We understand that visiting the veterinarian can sometimes be stressful for pets and their owners. But, what if we told you that there are steps you can take at home to significantly decrease your pet’s anxiety during vet appointments? With some simple preparations and positive reinforcement, you can help ensure your pet’s next veterinary visit is smooth and stress-free. Our Emerald Animal Hospital team shares valuable tips on how to prepare your furry companion for a successful trip to our clinic.
#1: Handle your pet at home
Many pets become stressed during their veterinary exam because they aren’t used to having different parts of their body handled. You can alleviate your pet’s anxiety by helping them form a positive association with having these body parts touched. Start by gently touching your pet in a sensitive area, such as their paws, and rewarding them with praise and treats. Gradually work up to lifting and holding their paw. Over time, you can mimic our veterinary exam, paying attention to areas like your pet’s ears, paws, belly, and mouth. These sessions will not only help with veterinary exams but also foster a trusting bond between you and your pet.
#2: Desensitize your pet to their carrier
Your pet’s crate or carrier can serve as a safe and secure place for them during car rides and at our hospital. However, the carrier can be a source of stress if it is only used for veterinary visits. Instead, leave your pet’s carrier out and make it a positive space by placing treats, toys, and bedding inside. Encourage your pet to enter voluntarily and reward them for doing so. Work up to closing the door for a short time. Gradually increase the time your pet spends in the carrier, making it a comfortable and familiar environment.
#3: Train your pet to like car rides
For many pets, the car can be a source of anxiety. Unfamiliar noises, smells, and sensations can put them on edge before they even reach our veterinary hospital. To ease your pet’s stress, start by sitting in your parked car, giving your pet treats, and playing with them. After several sessions, start the engine and reward your pet for remaining calm. Then, take your pet for a short ride around the block, gradually extending the duration. Ensure your pet is safely secured in their carrier or with a harness designed for car travel.
#4: Make our hospital a positive place
Your pet will quickly form a negative association with our hospital if they are poked and prodded every time they visit. You can help change your pet’s perception of the vet by stopping by for happy visits between your pet’s normal appointments. These short visits will allow us to lavish your pet with treats and affection—without any needles!
#5: Bring your pet hungry
Plan your pet’s veterinary visit before their mealtime. Hungry pets are often more motivated by treats and positive reinforcement, making it easier for our veterinary team to conduct an exam and administer any necessary treatments. If your pet has a favorite treat, feel free to bring it along. The familiar treats will evoke positive emotions and encourage them to allow necessary handling.
#6: Communicate with our team
If your pet has anxiety or any specific triggers, it is helpful for our veterinary team to know so we can adapt our approach to make the experience as stress-free as possible. For example, if your pet reacted to having their temperature taken in the past, we can distract them with a tasty treat, such as peanut butter slathered on the exam table, while we perform this task. If your cat becomes anxious around dogs, we can quickly usher you into an exam room or have you wait in your car instead of sitting next to a boisterous dog in the waiting area.
Preparing your pet for a stress-free veterinary visit requires patience, positive reinforcement, and a gradual approach. By implementing these tips and maintaining a calm and reassuring demeanor, you can help your furry friend feel more comfortable during their visits to our clinic. Our Emerald Animal Hospital team is here to provide the best care and support for your pet’s health and well-being—give us a call to schedule your pet’s next stress-free appointment.