When taken out of their usual environment, driven to a new place, and then handled by a stranger, most creatures—even humans—may become a bit agitated or frightened. Because we don’t speak dog or cat well enough to explain to our fuzzy family members what’s happening, a trip to the veterinarian’s office for an exam can be quite a harrowing experience.
Fortunately, there are ways we can prepare our pets for vet visits that will take much of the stress out of the experience for them, making life easier for everyone involved. Below are 5 tips any pet owner can use to keep cats and dogs calmer during vet exams:
- Demystify the Pet Carrier—
For cats and smaller dogs that must ride in a carrier for car trips, much of the tension they’re feeling is because they’ve suddenly been placed into an unknown and highly restrictive new environment. For free-roaming animals, being shoved into a small cage can be a very scary experience.
To take the fear out of the crate, place the carrier inside the home for weeks before the vet exam with the door open. Place soft blankets, treats and favorite toys inside, and feed the pet in the crate once they realize nothing bad is going to happen.
Your goal is to make the pet crate a safe and friendly little room they will feel comforted by (rather than frightened of) when exam day arrives.
- Go to a Happy Place—
Once smaller animals are reassured enough by the carrier to be moved, take a trip to the vet with them on a day they don’t have an exam. (If you have a larger dog that doesn’t ride in a crate, but is comfortable in the car, take them to the vet on non-exam days as well.)
Go into the vet’s office and allow your cat or dog to become familiar with their surroundings. Reward them with treats and introduce them to staff members if they have a moment so they won’t be complete strangers the next time you visit.
By soothing your pets and giving them treats at these non-invasive visits, you will be creating positive associations for them that will make them less fearful during the actual exam.
- Don’t Book During Busy Times—
If you have the wiggle room in your life and work schedule to set up exams during slow periods at the vet’s office, this is highly recommended for those with anxious animals.
Booking during off-hours will ensure the office is as quiet as possible for your exam, and that your visit proceeds quickly and efficiently.
- Soft is Soothing—
Give your pet a soft blanket to lie on in the pet carrier to make them feel more relaxed and at-home. Pets have excellent senses of smell, and sometimes the scent of a familiar place can soothe.
Be sure to pull the blanket out during the exam and cover the hard surface of the table, as this will make dogs feel less like they are slipping, and give cats something to grab onto with their claws for security.
- Distractions are Delightful—
Your vet will really appreciate your assistance during the actual examination, so if you can bring things to distract your cat or dog while they’re being inspected and manipulated, this is highly recommended.
Dogs are often easily distracted by food, so consider bringing a treat or new toy to introduce that will really captivate them. Cats can be harder to distract, so treats will need to be novel enough to keep their interest. Favorite toys are also great choices for diverting attention, such as feathers and catnip mice.
If your cat likes to hide under blankets or feels safer inside the carrier, many vets will work around these minor obstructions if it keeps kitties calmer.
By helping your pet to remain relaxed at the vet, you are not only making sure they have a less anxious visit to the pet doctor; you are making the experience better for yourself, your veterinarian and staff, as well as for the other pet owners waiting in the reception area. Use the tips above to give your beloved cat or dog the most pleasant and fear-free trip possible during every vet visit.