While we love caring for pets, they don’t always feel the same about veterinary professionals. In fact, many pets are fearful, anxious, and stressed at veterinary hospitals, so don’t feel embarrassed if your pet doesn’t love us as much as we love them. Although some stress is an unavoidable component of veterinary care, we can reduce your pet’s anxiety in a multitude of ways. Implement the following methods at home, to prepare your four-legged friend for a stress-free veterinary visit.
#1: Practice your pet’s physical exam at home
Practice makes perfect, so spend time before the main event running through a standard physical exam with your furry pal at home. Most pets aren’t accustomed to their ears, eyes, mouth, and paws being checked out, and they certainly shy away from an examination underneath their tail. Help your pet feel more comfortable by spending time manipulating and looking at these key areas, rewarding them after each part of your at-home physical exam.
#2: Teach your pet to love their carrier
The same thing happens every year. You bring out your cat’s carrier, and your feline friend bolts for cover under your bed. Next, a battle to get your cat into the carrier ensues and, while you may emerge victorious, you likely shed a little blood along the way. Prevent this annual fight by teaching your cat to love their carrier, or to at least enter willingly. Leave the carrier out all year long, with treats, catnip, a favorite toy, and a cozy bed inside, to encourage your pet to explore their carrier. You may have to leave the top off the carrier in the beginning, but once you feed your cat’s favorite snack inside, you can place the top back on, and leave only the door open for your pet to come and go. With time, your cat will become desensitized to the carrier, and walking inside will not be a big deal.
#3: Drop by our clinic for an exam-free visit
If your pet visits Westerville Veterinary Clinic only for exams, vaccinations, blood work, and other potentially unpleasant activities, they likely develop anxiety as they walk through our door. Reduce your pet’s stress during appointments by dropping by, armed with your pet’s favorite treats, for exam-free visits in between appointments. Our team will dish out snacks, pets, and praise, to help your furry pal feel more at ease in our clinic.
#4: Come prepared with a hungry pet
Many pets are food-motivated—a hungry pet more so. Positive reinforcement accomplished through treats can help soothe your pet’s anxiety during an exam, and provide a tasty distraction while we vaccinate, examine, draw blood, trim nails, and perform other unpleasant tasks.
#5: Schedule your pet’s appointment during the slowest part of the day
Like many physicians’ offices, we can run behind on appointments. Unforeseen issues, such as requiring additional diagnostic testing, emergencies, and lab equipment malfunctions, can throw us off our carefully planned schedule. We try our best to see your pet at their scheduled appointment time, but sometimes we are delayed. Avoid a lobby full of pets by asking that we schedule your pet’s appointment at the beginning of our time block, or during the slowest part of day, to minimize potential weight time that can contribute to your pet’s anxiety.
#6: Bring along the comforts of home
The comfort of familiar items in an unfamiliar setting can reduce your pet’s stress, so bring along a favorite blanket, chew toy, or stuffed animal to help them relax. If you have an easy-going pet who loves visiting our hospital, consider bringing along a pal who can provide moral support for the pet being examined.
#7: Ask our veterinarian if anti-anxiety medication is right for your pet
Many pets experience fear, anxiety, and stress at veterinary hospitals, but medications given at home before an appointment can allow the drugs time to take effect before your four-legged friend becomes anxious and afraid. Anti-anxiety medications can be slightly sedating, but these products alleviate your pet’s stress, and help change their mindset associated with veterinary care. By bringing pets’ fears under their threshold, we can safely and comfortably examine and care for these nervous cats and dogs.
Make this year your pet’s best annual exam yet by preparing them for a stress-free veterinary visit. Contact our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team to see if pre-visit pharmaceuticals are a good option for your pet, and for additional stress-reduction tips you can offer at home.