Taking your pet to the veterinarian doesn’t have to be a stressful event. And helping your pet, whatever her species, to relax and perhaps even enjoy the trip is something you can do with a little advanced behavior conditioning and training.
The trip to a veterinary practice can be one of the first trips a new pet may take. Creating a positive experience can include your pet’s favorite treats--treats that he may only receive when he goes to the veterinarian’s office--or a favorite toy. Julia McPeek, co-owner and administrative director of AAHA-accredited Harmony Veterinary Center of Arvada, Colo., offers several ideas for stress-free trips to the veterinarian, including tips for both pets and people.
She recommends scheduling a fun visit where you stop by for a little play time, treats, and cuddles, then leave without any kind of examination or treatment taking place. This kind of conditioning can be helpful for pets, encouraging them to think of the veterinary practice as a happy and fun place to visit.
Work with your pet at home and duplicate situations similar to what your pet may experience at the veterinary office, like gently playing with and holding her feet, looking into her ears and eyes, and softly opening and looking in her mouth. Creating these situations in a nonthreatening, and perhaps even playful, way will help your pet be more relaxed with these kinds of experiences during examinations. The more often you repeat these experiences in nonthreatening environments when your pet is young, the more he’ll think of these situations as normal and routine—not just something that happens when he visits the veterinarian.
McPeek says, “Pets pick up on our anxiety, even simple cues and facial expressions that we may not be aware of. They worry that the head of the household, the head of their pack or pride, is anxious. One of the best things is to take long slow breaths, treat the veterinary visit just like any other day, and plan ahead. Having a plan with a few tricks to keep you and your pet calm will help both of you have a more positive experience at the veterinary practice.”
Developing positive experiences during routine car rides can really pay off for both dogs and cats. Begin by taking them for short car rides around the block and returning home. This kind of routine can help pets associate the car with something fun to do and not just with going to see the veterinarian. Planning additional time for play and fun before and after a car ride can also help your pet be less stressed about getting in the car. Start slow, and remember to reward positive interaction and behavior. Training your cat to like his carrier is well worth the time and effort. Read helpful information and view videos about cat carrier training here.
For anxious pets, McPeek says, “Talk to your veterinarian about natural calming treats. These may help your pet stay calm, yet alert and not drowsy. Additional products, like calming hormone sprays, can be used 30 minutes prior to placing your cat in the carrier. And pressure shirts, like the Thundershirt, are another option for calming both dogs and cats.
“If your pet gets stressed around other animals, consider scheduling an appointment during slow times of the day when the veterinary team can take you and your pet right into the examination room. Consider calling 5 minutes before you arrive so they’ll be ready to escort you right into an open room,” says McPeek.
Training and helping your pet feel comfortable before going to the veterinarian is time well spent. Creating a stress-free way to transport your pet, and establishing a happy, relaxing vibe at the veterinarian’s office, will pay off in a lifetime of happy veterinary visits!
Photo credit: iStock images