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Reducing the Anxiety of Veterinary Visits

Just as humans may feel reluctant to visit the doctor, animals are often stressed and anxious about visiting the vet. And unlike humans, we can’t really explain to our four-legged friends that they have nothing to be afraid of and that it’s for their own good. All we can do is hope to help them get through it as calmly as possible.

Why is my pet scared of the vet?

There are many parts of a vet visit that can trigger anxiety in your pet, and of course, if your dog or cat is already sick when they visit the vet, all of these feelings will be exacerbated.

  • Unfamiliar surroundings – the vet’s clinic has many strange smells and sounds
  • Being away from home – this can be particularly stressful for cats
  • Other animals in the waiting room
  • Being handled by strangers
  • The examination or treatment itself
  • React to their owner’s emotions – many owners don’t realize that their own stress can rub off on their pets

5 tips for reducing stress

Avoiding the vet completely is unfortunately not an option. So if vet visits make your pet anxious, the best thing you can do is attempt to reduce their stress levels.

Get them used to car rides

It is especially important for cats to get used to car rides. Dogs usually love car rides as it can mean a trip to the park, however, many cats are only taken in the car for vet visits, so they will ultimately associate it with a negative experience. Cats are also very territorial, and taking them off their patch can make them anxious.

Ideally, you should get your pet used to cars from a young age, but it’s never too late to start. Try putting treats inside the car and let them enter of their own accord, leaving the door open to prevent them from feeling trapped. Once they get used to this, try further steps such as closing the door, starting the car, and moving the car a very short distance.

Get them used to carriers and crates

Restraining your pet in the car is not just a safety issue, but it can also help reduce anxiety by making your dog or cat feel more secure. But you will have problems with this if your pet is scared of the crate or carrier itself. As with the car ride, desensitization is key. Try familiarizing your pet with the crate before the day of the vet visit or car ride. Make sure they are familiar with it, or better yet, try to have them see it as a safe place by filling it with bedding, toys, and treats.

Try a happy vet visit

Some veterinary clinics offer ‘happy visits’. These visits consist of only of petting and treats, with no examinations, vaccinations or treatments. Just setting aside a little bit of time for one of these visits can be a great way to reduce your pet’s negative associations with the vet.

Bring toys and treats

While it might seem too simple to be effective, don’t underestimate the power of bringing along something your pet enjoys. A well-loved toy or a favorite treat will not only distract your dog or cat from what’s going on but will also help them to associate a vet visit with fun and tasty rewards.

Supplements or medication

If you have tried all of the above and your fur baby is still suffering from extreme anxiety whenever you visit the vet, a more direct approach may be needed. There are non-medicated tablets which can calm your pet by increasing the production of serotonin, or pheromone sprays that mimic the pheromones released by an animal’s mother. In more serious cases, your vet may recommend the use of anti-anxiety medication or sedatives.

Reducing Anxiety of Veterinary Visits

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