Does your pet dread coming to the vets? Many dogs and cats exhibit some form of anxiety at the veterinary office, just like people get “white coat syndrome.” To be honest, from their standpoint, it can be intimidating. As soon as they enter the door, they encounter different smells and sounds. For cats, they are often brought in a carrier, they infrequently ride in cars, and most of the time when they do, they almost always end up at the veterinary office. At the vet office, their personal space is seemingly invaded. They are handled by “strangers” and sometimes even poked when they get a shot. As pet owners, seeing our pets uncomfortable can be a source of stress to us as well.
Take heart, with a little preparation, there are some things that you can do to make the trip easier and streamline your visit:
1. If this is the first visit to a particular veterinary office, gather records of past veterinary visits or make sure the receptionist at the new office has permission to contact your previous vet office so the new office can obtain records ahead of time.
2. If your pet will need to ride in a carrier, get out the carrier a week or two ahead of time. Let your pet sniff it and investigate it. Leave the door open, sprinkle treats in the carrier, place a favorite toy inside, and spray the inside of the carrier with a welcoming pheromone spray (available at most veterinary offices or pet stores) that emits a calming scent. Once your pet is willing to enter the carrier, try going for a ride to a fun destination. The ride in the carrier with a few treats is the purpose of the excursion.
3. Try practice exams at home. Put your cat or small dog on a counter and touch its feet, ears, tummy and tail. Offer treats after handling each location. If you have a larger dog, practice your exam on the floor. If your pet is nervous around syringes, get a toy syringe and handle it around your pet. You and other family members can even try wearing a white coat or sweater around the house. If the white coat is a source of anxiety for your pets, many vets will gladly refrain from wearing a white coat in the room.
4. Take your dogs for a "just for fun ride" where the destination is the park or a play date with a friend. When conditions permit, bring your dog to the veterinary office for a happy visit where they can come inside for affection and treats - no exam or treatment.
5. Remember, go slow. When your dog starts to act anxious (looks away or starts to yawn) or your cat wanders off - this is a good time to stop. End with a treat and praise rewards and practice again soon.
6. If your pet has a small blanket or favorite toy, bring it to the vets without your pet and let the veterinary office put its scent on it. This will allow your pet to experience the scent of the veterinary office in the comfort of their own home, in a non-threatening environment.
7. Finally, some pets will benefit from calming medication, dispensed by your veterinarian to be used two hours prior to the veterinary visit (and often the night before as well). This helps to "take the edge off.” If your veterinarian recommends calming medication - use it. Remember, a pet's anxiety builds based on past experience. Non-stressful visits help to perpetuate other non-stressful visits and build your pets' confidence.
With teamwork and a little preparation, you and your vet can help build your pet's confidence and ensure non-stressful vet visits for years to come!
The veterinarians of VCA Calvert Veterinary Center have over 35 years of combined experience helping pets stay healthy and happy. For more information about scheduling a dental exam, call today for an appointment at 410-360-PAWS (7297) or schedule online at www.vaccalvertvet.com. VCA Calvert Veterinary Center is conveniently located at 4100 Mountain Road in Pasadena and has been proudly serving the community for over 16 years.