Sniffing Your Way to Better Hospital Experiences – Materials

10 - Fearing Fear Itself

Fearing Fear Itself

One of the more common emotions we think about for pets is fear. Patients that are frightened from the moment they enter the veterinary hospital are not only unlikely to clearly display the same behavioral signs of illness that they have been displaying at home, but also any samples collected are likely to be altered by their stress response. The release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, results in the immediate availability of energy and oxygen intake and decreases blood flow to areas not critical for movement. This can also inhibit digestion, growth, immune function, reproduction and pain perception. When a pet is under stress, the memories of any events occurring during that time will be very powerful, and how a pet is handled during veterinary visits may have long-standing consequences for our future ability to handle him or her.

Dr. Valarie Tynes, a board certified veterinary behaviorist, describes it like this,

“When pets show subtle signs of fear or anxiety during a veterinary visit, if we proceed without attempting to ameliorate the stress, we may not change the pet’s behavior at that time, but the animal will learn from the experience and will likely behave in a more fractious manner at the next visit. Anything we do to relieve the stress of the visit will pay off in future visits being less difficult for your pet.” (Tynes, 2014)

(Tynes, 2015) Tynes, Valarie. Board-certified veterinary behaviorist. Personal correspondence. December 2, 2015. Client Handout: Understand your pet’s fear posted 9/8/15 VeterinaryTeam.dvm360.com.