6 Tips to Prepare Your Pet for a Stress-Free Veterinary Visit
Regular veterinary visits are necessary for your pet’s health, but the associated fear and anxiety they may cause are not. Many pet owners delay preventive care because of their pet’s behavior or extreme stress at the veterinary clinic.
Don’t let anxiety keep your pet out of the examination room. Follow these 6 steps to prepare your pet for a stress-free veterinary visit.
#1: Handle your pet at home
The veterinary examination is frightening for many pets, so practice examining your pet at home to build comfort and trust. Since pets are sensitive about their feet, tail, ears, and abdomen, immediately reward any interaction with those areas. Work toward prolonged contact to mimic an examination. A great way to build up to this is having family, friends, & visitors do the same handling exercises to acclimate pets to having others handle them in addition to their primary owner.
#2: Make your cat’s carrier a familiar and safe place
Your dusty cat carrier is a clear signal of stress for your feline. Instead of storing it after every veterinary visit, make it a permanent part of your home. Elevate the carrier slightly off the floor and add a cozy blanket, toys, and treats to make it more attractive. Feed your cat near and then inside the crate to build positive associations. Make sure to regularly clean your cat’s carrier, so it remains an appealing area for your pet!
#3: Strategically schedule your pet’s appointment
Stressed pets are sensitive to their surroundings. Request an appointment during the clinic’s quieter hours to minimize unpredictable noise and activity.
#4: Use food effectively to minimize pet stress
If it is medically appropriate, do not feed your pet for several hours before the appointment to prevent carsickness and improve their willingness to take treats. Effective food use is generous but judicious:
- Bring lots of tiny, irresistible treats, and reward your pet for focusing on you and remaining calm.
Your pet’s stress level can be determined by how they respond to food. If your pet refuses the food or grabs the treat quickly, they are feeling stressed.
#5: Ask about pre-visit medications
If your pet experiences intense veterinary fear or aggression, talk to your veterinarian in advance. Pre-visit anti-anxiety medication may help your pet have a better experience.
Motion sickness also can increase fear and stress, so ask for anti-nausea medication before travel.
#6: Set up a “Happy Visit” for your pet
This is a practice we encourage with all our clients (whether they’re actually puppies or just puppies at heart) where you bring your pet into the facility (please limit visit time and wear a mask during COVID) and you or staff (as available) provide treats for your pet. This reduces “wind up,” where stress begins building in the car on the ride over, elevates further just approaching/entering the building, and peaks in the exam room. If we increase the number of “happy” visits where a positive association is enforced with getting treats and loved on, with no invasive procedures or restraint, it greatly reduces the stress that occurs before the pet ever sees the veterinarian!
For additional stress-reduction tips, contact us.