When we get a puppy or kitten one of the first things we should do is take them to a vet for a check- up and to get their first vaccinations, to ensure they get the best possible start in life. It is not only puppies and kittens that need to visit the vet but older pets should also visit the vet annually for their booster vaccinations. Sadly there may be times when an illness or an injury requires them to see a vet. Just like us, all pets are different and some will be very laid back and casually stroll into the vet clinic and enjoy the fuss and treats.
Unfortunately this is not true of many pets and a visit can prove to be very stressful for all concerned. It can be so bad in many cases that the owner refuses to take them as they hate to see their pets stressed.
There are steps you can take to help make the experience as stress-free as possible. Here are some tips to help you and your pet have a more comfortable and positive visit to the vet:
Stay calm and be patient: Pets are very perceptive and will easily pick up on your emotions so if you are showing signs of fear, frustration and anger they will react accordingly. If you stay calm they will stay calm and follow your lead.
Familiarize your pet with a carrier: The first step is to introduce your pet to a carrier that is a suitable size to enable them to move around. Larger dogs will need to get used to sitting on the back seat and should be safely secured and on a leash. Place the carrier, with the door or flap open, somewhere in the home familiar to them, either near to where they sleep or in an area where they walk every day. Place some bedding or an article of clothing with your scent on it in the carrier together with familiar toys to make it a more inviting space for your pet. They will eventually get curious and then you can place a treat inside at the back of the carrier to encourage them to go in. Do not rush to close the door or flap; they will need to go in and out on a number of occasions so they do not view it as a trap and scary place. When your pet seems to accept the carrier as something normal you can then close the opening for short periods of time giving them a treat before you close them in. Stay close so they can see you - it may take quite a bit of time and patience but it will be worth it in the end. Once they accept the carrier as a safe place you can pick it up and walk around with it so they get used to being moved. Eventually you can then take them in the carrier to the car.
Get them used to a ride in your vehicle: The earlier you start getting your pet used to a ride in a vehicle the better. Start by taking short rides until they remain calm and relaxed.
Practice handling your pet: The vet will be handling your pet to physically examine them so get them used to this practice by handling them in a gentle and calm manner at home. Look in their mouth, hold their ears, lift their feet and tail, lift up their front legs then the back legs and rub their bellies and bodies. If there are other people in the home or friends visiting ask them to also do this so they get used to handling by others. This applies to pets of any age if you have not taken them to a vet previously. You could also give them a treat if they behave well during this handling. If at any stage they show they are uncomfortable or show any form of aggression stop and ask an expert – either your vet or an animal behaviourist for advice, as a perceived bad experience at home will only make the problem worse in a strange place.
Schedule the visit when the vet clinic is less busy: A vet clinic is likely to be less busy early in the morning or in the middle of the day and it would be better for your pet if the atmosphere is calm and there are less people and other animals around.
Use pheromone sprays: Consider using pheromone sprays or diffusers to help calm your pet during the visit.
Bring familiar items: Bring your pet's favourite toys or blankets to help them feel more comfortable and at ease.
Reward your pet: Give your pet treats or praise for good behaviour during the visit.
Talk to your veterinarian: Discuss any concerns you have with your veterinarian, and ask for tips and advice on how to make the visit more comfortable for your pet.
By following these tips and taking the necessary precautions, you can help make the experience of visiting the vet as stress-free as possible for you and your pet.