Veterinary hospitals, with their strange faces, sounds, and scents, can be unsettling for our furry friends. According to an American Veterinary Medical Association study, more than half of pet owners feel that their pet dislikes visiting the veterinarian, and many owners also are personally anxious about the experience. Wrangling your cat into a carrier or dealing with a carsick dog can be overwhelming. Many pet parents delay regular preventive care for their pet because of the stress. Here are eight preparation tips to help you and your pet have a more positive veterinary visit.
#1: Practice handling your pet
Pets are touched many times during a veterinary visit, which may make them uncomfortable. Perform your own at-home exams by handling various parts of your pet’s body, including their ears, feet, and mouth. Reward your pet during each session with their favorite treat, so they associate handling with something delicious and fun. Your pet will be less anxious about being touched during a veterinary exam if they are frequently handled at home.
#2: Ease your pet’s carrier fears
Cats and small dogs must be transported to our veterinary hospital in a carrier or crate for safety. Unfortunately, many pets associate a carrier only with going to the veterinarian. Here are some ideas for making the carrier a more friendly and less threatening place for your pet.
- Leave your pet’s open carrier in the house, with a cozy blanket, treats, and favorite toy inside.
- Feed your pet’s meals inside the carrier.
- Consider spraying a pheromone analog, such as Feliway for cats or Adaptil for dogs, on the blanket inside the carrier.
- Place your pet inside their carrier for varying amounts of time to learn that the carrier is not only for veterinary visits.
#3: Exercise your pet
A brisk walk or game of fetch before a veterinary visit can help decrease your dog’s tension and make them more relaxed. Never interrupt your cat’s nap to put them in the carrier—play with them first to burn off some energy. Our furry pals are always calmer when they are a bit tired.
#4: Increase your pet’s food motivation
We use food to help comfort or distract your pet, which works best when they are hungry. Skip your pet’s breakfast, or feed only a small meal the morning of their appointment, so they will be more treat-motivated during the visit. A fasted pet can also provide more reliable lab results if diagnostic tests are needed.
#5: Stay calm to help your pet be calm
Many pet owners say their pet “knows” they are going to the veterinarian long before their appointment. If you are nervous about how they will behave, your pet may also become anxious. Try to project a calm demeanor prior to the veterinary appointment, and avoid excess reassurances, or behaving as if something unusual is going to happen.
#6: Provide comfortable pet transport
A positive travel experience sets the stage for a good veterinary visit. Most dogs like car rides, but are safer and more relaxed when contained in a carrier or a seat-belt restraint. Try taking your pet for brief car rides prior to the appointment, play quiet music, and speak in a reassuring tone of voice. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to your appointment, so you can arrive feeling calm and collected. If your dog is prone to car sickness, contact us for medication to help prevent an upset stomach.
#7: Meet-and-greet veterinary visits for your pet
Consider brief visits to our hospital without your pet being vaccinated or handled. They can become accustomed to the sounds and smells, meet our veterinary team members, and get some tasty treats. Your dog may enjoy visiting our doggie day care facility for some fun activity and socialization.
#8: Pet relaxation aids
Some pets are so fearful at a veterinary visit that they need a little more help. If spraying Adaptil or Feliway in the carrier or car is not enough, we can prescribe a mild sedative to reduce their anxiety. Our goal is to help your pet feel relaxed and have a positive memory of their visit.
The Countryside Veterinary Hospital team understands your concern about your pet’s veterinary visit and stress. We are here to make your pet’s experience with us as comfortable as possible, so don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment or consultation.