Visiting the veterinarian is never high on your pet’s to-do list.
Pets experience fear, anxiety, and stress at the veterinary hospital, for many reasons. Expecting these pets to suppress their emotions and cooperate is unfair, and can negatively impact their veterinary exam, but those are not reasons to neglect your pet’s routine care. Use these at-home preparations to help your pet feel more secure and safe before, during, and after their veterinary visit.
#1: Schedule your pet’s appointment wisely
Unless your pets are closely bonded and co-dependent, take only one pet to the appointment. Single pet appointments are calmer for you and your pet, and allow you to monitor their behavior and body language.
If possible, schedule the appointment during our quiet morning hours. Afternoons and evenings can be chaotic, noisy, and may require a longer wait, which can increase your pet’s anxiety.
#2: Request your pet’s refills in advance
Check your pet’s medications, including flea, tick, and heartworm preventives, and call to request refills before your appointment. Our pharmacy can have your medications ready for pick-up at your visit, minimizing your wait time, and giving you one less thing to worry about.
#3: Write down any questions you have about your pet
When the veterinarian asks you if you have any questions, you may draw a blank—especially if your pet is stressed or behaving inappropriately. Keep a list of questions on your phone, or in your wallet or purse, so you can maximize your appointment time, and get the answers you need.
#4: Make handling a positive experience for your pet
Help your pet understand that handling is a good thing, and not a threat. Create positive emotions by pairing touch with tasty treats. Begin by touching a neutral area, such as your pet’s side or chest, and immediately giving a treat. Gradually progress through their body until you can handle all their commonly sensitive areas, including:
- All four feet
Your handling sessions should eventually simulate a veterinary examination. Keep training sessions short and positive, to prevent your pet from becoming frustrated or bored.
#5: Make your cat’s carrier a happy place
If your cat’s carrier or crate is collecting dust, pull it out of storage, and make it a permanent fixture in your home. Your cat should view their crate as a portable home, rather than something that foretells a scary veterinary hospital trip.
Condition your reluctant cat to enjoy their carrier by purchasing one that is hard-sided, with a removable top half. Introduce the crate gradually.
- Place the bottom portion near your cat’s favorite spot, and add a cozy blanket, treats, catnip, or toys. Elevating the crate slightly will improve its appeal.
- Once your cat is lounging in their new spot, add the top piece.
- Move your cat’s food dish near the crate, and eventually inside.
- Add the door, and begin lifting and carrying the carrier short distances. Use both hands and carry the carrier from the bottom. Return the carrier to its original location each time.
#6: Practice traveling with your pet
Travel can be disorienting and frightening to pets who are not accustomed to leaving home and car rides. Motion sickness can intensify fear and create a strong aversion to vehicle rides, so take these few steps to improve your pet’s emotional travel reactions:
- Keep an empty tank — Prevent nausea by withholding food for several hours before your drive. Request anti-nausea medication, if needed.
- Buckle up — Unrestrained pets are a safety hazard to themselves and you. Keep your cat in a secure carrier placed on the floor behind the driver’s seat. Dogs should travel in seat belt harnesses or secure crates. Introduce your pet to their travel accessories before taking them on the road.
- Drive safe — If possible, avoid sudden braking and turns while driving with pets in the car.
- Chill out — Play relaxing music, or a calm podcast as you drive.
- Test drive — Take short drives with your pet that do not end at the veterinary office. Go somewhere fun!
#7: Prepare special treats or toys for your food-intolerant pet
Positive reinforcement is scientifically proven to improve behavior, and that’s great news, because we love giving out treats at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital. If your pet has a sensitive stomach or a food allergy, bring small, high value treats from home, or a favorite toy if your pet prefers to play.
#8: Talk to your veterinarian about pre-visit anti-anxiety medication
Contact your pet’s veterinarian about pharmaceutical options if your pet has shown severe fear, anxiety, or defensive aggression at the veterinary hospital. Many safe, effective anti-anxiety medications and supplements can reduce your pet’s apprehension, but not make them feel like a zombie. Conduct a trial run by giving any new medications or supplements at home first, so you will know how your pet reacts.
Gentle Touch Animal Hospital may never qualify as a must-see on your pet’s itinerary, but with your careful preparation, training, and attention to their emotional needs, they can become more confident about the process, and we can help. Call us to schedule an appointment.