normal, and we will no longer accept it! Once in the lobby, place your cat on the elevated “cat carrier parking” areas in the lobby and we will cover his carrier with a Feliway sprayed blanket.

We also use the diffusers that are species specific in our exam rooms to help calm your pet.  We specifically use Feliway® and Adaptil® products. These diffusers are unscented and ONLY emit pheromones. They are non-toxic and safe for any species including birds. They will only affect they species that has the appropriate pheromone receptors.

Archer with bandana
Archer is calm with an Adaptil sprayed bandana. He sits willingly on a non slip exam table.


Fear Free Exam Room

Before and during the exam we utilize treats to help keep your pet calm and distracted.  Pets often focus on the food and allow us to complete the physical exam with less stress involved.  For dogs we try to utilize a variety of treats including:  jerky treats, spray cheese and peanut butter.  Of course we respect any food allergies as needed.  Our staff always attempts to use treats when performing procedures, such as nail trims and vaccines, so there is minimal stress and fear involved. You can help by bringing your dog in a little hungry, that way they are more likely to focus on the food. And if you have a sensitive dog or a fussy eater feel free to bring their favorite treat from home! You can also bring a special toy or item that makes them feel comfortable (a stuffed toy, chew toy or a special bed or blanket, for example). If your dog is food motivated we may also use a stuffed “kong” treat while they are waiting to help them feel at home.

In the video below, Mia gets a stuffed kong at her first puppy visit. She is playing and happy by the time the vet comes in. We are starting her out on the right paw!

If you are bringing your cat in, you may want to bring their favorite blanket or bed as we can often do the examination while they are laying on that. Cats are often not quite as food motivated as dogs but we do have several specific cat treats to try and entice them. They also like the cheese! We have special “kitty huts” in the exam rooms so that they can feel hidden and safe while they wait. Be sure that the carrier you choose is easy to open (the entire top should come off easily) as many of our kitties have their entire procedure done while safely in the bottom of their carrier! Remember, we know how cats like to be transported and recommend specific style carriers.

Fear Free Cat Exam - Oakview Vet Plover WI
This cat is still in his safe space and can have his exam while he is comfortable.


Fear Free Cat Exam Set Up - Oakview Vet Plover WI
This cat is resting on a warmed blanket over a non-slip surface. There is a hidey box behind him if he feels overwhelmed. The iCalm is playing soothing music, Feliway is plugged in, and natural remedies for anxiety are on hand.


You will notice that we have slip-proof surfaces for dogs and “yoga mats” for cats so that they feel safe and secure if they are on the examination table. We have come a long way from making our pets sit on cold, slippery stainless steel tables!

Lastly, we utilize the iCalm pet sound systems for both dogs and cats. This classical music has been studied and is at an appropriate cadence to have a calming affect on dogs and cats. (They also have more stimulating sounds if you want to use them at home!)

Dog with stuffed kong in exam room
This dog is playing with a stuffed kong in the exam room. It is keeping him distracted and provides positive reinforcement.

Fear Free Exams

During the examination, we will ask that one of our staff members gently restrains your pet while you remain in front of them for reassurance. In most cases they can have treats during the examination. We try to be very aware of words/phrases and touch during the examination process. Did you know that “It’s okay” is one of the most stressful phrases you can say to a dog!? We only say it when things are definitely NOT ok and our dogs learn that “It’s okay” actually means “Look out”! We try to speak in calm, reassuring tones and we actually DON’T stroke the dogs much. Studies have shown that excessive stroking may calm the owners but it actually increases the stress levels of their dogs! Instead we use a calm, firm touch that lets them know where we are and where we are heading so that we don’t surprise them with an injection. This is called the “touch gradient.”

Fear Free Procedures

There are times when your pet may need an additional procedure – blood analysis, urine analysis, fluid therapy, x-rays or even surgery. We want our pet parents to rest assured that the steps we take up front and in the examination rooms are carried throughout the hospital. We never want a pet to feel “forced” into a procedure; we want them to be comfortable and relaxed. So while they may need to be restrained, they should be calm and not struggling. You will notice that our examination rooms all have windows in the doors so you can see the working area of the clinic. We don’t do anything to your pet we wouldn’t do to our pets! If your pet is hospitalized for any reason they will benefit from appropriate pheromones, warmed blankets, soft music and a “hide box” if appropriate.

In the video below, a cat is having blood drawn from her back leg. She is fed cheese throughout the procedure and is barely being restrained!


Occasionally we have patients that are so nervous and fearful that the pheromone products and treats do not adequately reduce this anxiety.  In that case we often prescribe medications that have sedative properties to give the pet before the appointment.  We never attempt to wrestle or fight with a patient if they are fearful or anxious about the exam or any procedures that we need to perform.  If this medication is not effective enough, or we cannot postpone the appointment, then we will use an injectable sedative in the clinic.

Nail Trims

Nail trims are one of our most requested services. This seemingly simple task is often impossible for owners to do at home and difficult in clinic. It causes a lot of stress in pets and their owners. Dogs especially hate to have their feet touched. Our team has worked hard to make nail trims low stress, and it’s going great! Food rewards and little to no restraint are our biggest aids. Gone are the days of holding a pet down for a nail trim. Watch Bella, who we have worked with routinely since she was a puppy.

Your pet’s stress is a top concern for us here at Oakview Vet. We look forward to making your vet visits happier!

Go to our YouTube page to see more low stress procedures.

Dr Lisa Karnitz - Oakview Vet Plover WI


Dr Lisa Karnitz is the newest vet on our team, and bravely led the charge to become Fear Free Certified! We love her for her patience, her helpfulness, and her smile!






A Fear Free Vet Visit for Cats Starts at Home

To truly change the dynamic of cat veterinary visits, we will need your help! There are things you can do to begin the process of decreasing your cat’s anxiety and avoiding those dreaded car rides with a howling, stressed out kitty.

The classic story of finding and then wrestling a cat to get him into the carrier is the exact opposite goal of Fear Free. One thing we know about cats is they need safe spaces. This is the opposite of dogs, who need safe people. So, get ready for a lot of discussion about carriers.

Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI
Teach your cat to love her carrier!

What kind of carriers do cats prefer?

For cats, so much is about the carrier! It may surprise you to know that scientists have done studies on how cats prefer to be transported. So, we know A LOT about what your cat needs to feel safe. The scariest way for a cat is to carry them in your arms. They do not like being loose in the great outdoors, there are lots of scary things out there!

So, what kind of transportation do cats prefer? First, most cats do not like soft sided carriers! They are flimsy and more likely to keep a cat off balance. A cat wants a hard sided carrier with a non-slip surface inside. We also know cats REALLY don’t like swinging! Regardless of what kind of carrier, it is important to carry it from the bottom, not the top.

How to carry a cat carrier
How to properly carry a cat in a carrier

Something your vet and your cat will appreciate is a hard sided carrier where the top opens easily, like the one pictured above. Oftentimes, we can do everything needed in the clinic with your cat comfortable in her carrier bottom.

Now for the hard part. Getting kitty in the carrier! We are challenging you to do this differently! Take your cat’s cozy, hard sided carrier, and put it out in your house. No more storage in basements, garages, and attics. This is supposed to be your fur babies safe place, let’s make it so! Make it cozy with catnip, treats, and toys, then….wait. And wait some more. Cats take their time with changes, so it could be as long as several months before they enjoy using their carrier to relax in at home. Once this is accomplished, you will be shocked at how your cat’s car ride and vet visit changes!

Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI
This cat’s carrier is his safe place, so he is quiet and calm while riding in it

Let’s review recommendations for carriers:

  • Use a hard sided carrier where the top comes off easily
  • Put a non-slip surface inside
  • Carry it from below, cats don’t like to swing!
  • Cover the carrier so your cat can only see out the front
  • Use Feliway before travel
  • Put the carrier in the common area of your home and make it tempting

Car travel with anxious cats

Now you have the appropriate carrier and your cat is calmly waiting in it. Remember to carry the carrier from the bottom to give as much stabilization as possible. Spray Feliway in the car about 10-15 minutes before leaving.

Basic safety dictates that your cat is safely restrained in a carrier and ideally placed on the floor behind the front seat. Cover the carrier so your cat is not overwhelmed by passing cars and scenery.  If you put the carrier on the car seat, face it forward and use a book to prop up the back end so it is level.

During the ride, we recommend calm, quiet music. Only classical music has been shown to reduce stress in cats.

Fear Free check in

Once you arrive at the clinic, feel free to “check in” with the front desk from your phone if you like! We offer a “concierge” service so that you and your pet can wait where you are comfortable until we have a room ready. Then we can escort you directly to a room without all of the chaos of the lobby! Just let the receptionist know that you have arrived and are in your vehicle – we will take it from there!

Our goal is to make every veterinary visit a Fear Free one!

Our next post we will discuss how we use Fear Free techniques here in the clinic. Get a headstart on our website.

Watch videos of low stress procedures on our YouTube page.

If you missed our initial post explaining Fear Free, go to What are Fear Free Vet Visits?

Dr Lisa Karnitz - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Dr Lisa Karnitz is the newest vet on our team, and bravely led the charge to become Fear Free Certified! We love her for her patience, her helpfulness, and her smile!

Final Thoughts from Dr. Karnitz:

Cats are especially challenging. I often think about how cats must feel when they leave their house once a year, enter a noisy, moving vehicle and a noisy, smelly clinic, and then get examined by strangers. When they return home their housemates think they smell funny and sometimes treat them differently.  That would create anxiety in the most laid back person if this was their experience, too.  By utilizing the above mentioned tools and occasionally taking your pet for a car ride that is an enjoyable experience, then you can teach your kitty that cars and vets aren’t something to fear.

A Fear Free Vet Visit for Dogs Starts at Home

The first step of a Fear Free visit begins when you call the clinic for an appointment. If your pet is fearful or anxious during veterinary visits, please let our receptionists know! We can give you tips to make the visit easier.

Once your appointment is scheduled, keep in mind that a low stress visit begins at home! From home to car to clinic we can help you to rethink habits to create a better experience.

Prepping Anxious Dogs for a Fear Free Vet Visit

Often, the only time a dog gets in the car is to come to the vet, so you can see why they may balk a bit! Try to condition your dog to like the car. You can have them get in and out of a parked car for treats and teach them where to sit. Remember that dogs do need to be secured in the vehicle. A hard sided carrier or seat belt (they make them for dogs!) is ideal. We all love to let our dogs hang out the window, but this is a very bad scenario if you get into an accident. Neither you nor your children ride unrestrained; your dog should not either.

Dog in seat belt - Oakview Vet Plover WI
All strapped in and ready for a safe ride!

As a side note, if your dog gets carsick (drools excessively or vomits), let us know, we have medication that can help.

Once your dog is comfortable getting in and out of the car, go for short rides around the block. Progress to rides that end at happy places, like the ice cream stand or a park. You can even bring them to the clinic for a “happy visit.” Just tell the receptionist why you are here–they will give cuddles and treats and let your pet walk in and out of an exam room for a yummy reward.

Fear Free - Oakview Vet Blog - Plover Stevens Point WI
Tess stopping by for a happy visit

Once you are ready for the trip to your dog’s appointment, remember to play calm, soothing music. Only classical music has been shown to reduce stress in dogs. If your dog is in a carrier, place it in a safe, level place, preferably on the floor behind the front seats. Covering the carrier may also help create a comforting environment. You can use Adaptil (a dog pheromone) to spray in the carrier and/or car 10-15 minutes before the trip. Remember to use a seat belt if your dog is not in a carrier.

Bring your dog hungry! Our yummy treats will be more likely to help. You can even bring a favorite treat from home. Bringing a favorite toy or stuffed kong may help to distract your pet as well.


Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI
A toy might help distract your dog at the vet

Once you arrive, feel free to leave your dog in the car if he is more comfortable there. Just let us know you are here and our “concierge service” takes over! We can escort you directly to an exam room to avoid the chaos of the lobby. It’s all about your individual pet and what makes them feel the most secure.

Once you arrive, we will spray a bandana with Adaptil for your dog to wear during his visit.

Fear Free techniques - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
With an Adaptil sprayed bandana, this dog is sitting calmly on the exam table

Our goal is to make every veterinary visit a Fear Free one!

Watch for our next post about preparing to take a cat to the vet. While you wait, you can read more about Fear Free on our website.

In case you missed it our last post: What are Fear Free Vet Visits?

Dr. Karnitz
Dr Lisa Karnitz is the newest vet on our team, and bravely led the charge to become Fear Free Certified! We love her for her patience, her helpfulness, and her smile!

What are Fear Free Vet Visits?

Veterinary Clinics make pets healthy. But they definitely are not known for making pets happy! In fact, it is just the opposite. A trip to the vet is often terrifying for a pet, and therefore stressful for an owner. Did you know that there are simple steps that you and your veterinarian can take to change this experience for your pet? Wouldn’t it be nice if your pet actually enjoyed their annual examination? And if your blood pressure didn’t rise just thinking about having to bring them to a clinic? It is our goal to work with pet owners to change the “scary veterinarian” dynamic!

To that end, ten members of our staff recently completed course work to become Fear Free Certified.  A big thanks to Emily, our Certified Veterinary Technician with a special interest in behavior, who led the staff on this journey.




What is Fear Free?  

The Fear Free initiative was started and developed by Dr. Marty Becker (“American’s Veterinarian”) to decrease fear, anxiety and stress related to veterinary visits and procedures.  Many pet owners know that it is important to have their pet regularly examined by a veterinarian, but their pet’s experience often dictates how often they are seen.  The goal of Fear Free is to consider the emotional response of your pet at the veterinary visit and make it as pleasant as possible. We want your pet to want to be here!


What We Learned

During the Fear Free training our team members learned how to recognize fear, stress and anxiety (FAS) in our patients.  We also learned about methods and resources to use to decrease this response in our patients and therefore make visits to our clinic much easier on pets and their owners.  Our goal is to keep your pet as calm and anxiety-free as we can.

You may notice changes at your next visit starting with the reception staff as you schedule your pet’s visit. Those changes will continue as you arrive and as your pet is seen and treated. Some of the changes have to do with HOW we touch the pets (did you know that excessive stroking can actually increase your pet’s anxiety!?), so please don’t be offended if we make suggestions during the examination.

Signs of Fear, Anxiety, and Stress in Cats and Dogs



Do you recognize your dog or cat in the images above? It is important to remember your pet is not being anti-social or naughty, they are simply expressing their feelings in the only way they know how. Here at Oakview Vet, we are working hard to decrease the stresses that lead to the signs of FAS. We have learned how to do this in our lobby and our exam rooms. We even learned how to teach you how to help at home!

Cat relaxed in exam room
A relaxed cat in a veterinary exam room! Several techniques are being used in this picture.

This month, we will explore what fear and anxiety look like in our pets and talk about how and why we use Fear Free techniques. We will discuss all the steps you can take at home to help both cats and dogs prepare for a low stress visit.  Then, we’ll delve right in to how we use Fear Free in the clinic. Get a head start by looking at our website.

Dr. Karnitz
Dr. Lisa Karnitz  led our team in getting Fear Free certified.

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