Vet visits are part of life when owning a pet. They could be infrequent, perhaps only for your pet’s annual health check, or maybe you must visit the clinic a bit more frequently to manage a more chronic illness. Regardless of the reason, at some stage in their lives, all pets will need to see a vet.
Vet clinics can be overwhelming for pets, especially if they have had previous bad experiences at vets. There are new smells, new noises, bright lights and other animals to contend with.
But there are strategies you can implement to help reduce stress for both your pet and yourself. Read on to see our recommendations for a stress-free vet visit.
1. Get your pet comfortable with handling
One of the main reasons your pet may stress about the vet is that they aren’t used to being handled in the ways a vet will. Some pets become agitated when they are pushed and poked, especially when it’s their tail or paws. So, making sure your pet is comfortable is the first step to easing their anxiety. Before you head to the vet, put in some time when your pet is relaxed at home to get them used to being touched in places they may not be used to. This will make them feel more at ease when your vet does need to do a physical examination. It’s never too late to start, but ideally start this when they are young, and they will grow up being comfortable with having their ears/toes examined etc.
2. Explore the vet clinic before their appointment
If your pet doesn’t cope well at the vet, sometimes it’s a good idea to take them to the clinic for several “friendly visits” prior to their appointment to get them familiar with the environment. A vet’s waiting room is full of new scents, other animals and people, so an early visit can gently ease them into it. Create positive associations for your pet at the veterinary clinic on these visits by giving your pet a treat and allowing them to positively interact with the reception staff.
3. Don’t associate their carrier (cats) or leash (dogs) with vet visits
Stress free vet visits can start before you even leave the house. Some cats know that bringing out a carrier means a trip to the vet which can send them running. Try bringing out their carrier a few days before their scheduled appointment if you can, or better yet, use the carrier on trips besides the vet so they don’t begin to associate their carrier with vet visits. Giving your pet some time to explore their carrier will make them more comfortable around it. You can also throw some catnip in there, or something familiar and comforting like a toy or an old t-shirt of yours to help calm them down.
4. Choose a quiet time to visit
If your pet is anxious, and if the visit isn’t urgent, choose a time of day when your vet tends to be less crowded. Visiting when there are fewer other animals around and your wait time is faster will be less stressful for your pet. Generally, avoiding weekends is best, but your vet will be able to tell you the quietest times to avoid your pet becoming more anxious than they need to be.
If this isn’t an option, wait in your car or outside the clinic until it’s time for your checkup.
5. Alert the vet clinic staff if your pet is extremely anxious
If your pet is extremely stressed by going to the vet, let the clinic staff know so they can take extra care and help to avoid worsening the stress.
6. Be prepared
Pets are intuitive, and they can definitely pick up on their owner’s emotional cues. If you’re nervous and frazzled while heading to the vet, it will only add to your pet’s tension. Before (and during) your visit, make a point to talk to your pet in a calm, soothing voice.
Be prepared with your pet’s medical history and leave with plenty of time so you’re not feeling rushed. Other important information your vet may find useful in understanding your pet’s health includes the names of any medications, supplements and/or parasite preventative treatments you’re using at home, as well as their usual diet and exercise regime.
*This information is provided as general information only. For advice and information concerning stressed and anxious pets, we recommend that you seek the advice of your veterinarian.