Pet Wellness and Preventive Care Services for the Greater Chicago Area

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Annual wellness exams help veterinarians catch potential health problems in your pet before they become more serious and costly. Annual exams also serve as the foundation of your pet’s overall health and wellness regimen.

Our Pet Wellness Exams

At Bevlab, each of our wellness exams include:

  • A thorough examination by one of our professional veterinarians
  • Any vaccinations or boosters your pet may need
  • Flea, tick, mite, and heartworm preventive treatment for potentially life-threatening parasitic diseases
  • In-office dental care and assistance with at-home care to prevent common oral health problems and periodontal disease
  • Advice regarding your pet’s nutrition needs including healthy food, treats and supplement options, as well as how to deal with special dietary needs and possible allergies
  • Advice to help make sure your pet receives regular exercise and the right types

Vaccinations

Vaccinations are critical to protecting your pet from dangerous and potentially fatal diseases and illnesses. We recommend vaccinations begin at 6 to 8 weeks of age for all cats and dogs, and that pet owners follow the schedule outlined by our veterinarians for boosters and any additional shots that may be needed.

Spay and Neutering

We recommend that you spay or neuter your cat, dog, and rabbit once they are over 6 months of age. In addition to helping prevent further pet overpopulation, having your pet spayed or neutered offers the following benefits:

  • Improving your pet’s general health and wellness
  • Curbing disruptive behavior
  • Reducing pet care costs
  • Reducing the number of homeless pets that are euthanized

Exotic Care

While our primary focus is providing veterinary care for dogs and cats, we also treat birds and exotics.

Routine wellness and preventive care can eliminate many other and more expensive veterinary services. Contact us today to schedule your dog, cat, or rabbit’s preventive care visit with us.

Another #$@& Vet Visit: From Stressful to Successful

Let’s face it: NOBODY likes going to the doctor! Only bad things ever happen there, right? An anxious car ride to a weird place with weird people doing weird things to you, most of which are downright painful. Unlike their human companions, pets cannot rationalize that their current fear and pain is temporary and will result in a better future. Animals live “in the moment”. In this article, we’ll discuss your pet’s doctor-induced stress and what we can do about it.

Studies show that stress, fear and anxiety aren’t just products of our imagination. Instead, these feelings are actually very powerful chemical processes that quickly cascade throughout the body when a threat is detected. Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline rush into the bloodstream within seconds to quickly prepare the body for immediate action: Fight or Flight -- to the death if necessary. Rational thought is suppressed as survival mode builds so “calming down” isn’t mind-over-matter. Even if we don’t think a situation is life-threatening an animal may think differently and their reactions can be explosive and dangerous to others or even themselves.

Some pets experience more stress than others at the office and they each express anxiety in different ways. But there are common patterns our staff use to alert us to a patient’s stress level. Reading body language is the key and signs do vary from species to species.

No Stress

These pets behave just as they would at home - greeting and accepting affection and treats from anyone from the time they walk into the room to the time they get back in the car. THIS SITUATION IS RARE. It’s perfectly normal for an animal to “not like” the doctor’s office.

Mild Stress

These pets show stress only during the exam. Before the exam, they are relaxed and interactive with the staff and owners. As the examination begins, mild anxiety symptoms begin. Some dogs will squint and look suddenly tired lips pulled back into a submissive “don’t hurt me” grin. Others will pant, look around more quickly and move closer to the owner. Cats will lay down, feet tucked, avoid eye contact, and some tail flicking. These patients tolerate the medical staff handling them with minor objections using evasion tactics. Once the hands-on portion is over the pet returns to gazing about, investigating the exam room, taking treats, interacting with their owners and showing interest in the medical team. While these patients don’t enjoy the exam, they are willing to tolerate it for a short time.

Moderate Stress

These pets show anxiety before during and after the exam. Dogs will pant, pace, yawn repeatedly, and soft whining is common. Cats may move to the back of the carrier, or come out very slowly, head down, chin tucked and wary, then quickly pick one spot to lay down sternal and flatten to the table. Legs are tucked under and tail flicking. The pet may sniff treats but will not take them from anyone except possibly the owner and even then they may not eat it. This pet may require more restraint in order to control their movement during the exam but they show no aggression. They are in “Flight-Only” mode. After the exam, they quickly move away from the medical team, orient to the exit or make a bee-line back into their carrier. These patients can barely tolerate the exam and can quickly move to the “Severe Stress” mode with little provocation.

Severe Stress

These pets are highly fearful and defensive before, during and after the exam. Dogs may refuse to enter the exam room then cower in the farthest corner or bark defensively when medical team enters the room. Cats may refuse to leave their carrier, tail thrashing or immediately leap out and scale the walls to find an exit. These animals ignore all food. They make no attempt to even sniff the staff. They may stay close to their owner but do not respond to commands, show no interest in the surroundings and maintain an unblinking hard-stare at the perceived threat (us!). Pupils are very large, they may be panting, growling, lunging, swatting, and attempt biting or attacking when approached. Alternatively, some animals (cats especially) will become very still, pupils dilated, ears slicked back and whole body tensed, readying for a fight. The fear level is so high that an animal in this state may spontaneously evacuate bowel and bladder. This patient is nearly untouchable and uncontrollable regardless of the number of people involved.

  • Examination will be minimal or impossible
  • Vaccination, blood testing, and nail trims cannot be performed.
  • The high level of stress hormones in this patient’s blood stream coupled with wrestling and heavy restraint by multiple people can cause sudden death via respiratory or circulatory collapse.

Highly stressed pets are VERY dangerous to themselves, our staff and their owners.

These patients are in full-blown "Fight-or-Flight". Their response to reason in the forms of commands or comforting, bullying or bribing is minimal or non-existent. Terrified animals are unable to respond to ANYONE or ANYTHING except their own will to survive. At that instant, they believe their life is in mortal danger -- and they will defend themselves by any means possible.

Once the survival response is triggered, it takes several hours (dogs) and even days (cats) before these stress hormones will return to normal. Until then, each new handling session will be met with even stronger resistance, a process known as “escalation”. For all involved, the danger increases with each attempt and less and less is accomplished.

Fear

As we can all attest, frightening experiences stay with us and mold our future responses. For some pets a single fear-filled experience at the vet can cause immediate escalation into Fight-or-Flight danger zone.

"Wow, he’s never like this! Skippy, what is wrong with you today?"

For others, even mild anxiety can escalate through the 3 stages of stress until the beloved pet become untouchable.

"Yeah, Doc, she’s seems more upset every time we come. Now the whining and panting start as soon as the car even turns toward the clinic. Be careful, she’s really wound-up today."

While it may not be possible to make a doctor’s visit pleasant, we can make it better for everyone involved, especially your non-human BFF.

Can We Train a Better Visit? Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning

Training can definitely help animals to relax in potentially stressful situations but this requires more than routine obedience of “sit, stay”. For this kind of training, we must turn to behavioral science.

Desensitization is the process of introducing something in a very slow and gradual way to avoid anxiety. Examples:
  • At home you place the carrier out in the open all the time for the pet to investigate at their own speed.
  • At the clinic, when possible our staff allow the pet to approach and check us out before we move to examine them.
Counter-Conditioning is the process of pairing something pleasant with a specific object or action to shift a negative response to a neutral or positive one.

Examples:

  • At home, you leave very special treats in, on and around the carrier so your pet associates it with something good (favorite treat) not something bad (car/doctor).
  • At the clinic, the pet is offered treats before, during, and after unpleasant things like exams, tests and vaccines.

(For more details on CC&D training as well as other behavior modification ideas, check out the references at the end of this article.)

These methods work best on animals with minimal unpleasant associations to the vet office. For pets already in fight-or flight mode upon arrival, so stressed that reasoned responses are minimal or absent, we will need to turn to pharmacology.

When Training Isn’t Enough: The CHILL Protocol

Training a dog or cat to voluntarily accept medical care is possible and it can be achieved through months-to-years of progressive training by animal professionals. While large organizations such as zoos may have this time and ability, most pet owners and veterinary clinics do not. Recognizing high stress as a barrier to good medical care, two clinical professors (one an animal behaviorist and the other a veterinary anesthesiologist) at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University developed a safe method for pets to arrive calmer and stay calmer at the vet’s office. They called it the CHILL protocol and have used it with great success at the veterinary college since 2016. Combining common anti-anxiety medications with a tiny dose of a sedative given at home prior to the start of anxiety can make all the difference between good care and no care.

How to CHILL at the Vet Office

This 3-part process consists of 3 inexpensive doses of medication: two mild anti-anxiety medications and one very, very low dose sedative. All are given orally, no injections and all are given at home. The pet receives one dose the night before the office visit, the second 2-3hr before the visit time and the third about 30-60min before arrival at the clinic. The first 2 steps are simply pills easily given in a favorite treat and the third step is a few drops of liquid squirted in the cheek.

By the time the pet is seen at the clinic, they will be calm, maybe a little wobbly but otherwise aware and able to walk in and out unassisted. While the pet may still need a muzzle or towel for safety purposes, little-to-no WWF wrestle-mania should result. Most non-painful procedures can be accomplished quickly and safely. If a painful procedure needs to be performed, the pet is safe to be placed under heavier sedation or general anesthesia as well.

For more information on Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning, check out these websites:
https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/behavior/counter-conditioning-and-desensitization
https://chicagovetbehavior.com/dog-resources/2018/6/6/counter-conditioning-and-desensitization