Friday, April 20, 2012

White Coat Syndrome?

Yesterday was Alfie's annual checkup.  He was due for a couple of booster shots as well as routine tests to make sure he didn't have parasites (he didn't, yay!) 

Alfie's always done fine at the vet.  He's well-behaved -- a little apprehensive (licking his nose more than usual, etc.), but nothing too severe.  But yesterday afternoon was different.  Since we live right on the edge of town, our vet is a country vet who sees all kinds of emergencies as well as handling more routine stuff.  Yesterday as we walked in, I realized they must be slammed with emergencies. They were very full, all the techs were busy, and it was much more chaotic than usual.  In addition to all kinds of crazy animal noise from the various exam rooms, there was even some kind of angry family squabble that you could hear going on (yikes!)  Alfie crouched down to half his normal height and pressed into me, panting and obviously anxious.  I've always heard that you should try not to be extra-reassuring to anxious dogs, as they'll feel their worry is justified.  So I tried to "act normal," but I couldn't help noticing Alfie just wasn't himself.  

Alfie lying on the green grass, a curious look on his face
 Well, I ask you:  do you like going to the doctor?!

Unfortunately, the busy office meant that our appointment was delayed, and Alfie's anxiety had time to "develop."  When we finally got into an exam room and the tech took his temperature, she looked at me with some alarm.  "Well, how long has he been sick?  Has he been eating okay?" she wanted to know, adding, "His temperature is three and a half degrees over normal!"  I assured her that he'd been fine, and his appetite certainly wasn't suffering...but tried to explain that Alfie seemed to be reacting to the stressful environment.  She agreed, but pointed out that in her experience that usually didn't raise their temperature more than a degree or so!  They finally asked me if I'd be willing to wait a while with him, and see if he improved...obviously, they didn't want to give him any shots if he really was sick!

I know Alfie, and I knew he wasn't sick, just stressed out!  I wasn't sure how long it would take him to recover, though.  But I decided to wait and see if he improved.  We went to the very end room, closed the door, and settled in.  Slowly, things quieted down out front.  I sure wished I'd brought my own book to read...with a sigh, I grabbed their stack of reading material.  By the time I'd gotten through Cat Fancy, Alfie was lying on the floor, his chin on my foot.  By the time I finished Dog Fancy, learning more than I ever wanted to know about everything from Otterhounds to Obesity, Alfie was lying on his side (head still on my foot...of course!)  As the clinic got quieter and quieter, I worked through a nasty assortment of graphic material on heartworms and hookworms.  Bleah!  At long last, our tech returned, and the verdict was...his temp had dropped three degrees!!  Even I was surprised.  They were able to finish his checkup and give him his shots.

Happily, everything else was routine.  The vet praised Alfie's manners, as well as his "beautiful ears, teeth, and coat"  (hooray!)  He was also happy with his weight and fitness.  So, all in all, a good checkup!  

Alfie's sitting up on his haunches, looking up into the camera and reaching both front paws in the air
                          Two paws up for a good report card!

It just seemed crazy to me, though, that Alfie could have such a marked physical reaction to his surroundings.  Has anyone else ever had this experience?  I'd be interested in your comments, if so!  I think next year I will try to schedule his appointment first thing in the morning, and see if the clinic is quieter.  I could also try taking him there when he doesn't have a checkup, giving him treats and positive reinforcement, to help desensitize him a bit.  Still, if it's another crazy day like yesterday, he might just have his fears confirmed!

In the meantime, all is back to normal.  Some of you will remember that last year in the spring, I started working with Alfie on trailing/tracking, with the possibility in mind of eventually working with him to find lost pets.  Several things have come up that have made the "lost pet" venture impractical...but, if anything, I've gotten more interested in tracking!  I've been doing some research into local classes that teach "formal," or AKC tracking, and am now exploring that option.  It turns out that, although labradoodles are considered "mixed breed" dogs by the AKC, they can still participate in competitive tracking as part of the Canine Partners program.  I think this would be a great goal for us to work for!  And, Alfie's always game for a new challenge.  Stay tuned!


Lisa and pups said...

WOW, that's very interesting. We are headed to the vet tomorrow. Merlot for his first puppy visit and Ellie for a follow up visit because she scratched her cornea. My co-raiser is a vet tech, and I was hoping she could help teach Merlot that vet offices aren't scary places since Ellie gets worked up in them.

Beth and Alfie said...

Hope all goes smoothly for Merlot, and that Ellie recovers well!

Sarah and Pups said...

Who knew?! Wow, that is pretty extreme but dont you hate it when the vets doubt whatever you say and they assume a dog must be deathly ill or sick because of a certain diagnosis or behavior? Glad everything was fine in the end :)