After working in a veterinary hospital for a while, there are so many stories I could tell about bad veterinary visits. Let’s face it, pets hate going to the vets as much as we like taking them. Some pets, especially felines get so agitated by the new surroundings, new smells, new people and especially new sounds that can overwhelm even the most social pet. There are some tricks of the trade though that I have learned from other owners and from my formal education.
1. Purchase a pet carrier for smaller animals such as cats and leases for larger animals such as dogs. Pet carriers not only allow the pet owner to freely carry the pet however provides a “security blanket” for the stressed out animal. I can not count the amount of times I have had to go out into a client’s car to pry a cat from underneath a car seat. It is not an easy task and can really upset a pet. In addition, a pet carrier also gives protection from other pets that may be in the veterinary hospital at the same time as your visit. A lease will provide assistance in handholding against aggressive animals that may already be in the vet’s office. For most offices, one or the other must be used on a visit. Some veterinary hospitals will not allow an animal to come in the office without the presence of one these two choices. Tip: Before going to a veterinary hospital for the first time, allow the pet to get used to the pet carrier or lease a few times before using.
2. Muzzle usage is suggested for those wild furry friends. A muzzle can be purchase at most pet stores and some grocery stores. The muzzle should fit a little snug around the pet’s mouth, usually only used for canines. Some veterinary hospitals require that a muzzle be used on some breeds, double check before your first visit. Tip: Just as with a lease and pet carrier, get the pet used to the muzzle before using it at the vets office.
3. Know your pet’s health conditions and take all previous records that were not done by that veterinarian. This is especially important when going for the first visit with a new pet. Try to keep records that can be taken to the first visit that contains information such as previous shots, allergies, previous allergies and other necessary information that can help the veterinarian get to know your pet.
4. Take treats along on the visit to the veterinary hospital. Treats such as “dog cookies” or “cat munchies” are useful to divert the anxiety to more important things – food! Personally, we use “dog cookies” as a diversion while getting those unwanted needles pokes. Plus, not only is it a diversion but also positive reinforcement training. If your animal is going into surgery though, make sure treats are not used. At this time, try taking a new fun toy along to create a fun environment.
5. Socialize your pet to learn better socialization skills. Try having more people around the pet, especially when young, so that it can learn that noise and new people are fun instead of being stressful. It is never a good idea to confine a new animal without socialization. Better socialization will increase the animals’ ability to handle all the anxiety that comes to a vets visit.
6. Make special visits to the vets even though it is not necessary. Most veterinary hospitals will allow a pet owner to bring in the pet to be weighted on the weight scale and so. Try taking the pet into the vets a few times a year so that he/she can get used to the people there and all other environment conditions that are associated with the vets office. By making more frequent trips, the pet will get accustomed to the veterinary hospital and may even learn to love to go there.
7. Treat the pet after going to the veterinary hospital. If the pet enjoys something special such as going to the park or getting a “special treat”, try doing this activity after each visit. The pet will then associate the veterinary visit with getting something in return. Just make sure you do it every visit since pets have an incredible memory with fun activities.
By taking the extra steps in preparing the pet for a veterinary visit, it can become a fun task. Always remember to keep positive, even if the last few visits were bad. Pets have a natural sense to tell what the pet owners are feeling. If you are dreading the visit, then the pet will pick up on that and will also dread it. For those pets that are just destined to have a terrible time, talk to the veterinarian about making an appointment that might be less busy. For instance, many veterinary clinics can give you an appointment on a Saturday afternoon when less people are available instead of in the morning when everyone is at the veterinary hospital. Whatever the case, just remember to keep calm and keep working on making a visit better and better each time. We have great vet visits in our house, so I am sure you can too!