Visiting the vet is a stressful experience for many dogs and cats. Is your pet anxious about going to the veterinarian? If so, you may find yourself asking, “how do I prepare my dog or cat for a veterinary visit?”. While it is impossible to make the trip entirely stress-free for your pet, there are steps you can take to make it as enjoyable as possible.
#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.
#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.
#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.
If your pet’s stress increases in the clinic lobby, ask to go directly to an examination room or wait in your car until the team is ready for your pet.
#4: Use food effectively to minimize pet stress
If it is medically appropriate, do not feed your pet 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.
- Provide a long-lasting treat (e.g., a filled Kong or a plate of soft food) for when your pet needs to be still, such as blood draws or a physical examination.
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.
For additional stress-reduction tips, contact us.