Veterinarians become veterinarians because we love pets. And we want to snuggle and squish them all day long. The rude awakening occurs when we start practicing, and realize that our patients want nothing to do with us! We poke them, prod them, stick weird things in their face and ears… why would they want to be near us?
Well, have I got the blog post for you! In this 2-part series, I am going to share my tried-and-true strategies for fear-free veterinary exams!
Here are the first 5 guaranteed* ways to get your patients to love you again.
1. Peanut butter and hot dogs (tuna or liver paste, if you’re a cat)
There’s nothing better, or more distracting, to a dog than peanut butter and hot dogs. Really, high-value treats of any kind will usually work. And when I say high-value, I mean HIGH-VALUE. It’s got to be something that they aren’t normally getting at home. Something that makes them sit up and say “WHOA, whatcha got there? Can I has it? Can I?”
Forget the cardboard biscuits that have been sitting in that jar on the counter for the past 6 months. Not. Gonna. Work.
2. Don’t look or smell like a Veterinarian.
Okay, I know you’re at work and you need clothes that clean easily and look professional. But, consider that your patients know that white coat a mile away. And the stethoscope. And maybe even your shoes, if they’ve met you before. Sometimes, trying a new “uniform” with existing patients will help them reset their behavior.
Scents are important too! We know dogs and cats are highly sensitive to odors, so forget the perfume, scented lotion, and Lysol spray (or whatever you spray yourself with after getting squirted with anal glands…). Try Feliway instead; and/or put some really stinky treats in your pockets. Bacon works.
Here’s your new M.O. when you enter an exam room:
- Say hello.
- Get down low (sit on the floor, if it’s safe from bouncy Labradors).
- Play with pet, offer high-value treats.
- Occasionally examine a body part.
- Offer more treats.
- Play again.
Playing with your patients can really take their minds off the weirdness of being in the vet clinic. You can even have your clients bring their pet’s favorite toys with them, or just have some fun toys stashed in the exam room. This goes for both dogs and cats!
If play doesn’t work, try #4…
4. Find the petting “sweet spot”
Ask the clients where their pet LOVES to be scratched or stroked. Don’t just absentmindedly pat them on the head and hope they like it. Every pet has a spot that makes them go “aaaahhhhhhhh, yeeeaahhhhhh…”. Find it, then use it.
5. Talk quietly
Not all pets like the high-pitched baby talk. In fact, if they’re not a Labrador, they probably don’t. And it certainly won’t calm them down. This is especially true for cats. Talk quietly and don’t make direct eye contact with kitty patients. With dogs, you can be happy, but keep that tone and volume at a normal level! Unless you want a super bouncy, excited, or nervous dog to examine…
Take these 5 tips with you to your next exam room, and try them out! I can personally vouch for each one of these tips; Now my patients LOVE me, even after I’ve poked them with needles. You, too, can have the love of your patients again!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series!
*results are not really guaranteed… but I know you and your patients will be much better off if you try these tips.
Are you a pet owner who would love to give your pet a fear-free veterinary experience? If you’re in the Broomfield area, Call Dr. D to set up an appointment!