Local Veterinarian Introduces 'Happy Visits' to Calm Anxious Pets

Mount Laurel Animal Hospital helps animals with anxiety and behavior issues cope with vet appointments.

Saffron & Technician Hannah

Mount Laurel Animal Hospital's Primary Care team now offers "Happy Visits" to improve patient experience and cooperation during vet visits. Responding to concerns from owners of pets who struggled with the demands of a vet visit, MLAH has developed a new approach that creates a positive association for the animal regarding veterinary care.

According to a pet owner who has been bringing their dog for repeated happy visits with behavioral nurse, Hannah, the change in the animal's experience was astonishing. "Going to the vet used to mean putting Saffron in a muzzle and physically restraining him. Just pulling into the hospital driveway would trigger traumatic stress symptoms," he explained. "Now, with the Happy Visit approach, Saffron loves coming to the vet and being able to take treats and lay down calmly for his exam, vaccines and a blood draw. It's like he's a different dog."

Indeed, trips to the vet can be very stressful for certain animals. Unfamiliar people, sounds and smells can trigger negative reactions for anxious pets. Animals are often handled or touched in ways they do not like and sometimes undergo procedures that can be uncomfortable, e.g. vaccines, blood draws etc.

As Dr. Erika Sweigard, MLAH's Lead Primary Care Veterinarian, put it, "Happy visits are designed to reduce stress, and establish trust and positive experiences with patients. With happy visits, we have seen an appreciable difference in an animal's well-being during routine exams. Performing basic routine care becomes less stressful for the patients, their owners, and the entire veterinary team." 

Happy visits can provide positive emotional learning associated with location (parking lot, exam room, scale), instruments (stethoscope, needles), and staff members. Happy visits allow counter-conditioning by pairing a pleasure inducing interaction (eating treats) with an interaction that may have previously incited fear or anxiety. They also provide an opportunity to train patients to wear a muzzle or Elizabethan collar if needed for safe handling.

Happy visits are offered by the primary care service of Mount Laurel Animal Hospital as an extension of its behavioral medicine service. Hopefully, more owners and patients like Saffron will take advantage of this opportunity to provide cooperative veterinary care. Happy visit appointments can be made at https://mlahvet.com


Jennifer Guli, Marketing Director

Mount Laurel Animal Hospital

220 Mount Laurel Road

Mount Laurel, NJ 08054

(856) 234-7626


Source: Mount Laurel Animal Hospital