Our sweet puppy, Stella, has a big problem. She is terrified to go to the vet, and she needs to go get a heartworm test and some vaccinations. The anxiety can be traced back to when she was neutered, about a year ago. Before that, a visit to the vet was a great happy treat and Stella loved everyone there. Last year, when we went for her annual check-up, she didn’t like it much. She was uncharacteristically nervous. The vet gave me some Ace (acepromazine) pills and suggested that the next time we come, I should give her a couple to calm her. I’m not a fan of tranquilizers, so I chose to believe that Stella would simply get over this aversion.
This winter, I took Stella off the heartworm medication and the Frontline for a couple of months when there were no bugs. So, this Spring, I made an appointment for her to have a heartworm test before I put her back on the pills. We went to the vet, without any tranquilizers, and Stella had a total meltdown. I’ve never seen her like this, hiding under me, shaking, panting, refusing dog treats. The vet techs were very sympathetic and gentle, and we decided not to do anything that day. We re-scheduled, and I gave her the two tabs of Ace an hour and a half before we went back to the vet. The drugs seemed to rev Stella up instead of calm her. She was trying to play with the cat and racing around, and the closer we got to the vet’s office, the more upset she was. Once again, we went in, Stella freaked out and we did nothing but try to hang out until she calmed down. She never did. So, after talking to the vet, we tried it again with 3 pills. Stella was very disoriented from the drugs, and she still panicked and we did not do the blood test and later, she was wobbling around like a drunk. I felt awful that I had done this to her. The vet told me that some dogs will have that reaction to Ace, so we should try Xanax.
By now, I was really upset. We love our vet and don’t want to find another one. We’ve been going there for almost 10 years, and we really believe that they are the best ones around. I googled around and found out that Ace is a sedative, which can sometimes not work because it is not “calming” but merely sedating – like a blanket that slows down the dog but doesn’t address the underlying anxiety. And Xanax is supposed to actually calm anxiety-ridden dogs. Did I mention that I don’t like these kind of drugs? But I took Stella to the vet – a desensitization visit – and picked up the pills. I brought my husband along for moral support. Stella wigged out again and scratched him really hard on the arm as she was trying to jump on him to get away. He agreed with me: it’s official that Stella has a problem with the vet. The Xanax didn’t work either. It seemed to have no effect on her at all. When we got to the vet, she was panting and freaking out. They don’t want to restrain her, so we agreed that we would have to come up with some other plan, but their only suggestion was that I call an animal behaviorist. So, I am waiting to hear from a vet who is a behaviorist that they recommended.
I’m wondering if somehow, since Stella seems to have this reverse reaction to the medications, maybe she wasn’t actually sedated enough when they neutered her. Of course, no one will ever admit that happened, and only Stella would be able to tell me. She’s definitely telling me something, and I am listening. I just need to figure out the best thing to do for her. She really needs to be on the heartworm medication since there are lots of mosquitos around right now. And I want her to be okay at the vet. I’ve always believed that my animals need to be calm enough to be handled by vets and technicians. They don’t have to love it, but they need to be able to get medical treatment. I may just try a new vet and see how she reacts. Or see what the behaviorist says. Or schedule a house call with some vet.
What I don’t want to do is further traumatize my good, sweet pup.