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New Study Looks at Dog Anxiety and Veterinary Visits

Reviewed by Dr. Peter Kintzer, DVM, DACVIM on Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Posted April 06, 2015 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Meghan Trainor’s hit song says, “It’s all about that bass.” Well, it seems, in recent years, vet-stress concerns have been, “All about that cat.” However, in a recent study released by the American Veterinary Medical Association (reported by NewSTAT), dogs too undergo considerable stress and anxiety when they go for veterinary visits.

Dog at vet officeThe study looked at 36 seemingly normal, healthy client-owned dogs and measured a number of parameters when the dogs were at home and again at the veterinary facility. This study evaluated changes in vital signs when dogs traveled between the home environment and the veterinary environment. Differences were recorded between dogs in the two environments1.

These dogs had their respiratory rate, pulse rate, rectal temperature and systolic arterial blood pressure measured in their home environment. They were then taken to the veterinary hospital and the measurements were repeated. The changes between the two environments were significant1.

Dog anxiety at the veterinarian’s office
According to aaha.org, significant differences in blood pressure, rectal temperature and pulse rate were observed between measurements obtained in the two environments. “Mean blood pressure increased by 16%..., rectal temperature increased (by < 1%)…, and pulse rate increased by 11% …. The number of dogs panting in the hospital environment (63%) was significantly higher than the number of dogs panting at home (17%).” Panting is frequently considered an indication of stress.

Although this is an early study, and I expect more research to follow, it points out the fact that cats are not the only patients we see subject to stress.

Similar studies of human patients have revealed a similar “white coat syndrome;” an elevation of blood pressure limited to the doctor’s office. It may occur in 20% of patients, according to one source2.

While more studies are indicated to evaluate the significance of these seemingly stress-related findings, it would appear that cats are not the only pets stressed when traveling to the veterinarian. Of course, routine veterinary visits for your pet are no less important than your own visits to the doctor. Therefore, efforts should be made to reduce the stress associated with veterinary visits.

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.

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