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Ask the Doctor December 2013 Issue

Dear Doctor - Extreme fear of the vet’s office

Letter to Tufts Veterinarians

Q I hope you can help me with this problem with my cat, Tyler. When I moved four years ago to my current home, I had to board him for three days at a local veterinary clinic. When I took him back there a few months later for his annual wellness check, he had a meltdown.

Unfortunately, his behavior has stayed this way even though I changed vets. He starts to pant, and then he pees and poops in his carrier. When the technician takes him out to clean him, he becomes downright vicious. He’s bitten me twice during these situations.

They gave me some pills (acepromazine, 10mg) to give one hour before the veterinarian makes a house call for his next wellness check. However, I’m told that these pills are not a guarantee to help this problem. Do you have any other suggestions?
Joan E. Wright

A Dear Joan: I’m sorry to hear that Tyler is having a tough time with veterinary visits. Fear is the emotion driving his panting, inappropriate elimination and aggression. His fearfulness may or may not be related to something specific that occurred during his boarding experience. For some cats, even routine veterinary visits can be experienced as traumatic events. You might consider the services of a veterinarian who does house calls, since this will eliminate the scary car ride component of the veterinary visit.

Regarding the acepromazine, no one medication works to reduce fearful behavior for every cat. You should continue to discuss other medical options with your veterinarian if acepromazine is ultimately not helpful.
Nicole Cottam, MS, ACAAB
Behavior Service Coordinator
Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine

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