You know how much anxiety that going to your doctor can sometimes cause you? Now, just imagine if you had no idea where you were, or what was going to happen to you there. You travelled there against your will in a noisy, unfamiliar contraption. And to top it off, there’s a guy in the waiting room yelling at the top of his lungs (apparently just for the fun of it), and another who may be eyeing you up for lunch!
Hopefully you’ve never actually had an experience quite like this, but it may be all too true from your pet’s point of view, with scary car rides and unruly critters in the waiting room. So, what can you do to help turn the potential nightmare of a vet visit into a relaxed and happy experience? Here are a few tips.
Getting your pet used to being poked and prodded from nose to tail at home goes a long way in preparing them for vet exams. Using lots of positive reinforcement like petting and treats is important, and don’t forget to frequently handle their paws and practice looking in their mouths.
If you have a cat or small dog that travels in a kennel, don’t just suddenly bring out this scary chamber to signify an impending vet visit. Instead, keep it accessible and make it comfy and inviting. You may even try feeding your pet inside the kennel. The same goes for car rides—make sure your pet is familiar and comfortable with travel, with most trips leading to fun walks and visiting friends, rather than just ending up at the vet clinic.
Starting at eight weeks old, puppies and kittens should be brought to their veterinarian regularly for wellness exams and vaccines. As well as going a long way in keeping them healthy, these visits also give your pet a chance to become familiar with the veterinary experience in a positive light. This means less stress during future vet visits, when Fluffy may already be dealing with the strain of an upset stomach or a broken bone.
As alluded to above, a busy waiting room can be quite intimidating and even downright scary for your pet. If you have a timid critter or especially one who may feel like they’re being served as lunch (prey species like rabbits), take them to a quieter corner or keep them in the car until their appointment. For smaller pets in kennels, draping a blanket over the kennel to create a private cave can help them feel safe. A spritz of a dog or cat ‘happy pheromone’ before leaving home, or bringing along a calm furry friend for moral support may also help to smooth the whole experience.
And remember, you’re always welcome to bring your critters to the clinic for a ‘fun visit’ just to say hi, maybe practice hopping on the scale, and enjoy a treat or two!
Dr. Amy Hayduk grew up in the Nass Valley of northwest BC and graduated from the Western College of Veterinary medicine as the 2014 “gold medalist” after completing a master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Northern BC. She enjoys all aspects of mixed animal practice with special interests in small animal surgery and equine medicine.