How to reduce stress in the veterinary waiting room

01 October 2013
16 mins read
Volume 4 · Issue 8


The veterinary environment has been seen to be a stressful environment for patients. This stress can have a negative impact on the welfare of inpatients and result in dangerous interactions between owners/staff and patients.

The waiting room is the first exposure a patient has to the veterinary environment. By taking measures to ensure the environment is as stress free as possible the likelihood of patient stress can be reduced.

This article highlights measures that can be taken to reduce stress within the waiting room. These range from building layout to pheromone therapy. By utilising as many of the highlighted options as possible stress within the waiting room may be reduced. This will have a positive effect on the consultation and subsequent visits to the practice.

The veterinary environment can be stressful for patients and owners alike. The waiting room is the first exposure patients get to the veterinary environment, and can dictate their response to the environment thereafter. This article explores why it is important for both owners and staff to be able to recognise this stress response (SR) and why reducing anxiety within the waiting room is beneficial for all concerned. The article identifies methods that can be used and measures that can be taken to reduce a patient's SR within the waiting room, and therefore their emotional anxiety levels.

In the first instance, it is important to be able to recognise when a patient is experiencing a SR. There are certain behavioural signs that communicate that the patient is experiencing this SR. This article focuses on canine and feline signals, as these are predominantly the species that are seen within veterinary practice.

Beerda et al (1997, 1999, 2000) carried out a number of studies that looked at how dogs reacted to a perceived aversive stimuli. These studies correlated behaviours with physiological responses to a stressor such as raised cortisol levels and raised heart rate. These behaviours are indicators that a dog is not comfortable with a situation, or finds a situation potentially threatening. A list of these behaviours, along with other behaviours that may indicate a dog is struggling within a situation can be found in Table 1.

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