From Scared to Happy: Inara’s Story

Following is a testimonial about the effectiveness of Happy Visits from Inara’s mom and dad:

When we adopted Inara, we were told that she was severely afraid of going to the vet. The humane society would have such a hard time keeping her still that often times Inara would be sedated for examinations. We were also told that she had “no touch zones.” Specifically, she did not like others touching her butt, feet, belly, or tail. Being first time dog owners, we were nervous about what this meant for taking our dog to the vet. I had called a different vet in town, and when I expressed concerns about my dog’s “vet aggression” I was told that “we won’t know until your dog gets here.” I wasn’t comfortable with that response and decided to call Oakview. When I called and explained my situation I was greeted with empathy and understanding. The kind person on the other end of the phone explained to me that we could bring Inara by the day before so that she could be introduced to all of the smells of a new place. This was our first happy visit. We walked her around the building, brought her inside, and were even allowed to bring her into an examination room, all the while getting treats and attention from everyone who met her. The next day for the official examination, we ended up having an accidental happy visit. We were supposed to meet with the vet, but his dog happened to get out that afternoon and so we had a makeshift happy visit instead. That’s when we met Emily and got to ask all of our first time dog owner questions, and Inara received attention, praise, and many treats. After this, in the first few months of owning Inara we were trying to manage her weight, so we would regularly bring her into the vet to get weighed. And of course, every time she went she would get lots of attention and a few treats. After a few months of doing this, we could see Inara getting excited when we would pull into the Oakview parking lot. She was associating it with good things, which made her first annual check-up go very well. We couldn’t believe at how well she handled the examination. She sat still for the vet, let others touch her feet, butt, and belly, and even allowed blood to be taken with almost no reaction. In a year, our dog went from not wanting to be touched in certain areas, nipping at the vet, and having to be sedated, to being excited about going to the vet, getting up on the table on her own, and sitting still (for the most part) during her examination. Happy visits were not only good for Inara, but also for us as well. We are able to ask all of our questions that we may have, follow up on concerns or behaviors we have noticed, all the while our dog is conditioned to having the vet be a happy, positive, and safe place to be. We will be eternally grateful for the care that Oakview has provided our four legged family member and the kindness and support they also provided us.

What to Expect at a Happy Visit at Oakview Vet

Last week I told you how “Happy Visits” can help your anxious pet. But, what can you expect to happen?

  • The first thing to remember is that a Happy visit is designed to be well, happy! These visits are short and can take time to see dramatic progress depending on the Fear, Anxiety, and Stress (FAS) signs your pet is showing at the clinic.
  • Ideally most of the time we recommend to bring your pet in 1-2 times per week (more is never wrong either!) Having multiple short positive visits can help to speed up the progress of your pet.
  • Please bring your pets HUNGRY. This is huge, especially if your pet is fed free choice. If that is the case, pick up the food at least 2 hours prior to the visit. One of our best tools is to offer tasty smelly, even stinky treats. Coming in hungry makes them more eager to take treats from us so, then can learn and form a bond with us. We offer a variety and can do special diet requests. In fact, we encourage you to bring in a very special treat that you know your pet loves.
  • Speaking of treats, we feed a lot of them during the visit. So it’s best to use treats that can be broken apart into very small pieces so we don’t make them sick! Feeding small treats very frequently also helps to encourage good behaviors.
  • Please give any pre-visit medication as directed by the veterinary team. Sometimes we need to start with anti-anxiety medications (either prescription or more mild, natural medications) until your pet has started to have very positive experiences and shows less signs of stress. Not every pet will need this before a visit.
  • We always end on a positive note! This is the way we set your pet up for success at the veterinary clinic! Each visit is tailored and documented specifically for your pet. Please do not get discouraged if all we get to do is feed treats on the table. For some patients this is a HUGE success!
    Happy - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
    After a series of Happy Visits, Regan gets on the exam table willingly!
  • Sometimes we do the best we can yet ultimately recommend sedation. In that case, we structure happy visits towards accepting an injection of sedatives. This can be discouraging as a pet owner, but remember our ultimate goal is to provide the best care physically and mentally to your furry friend. Sedation can help us to sometimes get a more through exam on your pet, especially if there are urgent concerns to address.

If we have recommended happy visits for your pet or if you feel your pet can benefit from them, please contact Oakview Vet! We want to see your pets excited to see us!

by Emily Karpinski, CVT

Emily - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

Emily earned her Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology at Madison Area Technical College and joined us as a CVT in 2004. She shares her home with her husband Jaime, daughters Violet and Abigail, a black lab called Clyde, Chloe the cat, and 3 horses named Nikki, Cody and Poppy.

She has a strong interest in animal behavior. Emily is certified in Fear Free handling and experienced in low stress techniques. She is a member of the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians.

What are Happy Visits at Oakview Vet?

What are Happy Visits?

At Oakview you may hear us suggest a happy visit for your pet — WHY?! It doesn’t mean your pet is bad or naughty! It is because we recognize FAS (Fear, Anxiety, and Stress) in them through their body language. Here at Oakview Vet, we want to provide the best behavior visit with the least amount of stress possible. Sometimes that means we need to take a step back and reset. That means happy visits!

A happy visit is a specific time set aside with one of our fear free certified staff members. We start slow by having your dog just get on the scale and take a few treats or getting your cat used to his kennel and car rides. We work our way up to entering the exam room, the exam itself, or procedure needed (blood draw or nail trim).

Each visit is tailored to your pet and how they respond to us. During the visit our staff members are continuously watching and assessing their body language and their reactions. We make specific notes in the medical chart to help other staff members understand what your pet like or doesn’t like.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and reset

We use specific desensitizing and counter conditioning techniques to help your pet learn and understand what we are asking of them (for example, tolerate restraint for an exam).

We want to see your pet taking treats and showing signals that they ENJOY being here.

Stay tuned for next weeks blog on what to expect and recommendations for Happy visits!

by Emily Karpinski, CVT

Emily - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

Emily earned her Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology at Madison Area Technical College and joined us as a CVT in 2004. She shares her home with her husband Jaime, daughters Violet and Abigail, a black lab called Clyde, Chloe the cat, and 3 horses named Nikki, Cody and Poppy.
She has a strong interest in animal behavior. Emily is certified in Fear Free handling and experienced in low stress techniques. She is a member of the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians.

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