In the upcoming months, a few of my blogs will be talking about ways to help alleviate the stress that you and your pets feel when visiting the veterinarian. I’m very proud to be the first vet in Brevard County to become Fear Free Certified. You will notice a few subtle changes over the next several weeks as part of our dedication at Young’s Animal Hospital to your and your pet’s comfort while receiving superior medical care.

As part of reducing the stress and anxiety pets feel here, this month I’d like to talk a bit about using sedatives in my patients. Some people have felt when I recommended a light sedative for their pet, that I might be afraid of it, or maybe I’m unsure of how to perform a certain procedure, or that I think your pet is “bad”. The reality is that I am concerned FOR your pet, both its physical safety, as well as its emotional health. Most cats, exotic small mammals and birds rarely leave the home or interact with guests in the home. To take them to the vet even for routine wellness visits can be very stressful. I had a colleague (at a different clinic) have a bird die while she was trimming the nails. That is a tragedy that I intend to continue to say I’ve never had happen to me. A little bit of sedative can go a long way with regards to a pet’s relaxation. Those animals that are frequently handled may not stress much during exams and procedures, but if I can see the pet is very stressed or uncomfortable, I will likely recommend something to take the edge off. Even pets comfortable with people are not nearly as happy to see someone in a white coat! Much like many people take a Valium or Xanax before a dental procedure, a little sedative before a wing or nail trim, or even just an exam, can make the experience much less frightening.

Another time I use sedatives is in very ill pets. That might sound a little crazy, but is tremendously helpful. A rat with pneumonia and difficulty breathing is very stressed. Think about how you would feel if you constantly had to breathe through a straw. It is often amazing how much breathing can improve as the pet relaxes. Keep in mind that sedation is NOT the same as anesthesia.

To sum up, I like to use sedatives when reasonable in both healthy and sick patients, and not as a last resort. So, the next time you and your pet visit me, please do be alarmed or offended if I recommend a light sedative. Likewise, if you know your pet is very nervous to visit us, please check to see if we can prescribe something in advance to help make the visit more enjoyable for everyone 🙂

Angela Bockelman DVM, PhD