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How To Make Vet Visits Less Scary For Your Pet
Use these five tips to make your dog or cat feel less nervous at their next check-up.
Veterinarians exist to keep our pets happy and healthy. But unfortunately, your dog or cat may not realize that. It’s actually extremely common for pets to develop a fear of the vet. First, your fur baby may have bad memories from getting poked and prodded by the vet in the past that makes them fearful of future visits. Generally, pets tend to feel insecure when they are sick, and being at the vet might make them feel more uncomfortable before they can start to feel better.
Additionally, dogs and cats have a much better sense of smell and hearing than we do. The very scent of the clinic itself may be making your pet nervous. Your fur baby may be hearing the cries of other nervous animals and smelling the strong disinfectants used to keep the vet’s office sanitary. Dogs in particular can smell fear and might be picking up on feelings of anxiety from other pets and their owners. If the other pets are nervous, your pet will think that maybe he has something to fear as well.
That said, trips to the vet don’t always have to be a painful or stressful experience. These five tips will help your pet stay calmer on your next trip to the vet.
Familiarize your pet with being touched and carried.
One of the most important parts of every vet visit is the examination. As part of the examination, your vet will need to touch and manipulate parts of your pet’s body. Similarly, vets or techs may need to carry or handle your pet for routine lab testing or procedures. If your dog or cat is already comfortable with being touched and handled, this aspect of veterinary care may be less nerve-wracking for your fur baby. The best way to get your pup or feline friend used to being handled is through lots of petting and giving treats for good behavior, which is something most pet parents enjoy doing anyway.
Create positive associations.
As much as you can, create positive associations while you are at the veterinary clinic. Give your pet praise and bring some of his favorite, high-value treats so you can reward him during and after each step of the visit. Give your pet treats after the exam (or during if your vet is okay with it), after a shot, or reward him for waiting patiently in the lobby. If your pet begins to associate the vet with rewards, he will feel more excited about his next visit instead of terrified.
Bring a favorite toy or security blanket.
Just like little kids, a special toy or security blanket can help your pet feel safer and more confident. Especially if you’ll be transporting your fur baby to and from the clinic in a pet carrier, it won’t hurt to throw in their favorite toy or blanket before you go. Having a familiar cuddle buddy may help keep your pet calm and comfortable. Ideally, also use a familiar crate or carrier that your pet is already used to traveling in as well.
Keep your own emotions in check.
Your pets can sense your emotions. They know when you are happy and can tell when you are sad or scared. If your pet senses that you are stressed or worried at the vet, they may feel that they also have a reason to panic. But if you stay calm, cool, and collected, it’s a lot more likely that your pet will, too!
Stay with your pet as much as possible.
Similarly, it’s a good idea to stay by your pet’s side as much as possible during his appointment. Being in a strange room filled with unfamiliar people can be nerve-wracking for animals. While we understand what’s happening at the vet, our pets just see strangers poking and prodding them with no context as to why. But if they can look to their owners for reassurance, the process may be less stressful for them.