Today I splurged and bought myself a veterinary house call. It was time for Boogie’s annual exam and we’ve been searching for a new vet, so I figured that since we’re switching vets anyway, why not upgrade to an in-house visit?
Last year’s vet visit was a disaster (see: 2011 stink-a-thon) and we figured a visit at home would not only help Boogie feel more relaxed, but it would nice for us too: we have 5 pets and I’m tired of airing out my car for three months after my cats explode in their crates from car sickness. Dude, have you ever tried to get cat pee smell out of a car’s upholstery? Years. It takes years.
The vet was just here this afternoon, so I figured I’d give you guys an update, for anyone following the saga of the wee Boogie.
We didn’t take this vet visit lightly. Prior to today, we’ve been practicing different restraints and approaches to see what’s most comfortable for Boogie and trying to counter condition him to some stuff, like blood draws. Many fearful dogs prefer a blood draw from their rear leg, because it’s scary having people up front, near their heads, but after a lot of counter conditioning (per Sophis Yin’s great resource), Boogie wasn’t getting any more comfortable with it. So we knew we needed to practice restraints for a front leg and maybe a jug draw.
Earlier today, as the clock ticked closer to lift off, I gave Boogie a wheelbarrow of calming treats and exercised him for an hour right before they arrived.
Ok, so picture this: the vet pulls into the driveway. We started off out in the yard. Boogie was freaked out when the vet and the vet tech (Hi Denise!) arrived. This is something we used to deal with a lot, but in the last year, thanks to lots of practice, he’s started to enjoy meeting new people in the yard. So it was a bummer that it was a rocky start. I’ll chalk it up to being in a new house, since we just moved in a couple of weeks ago and these were our first visitors.
To let him cool off, we let him hang out with his ball and focused on our other dog, Birdie, for a few minutes. Birdie loves meeting new people and wanted to show the vet the new cyst she grew on her head. She was really proud of it.
Then we went inside and put Boogie’s basket muzzle on. Boogie needed vaccinations, a blood draw, and a lump inside his ear examined. While he was lying on his bed, getting fed a steady stream of Easy Cheese by me, the vet looked in his ear and gave him one shot, then I picked him up (he was too nervous to leave his bed, but we had to get him on all fours) and placed him between my legs. I loosely restrained him and gave him some distracting-noogies on his forehead while the vet gave him another vaccination in his hip. Lastly, we restrained him for a front leg (!) blood draw. I rubbed his forehead a lot, feed him more cheese, and told him he was a champ.
Did Boogie growl during the exam? You bet.
Did he struggle or try to get away? Nope.
Did he eat half a can of cheese? Oh yeah. I heard the nozzle sputter and cursed myself for not having a spare can of cheese on hand (rookie mistake). Luckily I had a Lickety Stick handy. Mental Note: don’t cheap out on the spray cheese next time. Buy a case.
After the examination, we took Boogie’s muzzle off and he approached the vet and vet tech with a wagging tail. Not a bad way to end the visit.
Wanna know one of the very best parts? Start to finish, I think they were here for 15 minutes. Normally, going to the vet takes 2 hours (packing them up, driving them there, waiting in the car, the exam, and return trip. Plus post-car vomit, poop, and pee detail. And then a stress-induced
So the fact that I’m writing this to you all right now, while my husband picks up some Thai food, is a victory in and of itself.
But back to Boogie. I really appreciated that, rather than scold Boogie for growling, the vet just kept examining Boogie while I fed him treats. Hopefully, that approach will begin to change Boogie’s emotional response to being handled by a vet. One of these days, Boogie will need more vet care than just an annual exam, and I’m hoping we can start making it a more positive experience for him.
What was the most helpful thing we did in preparation for the visit? Hands down it was teaching Boogie to love his muzzle.
All the other stuff helped a wee bit, but the most helpful counter conditioning that we did, prior to this visit, was teaching Boogie that his muzzle is the best thing ever. We started by letting him use it as a giant ice treat (aka the Kuzzle), then had him wear it for very short periods, and then eventually for longer lengths of time and during pretend exams, all while being hosed by Easy Cheese. We’re talking many, many weeks of cleaning cheese out of his muzzle. It wasn’t overnight.
So the end report: Home visits are super great. Get one. It’s like going to spa, only there’s a stool sample involved. And this new vet is welcome back any time. Most of all – muzzles are really handy. Teach your dog that it rains cheese or peanut butter or liver when they wear one.
Oh, and now for the really good news: tomorrow we leave for a family vacation with the dogs. Boogie earned it and we can’t wait to take him swimming. Here he is on last year’s summer vacation:
See you all in a week!