Don't Let Stress and Fear Keep Your Pet From Veterinary Visits

Make the Proper Introductions

Does your dog or cat have a certain style of making friends? If so, direct veterinary team members on what to do when they enter the exam room. A positive introduction may require an initial play session or asking the pet to perform a trick. For some animals, the best approach is to ignore them until they become comfortable and assess that the staff member is not a threat.

Minimize Stressors

Recognize and address any additional stressors that might contribute to your pet’s anxiety, such as slippery floors and exam room tables. Conditioning dogs to anti-slip booties can help keep them calm. Or bring in her favorite bed or a bathroom mat to place on the exam table or scale.

Practice for Exams

You can train your pet to tolerate touching by unfamiliar people, just as you teach any other skill. Use a command like “pet” and start with familiar people petting the least sensitive parts of the body, like the back and chest. Offer plenty of treats and praise, and as they gain apositive response to the word, graduate to more sensitive areas of the body, like the tail, paws, ears, and mouth. Only progress if your pet remains relaxed and happily anticipates a reward.

Nail trims are one of the most stressful aspects of the veterinary visit. The more training you can do to keep your pet comfortable with nail trims, the better. Touch nails with fingertips, then with a neutral object like a pencil, and offer a reward. If possible, learn how to do nail trims yourself.

Soothe with Scent

Calming pheromones for dogs and cats can be spritzed onto bandanas and into the crate, bedding, or car before the exam. Veterinary-recommended pheromone products also come in a collar form. A dab of lavender or chamomile oil may also be calming when dabbed on the collar or on your own clothing.

Address Pronounced Anxiety

Your veterinary team employs many strategies for keeping dogs and cats relaxed. But when animals get too upset, it’s sometimes difficult to stop the escalation. Talk to your veterinarian about the spectrum of products — from natural remedies to prescription pharmaceuticals — formulated to address pronounced anxiety and fear.

Use a Muzzle

If your pet displays fear-biting, anxiety, or aggression, training him to wear a muzzle protects against bites and also means less force is required during handling, making any outing more relaxed. Try soft cone muzzles for cats and short-faced dogs and basket muzzles for longer-faceddogs. Both styles offer protection and still allow you to dole out small treats.

Whether the veterinary visit is for basic wellness or to address a specific medical or behavioral issue, it’s important that no obstacle stand in the way of providing the best care possible.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of HealthyPet magazine.


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