Some people like to be scared. Going to a scary movie or walking through a haunted house at Halloween causes tension and an adrenaline rush that actually is fun for many people. I love being surprised by someone in a haunted house and having a good scream. But I know I am safe in that situation. For some pets and their owners, a visit to the vet can be scary and cause stress. It's no surprise that in a recent survey showed that many pet owners reported just the thought of bringing their pet to the vet caused them stress.
Making visits less stressful for pets and owners is a strong focus in veterinary medicine right now. There are many advantages to decreasing the amount of stress in a veterinary visit. Most importantly are those pet owners are more likely to bring their pet in for preventative health care and our patients are much happier and easier to work on when they are calm and happy.
Decreasing anxiety and stress associated with visits to the vet start at home. There are many things pet owners can do to help their pet have a more pleasant experience getting to and being at the vet.
Getting your cat used to its carrier is a great way to prepare for any source of traveling. Leave the carrier out all the time for your cat to explore, put some treats in the carrier and spray calming pheromone spray (Feliway) on the carrier and bedding. The best cat carrier has an easily removable top, so once at the vet, the lid can be removed and the cat can stay in the bottom ½ of the carrier.
You can also help your dog feel more comfortable with vet visits with some preparation. Socializing your dog will help in many different situations, including vet visits. Puppy and obedience classes are excellent ways to make your dog more comfortable in social situations. Getting your dog accustomed to being examined and restrained will also make a vet exam less foreign to your pet. Examine your dog’s ears, eyes, and teeth. Touch his toes and massage him all over. You can also bring your dog into the vet hospital for “happy visits.” We love it when one of our dog patients comes to visit us just to get some treats and love.
Speaking of treats, bring your pet in hungry. There is no better way to get to a dog’s heart than treats. Some cats will even respond to their favorite treat. Of course, we have lots of treats at the hospital, but if your pet is picky or has dietary restrictions, bring some of their treats with you. If your pet is more play motivated than food motivated, bring the favorite toy. Play is just the opposite of fear, right?
Some pets are so anxious they do need some sort of sedation to make it through a vet visit. Your veterinarian will help you decide what mediation makes the best sense for your pet. Give the medication as directed, far enough in advance that it has kicked in before you leave your home. If you aren’t sure how the medication affects your pet, do a test run a day you aren’t planning a vet visit.
Thundershirts, pheromone sprays (Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats) and calming supplements are other options that might help decrease stress and anxiety.
Lastly, there is something you need to leave at home when you are bringing your pet to the vet, YOUR fear and anxiety. Your pets are very in tuned to your emotions and if you are nervous, they will be also. Listen to calming music on your way to the vet, talk calmingly to your pet and let your pet know everything will be fine.
I hope some of these ideas help make things easier on you and your pet for future vet visits. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, [email protected]. You can also visit our Facebook page and our webpage, www.wildernessvet.com.