Replacing FEAR with FUN: Meet Jill!


One thing that I am passionate about, and a big reason why Small Things exists, is to provide fear-free veterinary care for pets.  I specialize in helping dogs and cats feel comfortable with their medical care, reducing their level of stress, and increasing the fun.

I’d like you to meet Jill – a lively Jack Russel Terrier with strong opinions and a passion for playing ball.


FearFreeJill2015 (3)

Rewarding Jill with ball play.


The first time I met Jill and her brother Jack (another Jack Russel Terrier), Jack jumped all over me right away.  Jill came to say hello, tentatively.  I examined Jack without a problem, but Jill figured out what was going on and would not approach me.  She refused any attempt on my part to engage her, touch her, or play with her.

Jill was a classic case of “fearful dog”.


When I meet a dog like Jill, the best thing I can do for them is to provide some counter-conditioning.

Counter-conditioning is a process that aims to change a pet’s negative feelings about a particular stimulus or situation in order to avoid or reverse phobias.

Counter-conditioning replaces the fear response entirely.  It is not just about changing the way that the dog behaves.  It is about changing the way that the dog feels.

Successful counter conditioning will enable the dog to be happy and relaxed in the presence of the previously fearful stimulus.

(From Totally Dog Training)

Jill was scheduled for six sessions with me.  My ultimate goal was that at the end of the six sessions we would achieve the following:

  1. Jill would trust me and have confidence that I am not a threat.
  2. Jill would associate medical procedures, and me, with a positive experience.
  3. Jill would allow a complete physical examination, including vaccinations.
  4. At the end of any medical procedures, Jill would recover quickly from any anxiety, exhibiting playful and happy behaviors.
Look at that happy face!

Look at that happy face!

There are many ways to help a dog develop a positive association with potentially stressful experiences, and each individual dog has his or her own “favorite” reward.  Some (most) dogs respond well to food rewards, but Jill’s favorite was her ball.  Jill was very motivated to do anything for that ball, and she was extremely intelligent, learning quickly how to get me to throw it.



It took the entire first session with Jill just to get her to let me touch her gently on the shoulder. By the end of our sixth session together, Jill was laying next to me, allowing full body rubs, and I was able to perform a complete physical exam!  A week later, Jill allowed me to give her all her vaccinations and draw blood.  Although those were more stressful procedures, Jill recovered quickly afterward and continued to bring me her ball so I would play.


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Jill wouldn’t come near me at the beginning. By the end of her sessions, she was my best friend!


Jill is an excellent example of what we can achieve when we prioritize emotional wellness in veterinary care.  With a little effort, a little time, and lots of positive reward, any dog can have a fear-free veterinary experience!


Is your dog or cat fearful and stressed at the veterinary clinic?  Contact me at Small Things Veterinary House Calls and give your pet a fear-free experience!




Make the Small Things Website an “App” on your Smartphone!

Did you know that you can add the Small Things website as an “app” on your smartphone?? 


iPhone Screen Shot


Creating an icon for a website that you need easy and quick access to is super smart.  Here’s how to do it:

If you have an iPhone

  1. Open your Safari browser app, and find the Small Things website.
  2. At the bottom of your iPhone screen, there is a toolbar with a few icons.  Right in the middle is an icon that looks like a box with an arrow coming out the top.  Click on it.
  3. A menu will pop up with an option to “Add to Home Screen”.  It looks like a box with a plus sign in the center.  Click on it.
  4. You will be given an option to rename the icon if you wish.  You can name it whatever you want… Dr. D, House Call Vet, Treat Lady…  whatever floats your boat.
  5.  Click “Add” at the top right.
  6. Ta-Da!!  Now you have a new icon on your home screen!


If you have an Android

  1. Open your browser app, and find the Small Things website.
  2. Tap on the menu in the upper corner that looks like 3 little dots or dashes.
  3. Select “Add to Home Screen”
  4. Ta-Da!!  Now you have a new icon on your home screen!


You’re welcome!

Q&A: How can I help my senior pet adapt to old age?

It’s inevitable.  Your pet will get old.  These days our pets are living even longer because we have learned how to take better care of them throughout their lives.


The downside of our pets living longer, however, is that most pet owners just aren’t aware of how to best care for their senior pets.  The good news is that with just a little bit of effort you can easily help your pets adapt to old age, and continue to provide them with a good quality of life.

Here are ten easy tips that you can easily implement to help your pet adapt to old age:

1.  Give them a runway.

Elderly pets often have mobility problems, and may not be very steady on their feet anymore.  Giving them a walkway with good traction over tile or wood floors will help increase their confidence while moving around the home.  Choose a material that is non-slip and easy to clean, such as a runner rug, bath mat, or yoga mats.

2. Move their food and water bowls to a better position.

For cats, put their dishes on the floor in a quiet area, rather than on a raised surface.  For dogs, consider elevating the dishes so they don’t have to reach so low to eat or drink.

Also, put multiple water dishes around the home so your pet doesn’t have to walk as far to get a drink of water.  Dehydration can be a major concern for senior pets.

3.  Make potty time easier for your pet to minimize accidents.

Senior cats may need a litter box that’s easier to get in and out of.  Get one with lower sides so they don’t have to jump to get in, and keep the level of litter lower as well so they don’t “sink” as much.

Senior dogs may have difficulty holding their urine for long periods of time and may need more frequent trips outside.  You could also consider an indoor “potty” area, using puppy pads or artificial turf in case of emergencies.  Don’t scold your dog if they have an accident indoors at this age; they will be just as upset about it as you are.

4.  Resist the urge to redecorate.

If your elderly pet has vision impairments, either partial or complete blindness, this one is important.  Your pet has likely memorized where everything is, so try to keep furniture, pet beds, and food/water dishes in the same places they’ve always been.

5.  Change their food.

Yes, I said change their food!  Senior pets have different nutritional needs than adult pets.  Seniors don’t need as many calories or as much fat as younger pets, but do need more fiber.  Most older pets will benefit if you switch them over to a “Senior” diet formula.  Senior pets who have diagnosed medical issues may benefit from specialized diets, which your veterinarian will recommend.

6.  Give them more spa days.

Elderly pets aren’t as good at grooming and keeping clean as they might have been when they were younger.  Brushing your pet’s fur will not only give you some important quality time with your pet (which they will love!), but will keep their coat and skin healthy.  Also pay attention to trimming the hair around the anal area to help with hygiene.  Some elderly pets will benefit from fatty acid supplements which help support healthy skin and fur.

7.  Stimulate their brain with fun activities.

Just because your pet is a senior doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy some fun!  It may look different now than it did when they were younger, but enrichment activities are very important to keep your senior pet young at heart.  Here are a few ideas for easy ways to stimulate your pet’s mind:

  1. Short, low-impact walks or swims during nice weather.
  2. Food puzzles, which are readily available at pet supply stores or can be made at home.
  3. Indoor games, such as hide-and-seek, rolling a ball, or find the treat (make it easy and encourage them when they get close to the treat)
  4. Hang a bird feeder outside your cat’s favorite window.
  5. Play a tamer version of catch the laser or string with your cat.

8.  Make their comfort a priority.

Most people immediately think of getting a comfy bed or blanket for their senior pet, which is great!  Also keep in mind that your senior pet can’t regulate their temperature as well anymore, so keep your pet warm, dry, and indoors when they’re not out getting exercise.  In the hot months, be sure to keep them from overheating.

9.  Don’t avoid your veterinarian.

Yes, I know, senior pets generally have more medical issues, and it is hard for some people to allot finances for an elderly pet.  But continuing to see your vet regularly (I recommend every 6 months at a minimum) will help you provide the best quality of life for your pet. Your vet will not only be checking up on their physical and mental health, but will also be able to provide you with  valuable advice and support as your pet grows older.

Please don’t automatically assume that a visit with the vet will mean spending thousands of dollars; discuss your financial concerns with your vet, and be honest about what you are willing and able to do for your pet.  I guarantee you that your veterinarian has your elderly pet’s quality of life and best interest at heart, more than anything else.

10.  All they really want is love.

Having an elderly pet can be tough.  Caring for their needs and seeing them get older before your eyes is a challenging part of your life together.  But remember this:  your aging pet only desires your continued love.  And they may not be able to come to you to get it.  So take some time every day to love on that senior pet.  It will mean the world to them.



Do you have other concerns about your elderly pet?  Dr. D specializes in in-home veterinary care, including geriatric pets.  Contact her by going HERE.

Broomfield Vet Shares The Truth About Cat Healthcare

“Dear Dr. D,

My cat is a healthy, young adult who never goes outside.  I feed her a top quality food, and she is very happy.  But, she HATES the vet.  Are vaccines really necessary?




I am going to tell you the truth, and I may be tarred and feathered by my colleagues for it, but here goes.

Your indoor adult cat does not need vaccines every year.  Once your kitten completes their initial series of vaccines, they don’t need them again for at least 3 years.  Your elderly (over 10 years old) indoor cat could probably go even longer without vaccines, as long as there aren’t any new cats coming into the home.  [Important disclaimer:  Rabies vaccine is required by law, of course, and should be performed every 3 years for cats.]

But, since you asked the question…  I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a story.

Have you noticed the orange tabby cat in my profile picture over there to the right?  Here he is again:

This adorable kitty is a perfect example of a young, healthy adult who never goes outside.

This adorable kitty is a perfect example of a young, healthy adult who never goes outside.


For anonymity, let’s name him Buster.  🙂

Buster was about 4 years old when I saw him for the first time.  He was pretty healthy (just a tiny bit overweight), never went outside, ate a high quality food, and was up to date on all his vaccinations.  He was a perfect cat at home, happily lazing his days away as any cat should.

As his veterinarian, I performed a physical examination and recommended running a basic annual blood work panel (standard care in any veterinary practice, not to mention human medical practice).  And I’m so glad I did…

Buster’s blood work revealed a problem, lurking quietly under the happy, healthy facade.  He showed absolutely no clinical signs of the disease that was slowly developing within his body.

Buster was a diabetic. 

More specifically, he was pre-diabetic.  His body was starting to have problems regulating glucose, and without immediate intervention he was going to start showing clinical signs of full-blown diabetes.

I was so grateful that Buster’s owners were committed to allowing me to examine him and run blood work every year.  Had Buster been to see me once every 3 years, his diabetes would have progressed and he only would have been in to the clinic once he was very sick.

Instead, I was able to adjust Buster’s diet, put him on a weight loss plan, and monitor his disease.

Buster never progressed to full diabetes because of our early intervention. 

Buster is a wonderful success story, and only one example of what I want to tell every cat owner in the world:

The most important thing you can do for the health of your cat is have them examined by a veterinarian every year.


You’re probably thinking “Yeah, but Buster had a perfectly normal physical exam.  The blood work is what revealed his disease.”  And you are correct.  Here’s the truth: Any veterinarian worth their degree is going to recommend blood work for every pet they see as part of their annual physical.  It is imperative.  So just assume that “annual physical exam” = “blood work”.

I can tell you so many other stories about cats with underlying disease that owners never suspected…  kidney disease, irritable bowel syndrome, stress-induced cystitis, and arthritis…  all of which can be detected and addressed by your veterinarian during an annual exam.

Here’s the bottom line:  Your cat ages multiple “human years” for each of their cat years.  A 4-year-old cat is similar to a 30-year-old human, and a 7-year-old cat is similar to a 50-year-old human.  Do you think it would be okay to skip your physicals for 20 years?  Probably not.



Do you hate taking your cat to the vet?  Call Dr. D and avoid that trip altogether!  House calls are a great way to get your kitty the care they deserve without the stress of the car ride and veterinary clinic.


Why This Veterinarian Joined A Revolution

I’d like to tell you a little story about a young, idealistic animal lover who wanted, more than anything, to become a veterinarian someday so she could take care of sick animals.



She worked very hard for years as a veterinary technician, gaining experience in restraining pets, noticing signs of illness, running lab work, and talking with clients.  She got really good at her job, and even more passionate about animal care.

This experienced young technician tried for years to be accepted into vet school, only to be repeatedly rejected.  Until one day, a simple envelope arrived in the mail stating that, YES, she could attend veterinary school.  And her heart soared with the joy of finally being able to pursue her life-long dream.

She worked very hard for years as a veterinary student, soaking up textbook volumes of information about diseases, diagnostics, treatments, and techniques.  The amount of detail was overwhelming and difficult.  But she became even better in her job training, and even more excited about animal care.


Then, miracle of miracles, she graduated from veterinary school.  She passed her licensing exams.  And she landed her first job.

She was officially a veterinarian.


She had finally achieved the life-long dream, and eagerly pursued her career with enthusiasm and new-found knowledge.

She worked very hard for years as a veterinarian, caring for so many sick pets.  Of course there were the new puppies and kittens to make her smile, but most of the time the work was hard – emotionally, physically, mentally.  The hours were so long.  There were so many days without time for lunch or a bathroom break.  There were too many patients to see and not enough time.  There were difficult diagnoses, and not enough time to spend discussing things with the owners of the sick pets.

And there were the pets themselves – often afraid, nervous, hiding behind their owners, hissing, scratching, lunging and pulling, muzzled so they couldn’t hurt someone.

The very pets this young, idealistic veterinarian loved so much now barely tolerated her, and in some cases even hated her.


It was heartbreaking – to want so badly to ease suffering, but finding oneself limited by time, or energy, or the bottom line.  There was always the looming shadow of the next patient she had to see, the blood sample she had to get regardless of the animal’s compliance, the impatience of the clients needing to get on with their day, the paycheck she needed to make in order to repay those ever-present student loans…

This was not what she had signed up for.

This was not the beautiful dream she had been sure to achieve, no matter the cost.

There had to be a better way.  Otherwise, she decided, she was in the wrong profession.

Then, along came the “fear-free” revolution.

(Thank you, Dr. Becker and Dr. Overall.)


And also, low-stress handling and restraint.

(Thank you, Dr. Yin)

No longer would she be forced to struggle against the very patients she loved.  Never again would she settle for being rushed and hurried and stressed as a veterinarian.  From then on, her patients would be excited to see the “treat lady” (!).  They would willingly participate in their own medical care.  And there would be ample time to discuss the owners’ concerns and questions, without those looming shadows of past years.

Dogs who, previously, would cower and hide from her, now lay contentedly by her side.

Cats who she would have had to drag hissing from a carrier in the past, now purr happily in her lap.

Until now, she never knew that she was missing a very critical component of being a great veterinarian.  She has finally achieved the TRUE life-long dream – of caring not only for the physical health of pets, but also the emotional health.

The pursuit of “fear-free” is critical to our pets’ health.  This veterinarian has joined the revolution.  Have you?



What do you think about the “fear-free” revolution?  Are you afraid to take your pet to the vet?  We love to hear your comments!


Fear-free in Broomfield: Supporting The Revolution

Dr. D is supporting the fear-free revolution in Broomfield, CO

Dr. D is supporting the fear-free revolution in Broomfield, CO

Fear does not have to be the cost of treatment.


This is the latest cover of dvm360 magazine, a publication that I, and other veterinarians all over the country, get in our mailboxes every month.

As soon as I saw the title article, my veterinary heart leaped for joy! I have been following and promoting low stress methods in my practice for years (although admittedly, not always perfectly), and “fear-free” has become my main goal since launching Small Things Veterinary House Calls in Broomfield, CO.  The revolution is spreading!

Treating pets in the comfort of their own home already sets me up for a successful low-stress appointment. But add to that a constant barrage of peanut butter or dried salmon, breaks for play time, and restraining techniques that are more like a massage or a hug, and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful veterinary experience for your dog or cat.

There’s a lot more involved in providing a fear-free veterinary visit, of course (like recognizing the subtle signs of fear and anxiety), but my clients know one thing for sure once the visit has ended. And it sounds like this:

“That was so easy!”

“My dog/cat didn’t even know that you just gave them a vaccine; that’s amazing.”

“She loves seeing you when you come over!”

What I hear as their veterinarian is that I’ve been successful in my efforts to provide pets with a better, less anxiety-ridden experience with their medical care. I have not forced them to pay the cost of their treatment in fear. That is a price that’s too high to pay.

Fear-free is the next revolution in veterinary medicine. If you’d like to be a part of it, then give Dr. D a call. Make an appointment and allow your pets to experience the difference.

The Top 10 Reasons Why House Calls Are Awesome

10.  You don’t have to go anywhere.

There was a time, so long ago, when the doctor would come to your house, treat your illness, then have a cup of coffee with your family.  Up until recently, the only doctors who made house calls anymore were farm vets.  Now you have me, Dr. D – I will come to your house, take care of your pets, and leave you happier and less stressed out.  You don’t even have to give me a cup of coffee.

9.  You don’t have to get in the car.

Can’t drive?  Physical limitation?  Giant stubborn dog who won’t get in the car?  Little dog who vomits every time you drive them somewhere?  Multiple children (or just one) to cart around with you?  It’s tough sometimes.  As Bob Marley says, don’t worry about a thing.  Dr. D will come to you.

8.  It’s oh-so-convenient!

If you haven’t gotten that already with numbers 10 and 9, how about this – you pick the time and the day.  It can be while the kids are at school and before “Ellen” comes on.  It can be during nap time.  It can be when your spouse is home and you need to go out for a drink.  Whenever.  See?  Convenient!  Oh, and did you know that all of the medications I prescribe can be shipped right to your door?

7.  Less stress for you.

Ever been sitting in a waiting room while your dog is yanking on the leash and your child is knocking over a display?  Then you get stuck in a tiny exam room with your pet and your child, waiting what seems like eternity to be seen by someone?  Then your dog decides to do ‘his business’ on the floor because it smells like another dog, or your cat climbs into the cabinet and starts hissing like a fire-breathing dragon?  Yeah, me neither.

6.  No cat carriers.

This should be self-explanatory.

5.  You get your vet’s full attention.

In the clinic, my day was full of interruptions.  Emergencies, phone calls from specialists, technicians giving updates on hospitalized patients, the office manager needing to ask an urgent question…  These interruptions very commonly took me away from whatever dear client and pet I was treating at that moment.  I don’t know any veterinarian who wouldn’t love to give their full and undivided attention to each and every client and their pet.  But it is the nature of a busy clinic, and we vets are excellent at multitasking.  One reason why I love house calls is because I can finally give you my full attention.

4.  You and your pet get quality time with the vet.

If you wish, you can get to know me!  As the “other family doctor”, I think having a good relationship with your veterinarian grows from getting to spend time with them.  And I know for sure that your pet remembers me from one visit to the next…with less stressful house calls, I hope that they are actually happy to see me that next time!

3.  All your questions and concerns are answered.

I know how hard it is to feel like you have enough time to ask all your questions.  Any veterinarian will tell you that we would love to have all the time in the world to spend answering your questions, and properly educating you about nutrition, behavior, our recommendations, and why Buster eats poo.  Just one more reason why house calls are awesome.  I can answer questions to your (and my) heart’s content.

2.  Less stress for your pet.

My ultimate goal is fear-free veterinary visits for your furry angels.  Providing their veterinary care in the comfort of their own domain helps make this a reality.  

And… the Number 1 reason why house calls are AWESOME:

1.  Dr. D gets to spend time with you and your pets.

I know, the number one reason why house calls are awesome is really about MY enjoyment of the visit…but really, it is a benefit to you as well.  I LOVE what I do, and I LOVE getting to know you and your pets.  I LOVE getting to spend whatever amount of time I can with you, and I LOVE seeing you and your pet happy and stress-free at the end of our visit.  It’s a win-win.