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Remove Fear From Vet Visits

Fear Free

Does your dog or cat hide when you mention the words vet visitYou’re not alone! According to a Bayer Veterinary Study, 37% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners say their pets hate going to see their veterinarian.

The very best way to have pleasant vet visits is to start them off on the right paw when they are puppies and kittens. Let’s face it; it’s a stressful environment. They get put in the car or a crate and driven to a funny smelling building filled with strangers and a lot of commotion. They have people they don’t know poking them, holding them down, and sometimes doing things that hurt. It’s no wonder your pets (and you) are stressed out.

Believe it or not, you might be adding to their stress from the get-go. Do you rush home from work, grab your pet, and dash to the appointment? With a fearful pet, this sets them up for failure. Here are a few tips to have a relaxing visit.

If your pet hates car rides, it may be because all the rides are to places that cause stress (vet, groomer). Help them by taking fun, short car trips that involve treats and a playtime. Take your dog on a ride to the beach or the woods for a hike. A cat can just go for a “no reason” ride. Make them short, offer treats, and give them a lot of love. Once home, let them relax. Do this frequently, so they start to connect car trips with something other than stress-makers.

Now that you’re taking your pet on car rides, occasionally stop at your vet’s office for a “hello” visit. My vet welcomes these visits. The staff at my vet’s office love to see us stop in for a hug and a treat. They know that these visits ultimately make their job easier.

Try booking early morning visits. Most offices are less hectic in the morning, they aren’t behind, there may be less commotion, and a shorter wait to upset your pet. Leave with plenty of time to get to the appointment. Avoid rushing; that stresses you out, and your pet reads your stress like a book – it upsets them. So leave early, turn on some classical music (it’s been proven to relax animals and humans), and have a peaceful ride.

Fear Free

To help remove fear from vet visits, many vet offices now have “species-specific” waiting areas, these dog or cat-only waiting areas are helpful. If your dog is high anxiety, you might try a Thundershirt or wait outside with your pet. 

Once you get in the exam room, don’t act differently than you normally do. I remember one of my very first visits to the dentist; my mom said, “don’t worry it won’t hurt at all” and I knew right then, it was going to hurt. So don’t tighten up on your dog’s leash, don’t talk in a different tone of voice, don’t pet them or hug them any more than you normally would. Just let them sniff around the room and give them an occasional treat.

Many vets will examine pets on the floor because those high exam tables can be scary. Make sure everyone (this means you) keeps their body language calm and relaxed. My vet gives treats throughout the entire visit, from the minute we walk thru the door until we leave. Now my dog loves his vet and the entire staff.

Many vets are now part of or practice the Fear Free program; a certification that helps make vet visits fun. They can help you and your dog have a stress free visit. 

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  1. I will be sure to take my dog on more frequent car rides in order to get him comfortable with going to the vet. Last year, I forgot to take my dog to a vet clinic. I think that I will schedule an appointment for a checkup.

  2. I wanted to thank you for these tips for visiting the vet. I’m glad you said that you should visit the vet office for a short visit if you’re taking your pet on car rides. This seems helpful if it could let the pet be more familiar with the building so they won’t be too scared of it.

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