Have you ever made an appointment to go to the vet? Have you dreaded the day when you would have to chase your cat around the house, drag her out from under the bed and stuff her into the dreaded carrier, hopefully with no bloodshed on your part? You are not the only one. Even dog, bird, bunny, ferret, guinea pig, iguana, and snake owners struggle to make their pets’ visits to the hospital as stress-free as possible.
Veterinarians don’t like to see our clients with scratches all over their arms and resignation written all over their faces. After years of experience getting our own pets, your pet, and our technicians’ pets to the hospital we have a few tips on making the visit a bit more pleasant for both of you.
Tips for Bringing Your Cat to the Vet
Starting with the kitties of course because they have their own plans…
- Acclimate kitty to the carrier by leaving it out all the time with a favorite blanket/ fleece in there. Give treats or even feed kitty in the carrier. Get her used to going in for a treat with the door open. Close the door for a couple minutes and then open the door with a treat or some playtime (positive reinforcement). Do more acclimating and training around the carrier for 6 weeks before the visit.
- Transport only one cat in each carrier
- Spray or wipe down the carrier with Feliway spray or wipes 10 minutes before getting her to come to the carrier with a treat. These mimic cat pheromones. Cats love the smell of the pheromone.
- Cover the carrier with a blanket in the car. Secure the carrier in the car between seats or with a seatbelt so it does not whip around the back of your car as you take turns and pull the usual Boston driver maneuvers.
- Calm her and let her know you are there by talking during the car ride even if she is howling.
- When you get to the vet try to sit in the cat waiting area if there is a separate one. Don’t put her carrier on the floor in front of a dog. A huge dog muzzle peering into her carrier will freak her out. Try to get her on a table or chair away from curious dog noses.
- When in the exam room open the carrier and let her come out on her own for a treat. You can spray Feliway on the exam table and the towel she will be examined on if your vet has not done this already. If she won’t come out we usually take the carrier apart rather than dragging or dumping her out of the carrier.
All Creatures Veterinary Hospital is a certified Cat Friendly Practice in Salem, MA! For cat vet appointments, look no further than our friendly staff and convenient location!
Tips for Bringing Your Dog to the Vet
- Desensitize your pup to the vet by dropping by just for a ride through the parking lot or a walk up the stairs several times a year. At times you may want to go in to say hi to the team and weigh your dog and give a treat. Have him do a sit stay and maybe have a team member say hello and pat your dog. “Gee that was an awesome visit “, he might be thinking “ treats and no pokes and lots of praise. I could do this again.”
If your dog panics at the vet the visit may occur once per week or more.
- Desensitize your dog during the exam. As Dan Carlson of Walk a Pup explained to our practice during a meeting, the dog will exhibit behavior in the exam room to release his stress. These behaviors are pacing, grinning, yawning, lip-smacking vocalizing with a little growl, and avoiding by hiding under a table or behind the owner. Do not discourage these behaviors as they are helping your dog get rid of anxiety. Desensitization during an exam can occur as the vet gives treats during the exam, as the technician pats the dog and as the team talks to your dog calmly. Desensitization during the exam if your pup gets too anxious the team will take a break and give him time to compose himself and do a known behavior such as sit/give paw for a reward before continuing.
- Try a thunder shirt. The pressure on the torso may calm your dog. We find it helpful for some dogs in the hospital. It is theorized that it comforts dogs by reminding them of the feeling of being utero.
- Talk to your vet about dog calming pheromones. There are collars and sprays that are meant to calm a dog. Our practice has not experienced a ton of success with them in dogs but we have not used them a lot either.
- There are short-acting anti-anxiety meds and sedatives that your vet can prescribe if your pup is still climbing the walls during the exam after all these measures.
- Get behavior training for your dog. When in a stressful situation a dog likes being able to fall back on a trusted behavior and receiving praise.
We hope you find these tips helpful so your pet can receive regular preventative veterinary care and live a long and carefree life with you. Request an appointment for your dog or cat at our friendly local veterinary hospital!