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The Science of Fear Free

Veterinarian Visit Statistics

  • More than 75% of dogs and cats are stressed during a veterinary visit

  • For dogs, the most stressful procedures were rectal temperature (22 %) followed by blood collections, injections and ear exams

  • For cats, the most stressful procedures for cats are injections (34%) followed by rectal temperature, blood collection, wound treatment and ears

  • 58% of cat owners report their pets hate going to the veterinarian

  • 38% of dog owners report their pets hate going to the veterinarian

What Works?

Evidence shows that dogs are less fearful in an exam room than in the reception area or the treatment area. As well, owner contact is shown to decrease heart rate, temperature, and attempts to jump off the table. Separating pets from their owners can cause anxiety, however, keeping in mind that an anxious owner can also add to a pet’s fear and anxiety.

Positive experiences at the veterinary clinic results in pets being less fearful at subsequent visits. Cats that had fear free experiences including,

  • Gentle Handling,

  • Pheromones,

  • Taken directly into the exam room,

  • Allowed to exit their cage voluntarily,

  • And their owners present displayed no difference in heart rate, temperature, respiration or blood pressure between home visits and veterinary visits.

Why Medication Can Be an Asset?

Medication has been experimentally proven to help reduce fear and anxiety related to car rides and veterinary visits. Oral medication prior to veterinary visits, compared to manual restraint and injectable medication, resulted in improved cooperation and behavior.

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Erindale Animal Hospital in the News

Follow the link to watch the CTV News Report

Carla Shynkaruk

Multi-Skilled Journalist CTV News Saskatoon

Updated Aug. 23, 2023 10:59 a.m. PDT

Published Aug. 22, 2023 5:43 p.m. PDT

There’s a natural hazard lurking in the weeds in Saskatoon this time of year that dog owners should be aware of because it could mean costly vet bills or even losing your pet.

Foxtails have been seen more over the past five years and pet owners should be on the lookout.

Sophie is a Shih Tzu Pomeranian, and in her 10 years, her owner Hannah Carswell has never had to deal with a foxtail encounter- until this month.

“Sophie was on the deck of my condo, and she started skittering around and I didn’t know what was wrong with her. She was coughing, and choking and hacking,” Carswell told CTV News.

It was nighttime and her vet wasn’t open, so she waited until the morning. That’s when the vet confirmed it was foxtail, a potentially deadly weed according to Veterinarian Miranda Wallace at the Erindale Animal Hospital.

“It is a bigger deal than people would suspect,” Wallace says.

The grassy weed is topped with a sharp needle which can get stuck in a pet’s coat, paws, or worse if ingested.

“Sometimes it can migrate to places, that can cause issues. Granulomas or abscesses in lungs and chest and migrate into sinuses,” according to Wallace. 

Nicole German experienced foxtails with her previous dog and faced $5000 in vet bills.

“She ate them, so we went through two really serious bouts removing hundreds of foxtails under anaesthesia. Removing them from her throat, mouth, esophagus, we almost lost her,” German told CTV News.

Her new dog is only nine months old and hasn’t had a run-in with foxtails, mostly because the family is diligent and watches for them, according to German. She’s also taken to Facebook to warn other dog owners, so they don’t have to endure what she did.

At the Erindale clinic they’re prepared for numerous cases in the summer with foxtail case numbers on the rise over the past five years.

“We’ve had a few cases come in already. We actually have a case coming in today for foxtails.”

Wallace wants pet owners to watch their dogs and closely monitor what they are eating.

“If you notice that your dog is sniffing around in the grass and then starts pawing at their face, sneezing or coughing that could be an indication that they have a foxtail,” she said.

Tent signs have been put up in various locations around the city, in parks and green spaces.

The signs provide little consolation for Carswell and Sophie.

“It was a really scary. I’m paranoid. I will not take her to the dog parks. The small dog park has them.”

The City of Saskatoon said in an email it is currently managing problem foxtail areas.

“(In) 2021, the City began its educational efforts on foxtail, including information on prevention and control techniques for foxtail barley (foxtail) for developers and landowners.”

For more information and to download a copy of the guide, visit

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