low-stress handling

At Pinnacle, we handle every patient with care and consideration using Low Stress Handling, so that both pets and owners can have positive, relaxing visits with us.

Comfy blankets and pup-sicles help put our patients at ease.

Frozen pup-sicles keep our patients happy and focused.

Treats and familiar toys from home make our instruments less scary.

Toys from home plus yummy treats help foster a lifetime of positive associations for kittens and puppies.

Pup-sicles make eye and ear exams easier.

We use positive reinforcement to make eye and ear exams easier for our patients.

What is low stress handling?

Low stress handling means we consider our patient’s perspective first and look at the visit through the pet’s eyes to remove any fear or anxiety triggers. We also try to find ways to work cooperatively with our patients rather than forcing them. While this takes more time and can be quite challenging in many cases, we feel it is the kinder and safer way to approach veterinary care.

At Pinnacle, you’ll see that we take the extra time to greet our patients and allow them to warm up to us before starting the check-up. We make efforts to keep our exam rooms quiet and calm, and exam tables always have a soft surface. We may offer special treats or fun toys to create positive associations. For example, rewarding a nervous dog for following basic commands like sit or high-five helps build confidence and trust. Peanut butter covered pretzel sticks and squeeze cheese can help many nervous animals agree to procedures like nail trims and blood draws. Low-stress handling also means using techniques like counter-conditioning and desensitization to help the very nervous or fearful pets get accustomed to working with the vet.

Why do we use these techniques? Isn’t it easier to just “get the job done”?

We are often asked this question, whether it’s regarding a nail trim or a blood draw or ear exam. Can’t we just hold the patient down and do what we have to do? While that might seem easier in the short term, the pet may be more fearful or reactive at the next visit, which makes things worse in the long run. Low-stress methods are also safer for the pets and our staff.

How do you know which techniques will work for a nervous pet?

Our staff is trained to identify which handling techniques may work for an individual pet. Sometimes we have to get creative for positive reinforcement; for example, many dogs will allow a blood draw while licking frozen chicken broth, while others prefer squeeze cheese on a pretzel. We always encourage owners to bring anything from home that they know will be a positive motivator for their pet during the visit. For highly anxious animals, it may take multiple attempts to figure out what works best, but in the long run, it leads to easier visits and better long term relationships between the pet and their Pinnacle vet.

How does your staff learn to use these methods?

Our staff receives training throughout the year from an expert in the field of low-stress handling. All of the writings, videos, and educational materials from Dr. Sophia Yin are an inspiration to us everyday. Our veterinary staff and clinic overall are working towards Low Stress Certification as well as Fear Free Certification.