Comfort Care

posted: by: Comfort Care Specialist Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

We are striving to make visits to Coble Animal Hospital, a highly enjoyable experience for our patients. Our Comfort Care Program embraces the FEAR FREE© initiative and promotes the practices, methods, and tools that calm patients and create low-stress environments to encourage better healthcare emotionally and physically. Hippocrates said it this way: "Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always."

Just like the anxiety many people have about a doctor or dentist visit, our patients can experience similar anxieties. In fact, studies have confirmed that pets experience emotions that are very similar, even identical to our own. In order to make your pet’s trip to Coble Animal Hospital an amazingly enjoyable experience please consider the following:


·        You can assist by conditioning your pet to the carrier and car so that they arrive happy

·        Bring your pet(s) hungry and feel free to bring their favorite treat or toy as we will be rewarding and distracting them liberally during the visit


·        We will strive to escort you and your pet into an exam room as soon as possible to allow your dog or cat to walk around freely to become relaxed.

·        We are creating a sense of calm in the exam rooms with relaxing music and species specific pheromones​


·        We will explore alternative places to conduct the exam that is in the patient’s best interest first

·        We will work with the patient to find out a method of control that keeps the pet calm but still allows us to perform procedures.

·        We will employ the best distraction techniques and small gauge needles for procedures

·        Sedation will be used when necessary to make any stressful or painful experiences avoidable

·        We will cradle every patients emotional and physical well-being.


Bringing the pet safe to the hospital creates a positive transport experience that helps to reduce stress for everyone and sets the stage for a successful Fear Free visit and return home for the patient.  Proper carriers and restraint, along with vehicle set up is often overlooked in safe and low stress transport.



·        What Type?

Either hard or soft carriers can work for cats.  Choose one that is big enough for the cat to lie down and turn around in, but not so large that the cat won’t feel safe and secure in it.  Be sure to find a carrier that has at least two openings and that can be easily taken apart both for use as a bed in the home and if necessary during examinations at the veterinary hospital.

·        Where Do I Put It?

o   Do not put the carrier in a hidden location

o   Make the carrier an additional piece of furniture

o   For older cats, take the carrier out of its storage location; this helps make the carrier less scary to the cat because it has seen it before

o   Choose a place that the cat already likes to rest and teach them that it is now even better with the carrier there

o   Most cats will prefer the carrier to be placed on an elevated surface rather than on the floor

o   Take the top half of the carrier off so it’s more open


·        How Do I Get My Cat To Like It?

o   Put the cat’s favorite things around the carrier

o   Play with the cat around the carrier

o   Place a pheromone infused towel or bed and/or an object of clothing permeated with the owner’s scent inside the carrier

o   Place treats, catnip, and toys inside

o   Feed the cat in or near the carrier


·        Do not pull the cat out of a hiding place to put them into the carrier. This will likely increase Fear Anxiety and Stress (FAS)

·        Keep the comfy bedding, familiar scents and pheromones with the carrier, and cover it with a towel for transport. Treats and catnip may make the trip better for some cats.

·        Only transport two cats together if they are comfortable, but be aware while they may be comfortable on the way to the hospital, on the return trip, anxiety may spike and result in fighting.

·        Once the cat is inside of the carrier, carry it like a fragile gift, close to the chest and held with both hands

·        Prepare the car:

o   Play quiet, calm or familiar music

o   Avoid loud startling noises

o   Provide Pheromones

o   Use Towels to block visual stimuli

o   Place the carrier behind the passenger seat on the floor



Avoid forcing the dog into the equipment, punishing the dog for signs of Fear, Anxiety or Stress (FAS), or ignoring signs of FAS during transport.

·        What Type?

The best restraint type depends on the dog’s size, the vehicle type, and the dog’s and client’s preferences. The ideal restraint should be comfortable for the dog and minimize driver distractions.​

·        How To Get My Dog To Like It?

Get the dog used to the carrier, crate, seat belt, or other restraint devices in the comfort of the home first. Follow this with practice in the stationary car and finally on short car rides before taking the trip to the veterinary hospital.


·        Play quiet, calm or familiar music

·        Avoid loud startling noises

·        Provide Pheromones

·        Food stuffed toys or remote feeding devices

·        Place the carrier behind the passenger seat on the floor


“Simply start by giving them many more positive experiences than negative ones,” Marty Becker says. This is essential when introducing a new pet to the veterinary experience.

Debbie Martin, LVT, VTS-Behavior, animal behavior technician for Veterinary Behavior Consultations, a mobile veterinary service located in Austin, Texas, recommends scheduling fun visits to the veterinary hospital between clinical visits and offering a treat each time you stop in.

“The idea is to make the veterinary hospital more like a pet store,” she says.

There are several ways to prevent veterinary-related anxiety in young pets, Becker says.

“Bring the pet in often in the early months just to say hi, get a treat, or get massaged or fussed over,” he says. “It really helps if you bring [the pet] in hungry so [he] responds better to food rewards.”

Becker's daughter, dog-training expert Mikkel Becker, revealed tricks to help keep dogs calm. Hint: Tell clients to bring pets hungry and use treats—lots and lots of treats. She even suggested feeding dogs 10 treats per minute during the exam. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVN, a nutritionist at Ohio State University who has conducted pioneering research on enriching indoor pets' lives, also weighed in and said he actually thought 10 treats per minute was a bit slow. He responded to concerns that this method of training might be unhealthy for the pet.

"The only way an animal is going to become obese with this is if they never leave the hospital," Buffington says.  

Try to leave for the vet when your pet is hungry (unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise). When you arrive at the veterinary office, offer your pet an especially tasty treat (again, unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise—bloodwork often requires fasting).


When a Safe car ride and Hunger isn't enough to provide a Fear Free Experience for your pet we look to other modalities to make you pet Happy.


Pheromone therapy is the use of analogues of natural pheromones to aid in the reduction of ​Fear response. There is evidence of effect for dog appeasing pheromone and cat cheek gland pheromone (F3) for car travel and veterinary visits. Pheromones are extremely safe for all ages and health issues as they are not systemically absorbed and do not interact with concurrent drugs.

A synthetic form of F3 pheromone (Feliway) is available in spray, wipes, or as a plug-in diffuser. The spray and wipes can be used for topical application on the examination or treatment table, and for the inside of the cat carrier and hospital cages. The diffuser spreads over 650 square feet or 50-70 square meters for 30 days.

The dog appeasing pheromone (DAP)is a calming pheromone that is produced in the intermammary region of the nursing female. A synthetic form of dog appeasing pheromones is available in spray, wipes, diffuser, and also a collar. The spray or wipes can be used on surfaces such as a blanket or towel placed in the car, on the examination or treatment table, and for the inside of a carrier or hospital cage. The diffuser spreads over 650 square feet or 50-70 square meters for 30 days. The collar diffuses for 30 days once removed from the package and placed on the dog.

Spray and wipes should be applied about 10 to 15 minutes in advance and the diffuser and collar started about 24 hours in advance of the need for the calming effect. Dog and cat products can be used concurrently in the same environment.


Alpha-casozepine (Zylkene) is a tryptic hydrolysate of a protein in cow’s milk for use in dogs and cats. ​It should be started one to two days in advance of the veterinary visit. It does not have any reported adverse effects or contraindications. Studies have demonstrated an effect in reducing anxiety in dogs and cats with an oral supplement formulation and as a dietary formulation that include other products.


Other complementary products that might help to calm for car travel and veterinary visits include aromatherapy with lavender or perhaps chamomile. Studies have demonstrated evidence for anxiety reduction in car travel and in the shelter environment.


Classical music and species-specific modified music may have a calming effect during car travel and veterinary visits in dogs and cats. There is evidence of a calming effect with classical music in rescue, boarding and veterinary environments and with species appropriate music in the veterinary hospital.​


Pre-visit Pharmaceuticals can be extremely effective in helping to reduce Fear Anxiety and Stress.  Your Veterinarian can help you decide if this is an effective option for your pet.  The most common prescription medications used at Coble Animal Hospital are:

Trazodone (dogs)

Trazodone is provides anxiolytic and sedation effects for approximately 4 hours.  It is best administered on an empty stomach.  We recommend dosing the night prior to the visit and 2 hours prior to the visit.

Gabapentin (cats)

Causes a dose dependent calming and mild sedation effect that reduces anxiety.  We recommend dosing the night prior to the visit and 2 hours prior to the visit.

Bringing a Happy Pet makes a Happy visit for all involved.