The Stench of Fear: Is There Good and Bad Timing for Vet Visits?

With exception of Roxy, our guys always loved going to the vet. Even Jasmine, with all the bad stuff she's gone through. She didn't like needles or thermometers but she loved seeing the vet (and staff). None of our guys were ever fearful of the vet's office, on the contrary, rushing us on the way in.

I can smell things you cannot see.

I never gave a second thought to timing considerations.

We'd typically go first thing in the morning for practical reasons such as urine analysis, or because we wanted to see the vet as soon as possible. Only for physical therapy we had afternoon or evening appointments.

It has never crossed my mind that something like that could matter.

Until Cookie's last appointment. We took her in for an integrative consultation to figure out the best way to get her liver happy. The appointment was at 4PM, almost at the end of the day.

The guys were excited to go in, as always. They were happy to see the vet, as always.

Then the technician walked in to draw Cookie's blood. Cookie took one look at her and started barking. The technician was surprised, "You don't want to be friends today?" They've met before and all was good and friendly in the past.

The vet asked me if Cookie was a sensitive girl.

"Yes," I answered, "she's quite sensitive, why?"

As it turned out, just before walking into our exam room, the technician was handling/restraining a dog who got attacked by some other dogs. The dog was out of his mind with fear and anxiety, spreading alarm pheromones all over.

Apparently, Cookie immediately picked up on that.

The technician offered some treats and Cookie stopped barking. However, didn't want to come anywhere near the technician nor she wanted to stay in the exam room all together.

All she wanted to do was to get out of there.

Even after the blood was drawn. The vet was doing her integrative exam and Cookie let her do it politely but her eyes were on the door.

We were going to discuss some stuff first before continuing with the exam but I asked whether all the hands-on stuff could be done right away. The discussion could wait until Cookie got to get our of there.

I have never seen her so unhappy about being anywhere.

Once the exam was done, hubby took Cookie away and the vet and I finished our discussions. It got me thinking. Cookie is a confident, happy girl but got completely thrown off by the scent of utter fear from the other dog.

Makes me think what happens to dogs who are already fearful or anxious.

How much more profound effect something like this would have on them, already expecting horrible things happening and then having the evidence of a dog in anguish right under their noses?

I realize these things are not happening all the time but I imagine that stress does accumulate through the day, leaving its traces everywhere.

From now own we'll stick to first appointments in the morning as much as possible.

What about you? Did you notice that afternoon appointments might inadvertently end up more stressful for your dog? Do you think it might be because of things that happened through the day and left their traces?

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  1. The time of day was never anything I considered. It could certainly affect a dog's mood though. I am going to try taking my dog to the vet in the morning next time to see if there are any changes.

    1. The later on in the day, the better chance of things having happened and leaving their "traces" in the place as it seems. It was certainly the case with Cookie during the last appointment. Never saw her that unhappy at the vet.

  2. Not so much vets because Mr. N hates the vet no matter what time it is but I noticed that when we had training classes at the humane society, he was over the top reactive. He's pretty sensitive and the classes are held right by intake and the vet there. I think he can smell the fear and anxiety.

    1. They certainly "know" things about which we have no idea and react to them.

  3. That's so interesting. I've never thought about the scent of a fearful dog lingering in that way. I sometimes think late afternoon appointments might result in a vet or vet tech that's tired from a long day resulting in a quicker and less thorough exam. I might make Haley's next appointment in the morning to see if there's a difference.

    1. The staff being more tired and stressed is certainly possible. But I've never seen that affect the appointment with our vets yet.

      Both the vet and the technician seemed happy enough; it clearly wasn't that. It was the vet who made the connection.

  4. Interesting - never thought about it before, but it makes sense.

    1. It does, doesn't it? The vet made the connection right away when Cookie reacted to the tech that way.

  5. Hmmmm wow, I have never thought about that before. My huskies all hate the vets despite their attempts to give them treats lol!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    1. It never occurred to me either, until this last time.

  6. That is an interesting point. I never thought about the time of day when visiting the veterinarian either. Of course, my pets happen to be cats and cats are just not happy about the veterinarian no matter what. It is really the whole being out of their territory thing that they don't like.

    1. I never thought of these things either. But this last visit was quite noteworthy, particularly when we did have an explanation.

  7. I do early morning appointments mainly to avoid seeing a lot of other animals in the room (my dog is a bit reactive)

  8. Wow, I never would have thought of that! It does make complete sense. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. I wouldn't have either. But does make sense in light of the last visit.

  10. That's a pretty amazing story. Dogs are so sensitive with their sense of smell. Good thing the tech was intuitive enough to know that was the source of her fear.

    1. Yes, would have had no clue otherwise as to what caused Cookie's reaction.

  11. That is something I've never considered, but it makes perfect sense. I have noticed Theo get more wound up if a dog is whining or barking. From what I've read, dogs have a real reaction to the room that is used for euthanasia. I know that in humans nervous sweat smells different than sweat caused by exercise, so it seems that a dog would definitely pick up scents as way to determine if the vet's is a safe or scary place.

    1. Yeah, they know things we don't even dream of. And I'm sure the "scary air" accumulates during the day.

      This was a new one for me too; never thought of this until the last visit.

  12. It doesn't matter what time Odin goes he is a chicken little , he does handstands when they try to take his temp , poor boy <3 Good that you found out what helps our situation:)

    1. Some dogs just hate going to the vet period. Roxy did. And even though Jasmine loved going to the vet, she'd climb everything (and everybody) in sight to avoid needles or thermometers :-)

  13. I only ever had one instance of that kind of immediate and irreconcilable fear reaction with my Eng Springer Spaniel. It was an afternoon appointment and Dickens decided once the tech took him, he was not having anything to do with that guy. They could not get a muzzle on him, and he came running back to me in the exam room. He hugged the wall and barred his teeth with hackles raised at the vet and the tech. I was shocked. I took him to the waiting room and tried to calm him down, held him for awhile and gently put the muzzle on him. I was really mad because I thought rough handling had been involved, and asked the tech to tell me exactly what happened. This gives me another perspective of that incident!

    1. So sorry your dog had such a terrible experience. Cookie didn't get aggressive but really didn't want to be there. She did take treats from the tech and allowed pets but here eyes were trained on the door.

      Who knows what went on before the tech brought your dog in the back; perhaps something similar.


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