By Christie Keith
March 11, 2014
I’d always heard Greyhounds were more sensitive and prone to anxiety than my hardier Scottish Deerhounds, but until I adopted my two girls, Val and Stella, I didn’t realize just how bad it could be.
Both of them have separation anxiety, and Stella also has pretty severe thunderstorm phobia. And their terror at being taken to the veterinarian breaks my heart; they shake, drool, cry, try to escape, try to get under my clothes, try to crawl into my lap… it’s awful.
Not only that, but stress can distort results on many different tests, potentially leading to missed or inaccurate diagnoses.
Val, my senior Greyhound, has kidney disease, and requires quarterly vet visits to check her blood, urine, and blood pressure. Her anxiety is so bad that, even with Xanax on board, her in-office BP is routinely in the range of 170-180 systolic, well past the treatment cut-off of 160. (Normal is 150 or below, although Greyhound BP tends to run higher than that and still be considered normal.)
This time, however, her BP came back in the normal range, and she lay quietly on the waiting room floor while they took it. (She’s less stressed in the waiting area than the exam room, so her vet examines her there.)
I’d seen a presentation by Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, where they’d talked about ways to make vet visits fear-free for pets. One of their suggestions was to have the dog run through any tricks or obedience commands they know while waiting for the vet. Since I had absolutely nothing to lose and Val was starting to escalate in her anxiety, I gave it a try.
I had a fistful of crumbled dog treats, and I asked her to sit. I think the command took her by surprise, but she did it, and I gave her a crumb of treat. Then I asked her to shake — and she did. Another crumb. Then heel, come, sit, stay, down, shake, kiss, and more, while everyone in the waiting area laughed and told her she was a good girl.
I have never seen her so happy at the vet. Her vet has never seen her so relaxed. And her blood pressure has never before been normal — 150 on the nose.
So if your dog freaks out at the vet, try it. You have nothing to lose but inaccurate test results and your dog’s fear.
Photo: Val sleeping by the fire, drying off after a bath.