Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vet Phobia and Blood Donation

Today I was thinking about those pets that develop a real fear of going to the vet. What brought it to mind was that I finally cowboyed up and signed up to donate blood. I believe in donating blood, it is simple and it is life-saving.  I also know that only around 5% of people do it.  Why so few?  Well, I have a theory about that. I have donated blood twice before, both times at high school.  Both times were painful.  The first time I fainted.  the second time I had a livid 6 inch long bruise and pain in my arm for a week.  Despite the best intentions, I wasn't in a hurry to do it again.

But high school is over twenty years ago now and the AVMA had a blood drive right in the convenience of the building.  So I went in.  The procedure was simple and really quite inconsequential and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.  The room was calm, the staff relaxed and competent, and I got a snack at the end for being 'good'.  I also has a nice confirmation that my iron levels and blood pressure are well in the healthy range. In retrospect the blood drives at high school were noisy, rushed, crowded and the nurse dug for my vein like she thought I was hiding it somewhere inside my humerus.  How many people, I wonder, had similar experiences with high school or college blood drives, with similar results?  I also suspect that on the first occasion (when I fainted) the scale was rigged to over-estimate kids weights and get more over the donation threshold.

Early experiences are important, no matter what species you are.  Emotional impressions can last for decades and have a negative effect on behavior.  And that is why there are more and more programs to give pets positive experiences on their early vet visits.  Health checks, puppy and kitten socialisation classes in clinics, and making a good first impression--calm, careful, competent--is always a good idea. More, quicker, cheaper can be counter-productive even with the best of attentions.  Doing too much in too much of a hurry might have short term benefits--but lead to lower, poorer levels of care over the client's entire lifetime.  Whether it is a vet-shy dog, alienated pet owner, or just a needle wimp like me....

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