Calming Pet Owners’ Concerns About Sedation

Sedation, including pre-visit pharmaceutical, in-clinic administration, or a combination or both, is a critical component of Fear Free. However, pet owners may not fully comprehend either the need for or the benefits of sedation, and therefore express concerns.  Basic communication skills, such as open-ended questions, reflective listening, empathy statements, and non-verbal communication, when used together, let your client know that you appreciate their concerns.

Examples of each are below.

  • Open ended question
    • “What questions do you have about sedation?” or “Tell me how you feel about sedating Ziggy?”
  • Reflective listening
    • “It sounds as if you have some concerns about sedation.”
    • “Since you had an unpleasant experience with sedation, you want to make sure that it does not happen to Ziggy.”
  • Empathy statements:
    • “Most people have concerns about sedation, when we first mention this as an option. Let’s discuss your concerns.”
    • “Your concerns about sedation are a natural response, let’s talk about them.”
  • Non-verbal communication can be more revealing than the spoken word.
    • Body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact, etc.
    • Observe your clients non-verbals and be aware of your own.

Once you uncover what is causing the pet owner to be apprehensive, you can address those concerns. Safety, during sedation and/or the level of sedation that the pet will retain after the owner takes him/her home, is one of the most common concerns. Discussing your expertise with sedation, how the patient will be monitored, and that you will ensure that the patient is awake before sending them home can allay their fears.

Owners also worry that their pet needs to be sedated because he/she is “bad.” Assuring the owner that their pet is not “bad,” but is frightened, is important.  Describing the pet’s behaviors that are indicating anxiety and fear will help the owner understand why you are recommending sedation. Reinforcing that sedation, by reducing the pet’s level of anxiety and fear, in the best interest of their pet will help the owner understand the need for and benefits of sedation.

After the owner agrees that sedation is the best way to proceed, you can than discuss the options:

1) Return another day, and provide a pre-visit pharmaceutical for the next visit; or

2) Provide in-clinic sedation.

Whichever the client chooses, you can proceed knowing that the procedure will be completed and the patient’s fear, anxiety and stress will be minimized.

This article is brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Zoetis.