Preparing Your Pet for the Vet

A 2019 research article says that as many as 41% of dogs express fear at the vet, while a 2013 survey found that 58% of cat owners think their cat hates the vet - and that number has likely increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic. The stress related to these visits can hold people back from seeking the annual, routine care vital to helping your pet stay healthy and live a long life. Today, we're offering tips and tricks to help your pet learn to love their vet visits!

Tips for Dogs -

  • Ask your vet about Happy Visits! Many vet clinics are happy to schedule pop-in trips with your dog where you show up, your dog gets a bunch of cookies and treats from the staff, and then you leave! This helps build a positive association with the clinic in your dog’s mind. Just make sure you ask your clinic about how to do this - showing up at random times when they’re very busy may just add to the stress!
  • Bring high-value treats. Stop at a drive-thru and get a cheap hamburger, go to the store and get a warm rotisserie chicken, or head to your local coffee shop for a pup cup. While you’re waiting in the exam room, slowly feed your pup small bits of their super duper treat, and then keep it going during their exam. Really powerful food can help your pet forget about what’s happening and focus on the good stuff.
  • Avoid major stressors for 3 days leading up to the vet visit. If your dog is stressed by visitors, other dogs, or other predictable triggers, avoid those experiences for 72 hours before your vet visit. It can take up to 72 hours for a dog's cortisol (stress hormone) levels to drop after an acutely scary experience. You don’t want to combine other stressors with your vet visit.
  • For dogs with serious issues at the vet, ask your doctor about Chill Protocol. Chill Protocol is a combination of anti-anxiety medications administered the day or so before your vet visit that can help your pet relax and arrive calm and sedated, and can make a huge difference in your pet’s experience. There’s also evidence that Chill Protocol medications may prevent your dog from retaining traumatic memories, so that’s a win/win!

Tips for Cats -

  • Getting your cat into the carrier for a vet visit can often be very stressful. Leave your carrier out in the open for a week before the vet visit so your cat gets used to seeing it around.
    • Put a familiar blanket inside the carrier (one your cat uses regularly). The smell will help your cat feel relaxed.
    • Bring your cat to their carrier when it’s time to put them in, rather than trying to chase them around with the carrier! This is much less stressful.
    • Once your cat is in their carrier, cover it with another familiar blanket to surround them with their own scent. Covering the carrier also helps reduce fear on the drive and when entering the vet’s office.
    • When handling the carrier, make sure not to swing it or bang into walls or doors. Carrying it with one hand underneath adds extra security.
  • Use Feliway spray inside the carrier. This is a synthetic hormone that smells like the one mother cats give off when nursing and can be very calming.
  • Do mock "exams” at home! Especially important when your cat is young, but it’s never too late to start. Get your cat used to having their feet handled, check their ears and mouth, and stroke them all over. Pair these exams with a yummy high-value treat like a Churu!
  • Avoid feeding your cat right before going to the vet to prevent car sickness.
  • If your clinic offers a “Cat Only” waiting area, take advantage of that! If they don’t, ask if you and your cat can wait in the car until the exam room is ready.

We hope these tips and tricks are helpful and that you and your pets have happier, more relaxed vet visits.

Contributed by Lauren Rubin, KPA CTP, CPDT-KA, Behavior Coordinator, and Sarah Pentowski, Admissions and Capacity Coordinator

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