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Technician's Corner: Medication For Fear-Free Visits

Implementing Fear Free vet visits at My Vet Animal Hospital means we are learning new techniques on how to make your pet’s visit as stress-free as possible as we continue with our Fear-Free certification.

One of the approaches recommended is to give oral mild sedatives or anti-anxiety medications prior to your vet visit, to take the edge off for those pets who are anxious with visiting the hospital. Such as a human doctor might prescribe a valium before an MRI if you are prone to panic attacks, or other such procedures or situations, we are now finding that use of a mild oral sedative can help calm your pet and expedite stressful events such as blood draws, ultrasounds, nail trims and even exams.

Some of your pets may already be on these types of medication for those dreaded 4th of July fireworks, or if you’ve ever had a long travel or flight with your pet. These medications are safe to use for any stressful event in your pet’s life.

The oral medications that we prescribe are Trazodone with dogs and Gabapentin with cats.

Trazodone Use In Dogs

Trazodone is becoming more widely used in veterinary medicine for anxiety-related conditions with dogs as it has relatively low side effects (besides the desired effects), and gives a more mild sedation then other oral sedatives that may be prescribed. This is a medication that we use most commonly for singular events such as vet and grooming visits, thunderstorms, fireworks and new visitors in the home. If your dog is experiencing anxiety on a daily basis, there are other medications that can be used in conjunction with this medication to address those issues.

In hospital, we have found that dogs who have been given Trazodone prior to their vet visit are still alert and responsive, but more tolerant with the treatments being performed. In some cases, if anxiety is heightened and adrenaline kicks in, we may have to give your pet an injectable sedative. This will always be discussed with you by the veterinarian prior to any sedation, along with other options (such as increasing oral dosage and trying again at a later date, or assessing what treatments are necessary for that day). As in human medicine, each dog metabolizes medication differently, so effectiveness and results can vary and can not always be guaranteed.

Gabapentin Use In Cats

Like Trazodone, Gabapentin is becoming much more of a staple in veterinary medicine with continued research. Also like Trazodone, this medication is used in humans as well for different conditions. Gabapentin can be used in both dogs and cats, but we will focus on it’s use in cats.

Gabapentin has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and fear in cats. In the hospital we have definitely seen a difference! Cats that we were previously unable to handle in any capacity are relaxed and tolerant after getting Gabapentin prior to their vet visit. Stressful events such as blood draws, vaccines and nail trims are able to be performed quickly as the cat is feeling less stress. There are some cases, such as with Trazodone usage in dogs, where a cat may have so much adrenaline during the visit that they are still too stressed to perform treatments. In these cases, the veterinarian will discuss possibly using an injectable sedative, but only after all options have been reviewed between you and the veterinarian.

Giving It A Try

Sometimes it’s hard to know how anxious your pet is during their vet visit since a lot of the treatments we perform require us to bring them to our treatment area, but our Fear-Free trained staff and doctors will always alert you if we recommend the use of oral medications with your pet. We will only recommend using these if we recognize stress and fear in your pet. We know how scary going to the vet is for your pet (it’s scary enough for us humans to go to the doctor!), and since it is impossible to explain to them what we are doing or why we need to do it, we want to provide the least stressful experience for them so that they can lead their most happy and healthy lives!

Do not hesitate to inquire with our Client Care Coordinators when you schedule your appointments if you think you may want to try an oral medication before visiting.

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