By Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM
It’s that time of year again. You received notice that your beloved dog “Duke” and precious cat “Iris” are due for their annual veterinary visits. Suddenly, anxiety sets in as your heart begins to beat faster, your palms start to sweat and you wonder: “How can I cope with another visit to the vet? It was SO stressful last time.
Veterinary visits are an essential part of every pet’s life, not just for routine checkups and vaccinations, but also for pet emergencies. You, as a pet owner, can avoid the inevitable stress both YOU and YOUR PET typically feel by taking some steps beforehand to minimize the anxiety.
• Familiarize your pet at an early age by taking them to your veterinarian just to say hello, ask the office personnel for some tasty treats in the waiting room, perhaps weigh your pet and then leave. Make it a positive experience for both of you!
• Touch your pet a lot. It sounds crazy right? But starting from day one, you should massage your pet’s ears, paws and gums so when your veterinarian examines your pet, it will be easier for him/her to look down ear canals, do a good oral exam and trim nails.
• Take your dog or cat on a car ride for short errands so your pet does not associate every car ride with a trip to the vet. Provide positive rewards, too, like a trip to your pet’s favorite park along the way.
• Don’t use a carrier that your pet only sees when they go to the vet! Leave that carrier around the house so your pet can enter in and out freely. And take several trips with your pet in that carrier that do not end in a veterinary office.
• Use familiar bedding. Take a blanket from your home that has familiar smells and put it in the carrier or give it to the veterinarian if the pet will stay for the day. Also, lavender and some other natural scents are known to have a calming effect. You could even spray some in the back of the car or on the blanket you take with you.
• Bring your pet’s favorite treats. If your pet receives positive rewards during the visit with something he/she really loves, this will also have a calming and more positive impact
• Lastly, you need to calm down. Pets sense your anxiety and that makes them anxious. Pets that are nervous and anxious can present differently to the veterinarian – for example, they may have a higher than normal temperature. Arrive early for your visit and walk around. Relax! Some pets even benefit more if you are not present during the exam if you are nervous or anxious. It’s important for you to assure your pet that everything is going to be OK!