It’s no surprise that some pets are simply spooked when it comes to the veterinarian. Pets experience anxiety for many reasons, including poor socialization, history of a traumatic veterinary visit, and hesitation with strangers. The good news is that going to the clinic doesn’t have to be scary, and pet owners and veterinary teams can take steps to minimize fear and anxiety in pets. Read on for several tips to take your pet’s visits from spooky to sweet.
What’s causing the fright?
If at all possible, try to uncover what exactly makes your pet uncomfortable. Is it the car ride? The waiting room full of howling pets? Being in the exam room? Before taking steps to alleviate your pet’s fear, pinpointing the origin of her fear is key. Take note of your pet’s body language and behavior next time you head out to the veterinary hospital. From the moment you place her in the car until the moment you get home, try to hone in on what makes her tick. Some pets often need more time to socialize and more experiences outside the home to feel comfortable. Others, especially those coming from unknown backgrounds, have more complex problems.
Go for non-ghoulish car rides
If your pet sees the inside of a car only when she goes to the clinic for procedures or vaccines, car rides and the veterinary clinic will have negative associations. Make a point to take your pet for short trips and to visit the vet hospital frequently for a quick hello and a treat, so she sees that veterinary visits don’t have to be scary.
No tricks, just treats
If your pet is motivated by food, use this to your advantage. Pack several different yummy treats for your next visit—preferably small morsels that your pet loves but doesn’t get frequently. Share these with our team so your pet can make pleasant associations. Some pets are more enthralled by an amusing toy or game, so bring along a favorite item from home.
Take the “boo” out of “boogie”
Pet parents and veterinary teams can work together to reduce anxiety in pets by allowing a slow adjustment period. Bombarding pets with attention immediately as they enter the hospital or exam room can cause undue stress and upset. Avoid this by casually acknowledging the pet and then carrying on with a conversation about the visit, allowing Fluffy to quietly and slowly adjust to her new surroundings. For pets who rarely leave the home, adjustment periods are crucial. If, despite having time to cool off, she is visibly stressed, consider rescheduling the exam.
Read the ghostly cues
We can pick up on a pet’s anxiety, fear, or stress level simply by reading her body language. Proper response to these often-subtle signals is essential to your pet’s comfort and to everyone’s safety. While some pets will tolerate typical animal-handling techniques, others prefer a more hands-off approach. Certain pets are more comfortable with their owners nearby, while others become more anxious when mom or dad are around. Some pets dislike their feet being touched, while others hate their ears being examined. Try to pick up on these cues and use positive reinforcement, along with treats and toys, to desensitize these areas. Decide what makes your pet most comfortable, and how best to approach future exams.
Potions, spells, and other aids
Many calming products are available for pets, including:
- Thundershirts — These tight, swaddle-like garments hug your pet, encouraging a sense of security.
- Pheromone sprays — Sprays, diffusers, and collars release an odorless (to people) species-specific scent that is said to have calming properties.
- Supplements and medications — Your veterinarian may recommend other supplements or medications based on your pet’s individual needs and level of anxiety.
It’s hard watching your pet be scared of people trying to help her. Don’t be afraid to contact us for more information or to set up an appointment and let us help reduce your pet’s stress.