Does going to the vet scare you and your pet?

Going to the vet is unfortunately one of the trips that causes both dogs and cats to be afraid.  Whether or not they have had a bad experience in the past, you may have a dog that refuses to take a step towards the front door or a cat that yowls in their carrier while in the waiting room.  Then, when in the exam room, your pet might be terrified and will barely move, or could act aggressive, a behaviour you may never see normally.

Sound familiar?
 

Even if your pet is not scared, you can use some of the following techniques to help ensure that they keep happily making their visits.

 
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Dogs that are fearful of the vet clinic

If you have a puppy, you have the perfect opportunity to set them up so that they are not fearful when going to the vet.

Some tricks:

1. Bring your dog to the clinic when they don’t have an appointment.  Take some treats that your dog likes, have them walk into the clinic, possibly get them weighed, have them meet some of the reception staff, and ensure you give them some treats and praise.

2. Practice some of the things they will experience in clinic at home so that they aren’t as scary when they happen there.  For example, perform fake ‘exams’, gently feeling over face, neck, chest, abdomen and legs.  Make sure to give treats throughout.  You can also work on nail clipping (if you’re comfortable), looking in mouth, ears and eyes.

3. Teach basic manners so they know how to sit, lie down, and others so that you can give them direction during a vet appointment.
 

If your dog is very fearful:

1. You can work on practicing some of the things they will experience in clinic as mentioned above.

2. If the car ride or method of transportation to the vet is stressful, you can work on very short trips with a reward at the end.

3. You can work on going to the outside of the vet clinic and giving your dog treats, trying to give them treats and keeping them far enough away that they aren’t very stressed.  You can gradually work your way closer to the clinic and eventually inside.

4. If your dog is incredibly stressed, seeking the advice of a behaviour consultant would be beneficial.


Cats that are fearful of the vet clinic

 
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As cats don’t typically leave the house as often as dogs do, the trip to the vet clinic might be even more stressful. Your typically calm cat may show they are stressed by yowling, urinating or defecating in their carrier, hiding and trying to escape, or behaving aggressively.

If you have a kitten, you have the perfect opportunity to set them up so that they are not fearful when going to the vet.

Some tricks:

1. Bring your kitten to the clinic when they don’t have an appointment.  Take some treats that your kitten likes and bring them into the clinic.  It’s a good idea to go into the clinic prior to taking them in to ensure there aren’t any loud dogs or any animals that might scare them.  You can get your kitten weighed, have them meet some of the reception staff, and give them treats and praise.

2. Practice some of the things they will experience in clinic at home so that they aren’t as scary when they happen there.  For example, perform fake ‘exams’, gently feeling over face, neck, chest, abdomen and legs.  Make sure to give treats throughout.  You can also work on nail clipping (if you’re comfortable), looking in mouth, ears and eyes.

3. Work on getting your kitten used to a carrier.  You can do this at home by having the carrier open so that your kitten can go in and out when they want.  You can also put treats into the carrier or even feed your kitten inside to get them used to it.

If your cat is very fearful:

1. You can work on practicing some of the things they will experience in clinic as mentioned above.

2. If the carrier is stressful for your cat, gradually get them used to it by having it open nearby so they can explore it and encouraging them to enter it gradually using treats.  This process could be lengthy and require many steps if your cat is particularly fearful of the carrier.

3. If the car ride or method of transportation to the vet is stressful, you can work on very short trips, or even just starting with going out to the car and back, with a reward at the end.

4. If your cat is incredibly stressed, seeking the advice of a behaviour consultant would be beneficial.