Creating A Calm Canine Visit

Having a calm, “Fear Free” visit begins long before you enter our building. Check this list of steps
to ensure your pet’s best experience at Zionsville Country Veterinary Clinic!


Preparations For the Trip

If your dog has had previous anxiety or fear issues when visiting our hospital, contact our office a few days prior to your scheduled visit and inquire if anxiety medication would help him or her be more calm and relaxed.  Don’t feed your dog before the visit. This makes the treats we offer more desirable and fun.  Be sure to pack your pet’s favorite treats, toy or bed.
IMPORTANT: Bring all previous veterinary records at your first visit. Because of our individualized care and Low Stress plans, there are often procedures which do not need to be done. Previous records help us save your pet unnecessary treatment and you unnecessary cost, so don’t leave them on the kitchen counter!


       The Ride

  • Minimizing anxiety starts long before you arrive at our door! Using a calm, matter-of-fact tone to your voice is best. Baby talk or reassurances (“this won’t be long and we’ll stop at Starbucks for a Pup Cup on the way home”) can create suspicion in our ever-so-smart pups! Simple commands like “Let’s Go!” are ideal. If you show no concern, your dog will be more calm. Think “Dog Park!
  • Be sure your dog has a secure collar or harness from which he or she cannot slip out.
  • Soothing music, usually classical music, can make the car ride more pleasant.
  • Use Adaptil, a calming pheromone, in the car to help reduce travel anxiety.
  • Thunder shirts can also help some pets be calmer while in transit and at the clinic.
  • Since signs of carsickness can mimic fear, so watch carefully for drooling, licking of lips, slow movements or drooping head. If you suspect carsickness, we can help! Medications based on your dog’s weight can be recommended.

    Entering The Hospital

  • Hypoallergenic treats and pheromone-infused bandanas in the vestibule of the dog entrance initiate the process of Creating Calm ™.
  • Incorporated in our Fear Free design is a smaller lobby with more space designated to private exam rooms. Checking out in the exam rooms and a separate exit makes it less likely for your dog to encounter another dog in the lobby.
  • If your dog balks about coming into our doors, don’t drag them. Try using treats, toys, and verbal rewards to encourage them. Smaller pets can be carried in.
  • If your dog will not enter the hospital, consider rescheduling the appointment and giving anxiety medication prior to the next scheduled visit. Scheduling “Happy Visits” can also make happy memories for her next visit. Happy visits are scheduled when your dog can come to the clinic and have only positive interactions and lots of treats!
  • Our outdoor exam room is an option for our more reluctant dogs, weather permitting, of course!
  • If the visit is of a more critical nature, we can also administer anxiety medication upon arrival and then wait for its full effect before proceeding.

    Managing Check-In, Weigh-In and Entering the Exam Room

  • Using treats at the scale allows for a yummy diversion and an accurate weight.
  • Once in the exam room, allow your dog to explore the room.
  • Avoid interaction with them when they are acting anxious. Attempts to calm them with words or petting actually “feeds” the anxiety and will end up increasing fear. It’s best to give attention when they relax or explore the room. It’s important to understand we’re not saying “don’t give attention”. Instead we’re directing you to give attention when it can relieve your pet’s anxiety rather than making it worse.
  • There is a poster in each exam room showing the subtle signs of fear you might be overlooking in your dog.
  • Reading a book, playing a game on your phone or checking your email while your dog explores the room tells your dog that this is an area in which they are safe enough to be relaxed.
  • Working some well-known tricks or commands (sit, down, shake, etc) also can allow your pet to be more confident. If he or she is not performing well (or at all!), go back to what you were doing and allow them to relax on their own a little longer.
  • Each exam room has treats, tennis balls and rope toys (carefully cleaned between patients) for your dog to enjoy.
  • Bringing a favorite bed or toy can also help minimize anxiety. If your dog is anxious, be creative about what to bring.
  • If your canine companion is still anxious after all the above suggestions, an anti-anxiety pill may be helpful before their next visit. We can advise on this.

    The Exam

  • The doctor will sit for a short time and allow your dog time to get to know him or her, and use treats to build the relationship. We allow your pet to determine our level of engagement. For some this means kisses and belly rubs and for some it means we respect their personal space. If we’re not kissing your dog, it’s not that we don’t love them. We’re merely sensing that is not their preference.
  • Whenever possible, the exam will be performed where your dog is most comfortable. This can be on the floor, the bench or on the exam table. Our goal is to make this as easy for your dog as possible.
  • For added comfort for your dog, our tables have a soft, non-slip map.
  • We use pheromone diffusers in each examination room to help calm your dog. We use a technique call Considerate Approach to maintain this effect.
  • If your dog is too anxious, then a sedative, anti-anxiety medication, or even rescheduling the appointment is sometimes best. Repeated, negative experiences can cause undue stress and make the dog more reactive with their next visit. We want these to be fun and happy times for both you and your dog.
  • When we have completed the exam, we will go over our findings with you. We also use that time to reward your dog with treats or a toy so they have lasting, great memories.

    Relaxation Preparation for Minor Procedures

  • Many of the procedures we perform will need minor to full restraint. Even a minor injection will be less comfortable if the patient is moving. Teaching your dog that gentle restraint is to be trusted will allow us to quickly and gently provide needed services. Teaching simple commands such as “On Your Side” or “Give Paw” and teaching basic handling of feet and ears will be a win-win for all when the time comes for a nail trim or ear check.
  • Our Low Stress Handling techniques respect your dog’s preferred approach and we will accommodate them as much as possible.
  • Some dogs get extremely anxious when having even minor procedures. Because of the long-term anxiety we could create, we will not use force to accomplish these tasks. Anxiety medication or a stronger sedative may be indicated to avoid undue mental and physical stress. We will consult with you about this step.