Pet Talk: Veterinary visits are essential, but they don’t have to be traumatic
It’s that time of year again: You received notice that your beloved dog, Sam, and your precious cat, Gracie, are due for their annual veterinary visits. Suddenly, your heart starts to beat fast, your palms are sweating and you become anxious. “Not again,” you think — it was SO stressful last time.
Veterinary visits are an essential part of every pet’s life, not only for routine examinations and yearly vaccinations but also for pet emergencies. How can you, as a pet owner, avoid this fear of the veterinary visit? What steps can be taken to reduce your stress and the stress of your pet?
With preparation, these visits don’t need to be stressful, or traumatic, for you or your pet.
1. Familiarize your pet at an early age. Begin taking it to your veterinarian just to say hello, ask for some treats in the waiting room, perhaps weigh your pet, and leave. Make it a positive experience for both of you.
2. Touch your pet a lot. Sounds crazy, right? But starting from Day 1, you should massage your pet’s ears, paws and gums, so when your veterinarian examines your pet, it will be easier to look down ear canals, do a good oral exam and trim nails.
3. Car rides: Take your dog or cat on a car ride. Connect a car ride with your pet with running short errands so that your pet does not associate every car ride with a trip to the vet.
4. Carriers: Don’t use a carrier that your pet only sees when it goes to the vet. Leave that carrier around the house so your pet can enter and leave freely. Even take several trips with your pet in that carrier that do not end in a veterinary office.
5. Use familiar bedding. Take a blanket from your home that has familiar smells and put that in the carrier or give that to the veterinarian, if the pet will stay for the day. Also, lavender and some other natural scents are known to have a calming effect. You could even spray some in the back of the car or on the blanket you take with you.
6. Bring your pet’s favorite kind of treats. If your pet receives positive rewards during the visit with something it really loves, then this will also have a calming and more positive impact.
7. Lastly, you need to calm down. Pets sense your anxiety, and that makes them anxious. Pets that are nervous and anxious can present differently to the veterinarian — for example, have a higher-than-normal temperature. Arrive early for your visit, and walk around. Relax! Some pets even benefit more if you are not present during the exam when you are nervous or anxious. It’s important for you to assure your pet everything is going to be OK.
Dr. Liz Foster is an associate veterinarian at Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center. She can be reached at 970-328-7085.