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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Make a long-lasting edible diversion to distract an apprehensive dog during a veterinary exam or a similar situation

I spend much of my day bent over or crouched down to wipe the wet or muddy paws of any number of dogs, or to check them for ticks or burrs after an outdoor adventure. Minor injuries aren't that uncommon either, so tending to those is a necessity. 

I need to exercise caution, as having my face eye-level with a dog's — their teeth, more specifically — could land me in a dangerous situation. 

It's not that the dogs that I'm with each day aren't behaviorally sound. Touching a pet can reveal a sensitive or painful area, or might startle them. I've previously written about how I stay safe while performing tasks like checking for ticks or having a look at why a pooch has a sudden limp, and the tips that I offer are equally valuable for pet owners too. 

Lately, my 15-year-old St. Bernard/Shepherd mix, Gretchen, has needed a little more consideration than in recent months, as her arthritis makes her more apprehensive about being touched. Naturally, I pick my battles when it comes to muddy paws and such, but yes, there are times when I need to handle her, so being extra mindful about what I'm doing so that I don't get bitten has become a habit.

But not every situation is created equal.

Case in point: for the last few months, Gretchen has been undergoing acupuncture to address her arthritis. Initially, she was quite tolerant of her acupuncturist, Monica Turenne, DVM, CVA getting the needles in place, but lately I've needed to be more creative in keeping Gretchen distracted and her mouth occupied while that's going on. Dr. Turenne and I have devised a routine that works, which of course includes high-value treats.

Though I'm not opposed to muzzling my pets should I find it necessary while a clinician is interacting with them, it's certainly not an appropriate option during acupuncture. 

As you can imagine, stumbling on ideas to make interacting with pets more comfortable and safe when they might not be at their best is something I get excited about. Extra-yummy treats (think small pieces of hotdog, cheese or dried liver) are great, but offering up a "lolli-pup" might be even better in some situations: popsicle sticks, slathered with peanut butter, spray cheese, Kong filling or canned dog food do a great job of distracting and apprehensive pet if you've an extra hand in the room. These last a little longer than high-value treats, and sticking the lolli-pups in the freezer for a bit can enhance their efficacy. Try one the next time your apprehensive pooch needs an exam by the vet or facing a similar scenario, like getting their nails trimmed.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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