Trips to the vet’s office are essential, but our pets don't always like it.
It’s understandable; nobody likes to be poked and prodded by strangers! Easing your pet’s anxiety at the vet’s office is possible, but it requires a bit of training and consistency on your part.
Practice at home
The simplest way to begin alleviating your pet’s fear of the veterinarian is to play doctor at home. Teaching your dog to stay calm while being handled will make life easier for everyone involved. Once or twice a week, ease your pet into it by running your fingers gently along his ribs and examining his teeth. Practice holding him in place so he gets used to the limited mobility and try to calm any fears he has about something examining his rear. The more used to it he becomes the less likely he is to be stressed out with the vet doing it too.
Calm your own fears
Animals can pick up on their owner’s feelings much better than fellow humans and if you’re feeling anxious or stressed at the vet’s office your dog or cat will take notice. They’re kind of like emotional sponges that take in what the humans around them are feeling and either adopt the same behavior or become defensive. The veterinary office can be a worrisome place, as you never really know what kind of news you might get, but it’s important to stay calm and positive so it’ll rub off on your pet.
Go for a visit
Many veterinarians are happy to have your pet pop in for a visit without an appointment just to say hi, and some even encourage it. If you’re nearby stop over so he can have a sniff around and socialize with the staff or just have him weighed. All the belly rubs he’ll get will allow him to associate the vet’s office with friendliness rather than just the not so great parts.
Have a safe journey
The trip to the vet’s office can be a precursor of things to come so you want to make that as pleasant as possible for your pet. While dogs often enjoy car rides, cats in particular have a rough time with trips on four wheels. Make sure his crate is stable by surrounding it with blankets to help keep your cat from sliding around during the ride. If your car feels threatened on the way to the vet he’s certainly not going to be feeling all warm and fuzzy about meeting him.
Bring along treats
Treat your visit to the vet like a training session and have treats on hand to give your furry friend when he does something good. He hops on the scale and stands still while they take his weight? Perfect! Toss him a treat. He doesn’t snap at the technician while she takes his temperature? That’s another opportunity to show him he’s doing well. Positive reinforcement and delicious treats are a way to help your dog learn to behave in a positive manner during his regular checkups.
Be honest with your vet
If your dog or cat has behavioral problems when it comes to meeting new people it’s important to be honest about that up front. It doesn’t mean you have a bad pet, just that he needs a little work becoming comfortable around strange people. If your dog requires a muzzle, remember that this might be uncomfortable but won’t hurt him, so don’t fight with the vet over it. Don’t try to make Fluffy out to be an angel if he really acts more like Cujo when he’s feeling stressed.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.