Taking the Trauma Out of Veterinary Visits

Just mention the “V” word and you’re likely to have frantic felines and paranoid canines. But a trip to the vet doesn’t have to be traumatic. Here are some tips for making the experience more pleasant for everyone.

Be calm and upbeat. Animals pick up on our thoughts. If you’re very stressed and anxious, your animal will be, too.

Help your pet relax. Talk to the pet and use calming gestures and vocal tones. Employ all of the techniques you use at home to pamper and relax your pet.

Leave your cat’s carrier out all the time. Put a towel inside and sprinkle it with catnip. The cat will associate the carrier with a pleasant, private place to nap rather than a ride in the car. And if he doesn’t hear you getting the carrier out of a closet, he won’t have the opportunity to wedge himself under a bed.

Get your animals used to riding in the car. Even a quick spin around the block will help your dog or cat associate riding in the car with a pleasant experience. Open the windows a bit and tune the radio to a classical music station. Classical music is soothing to animals. When you get home, reward your “traveler” with some treats. Never leave your animal alone in a locked car, even for a few minutes.

Make sure your animal can tolerate being handled. Touch his feet and toes, open his mouth, look in his ears, and get him used to being touched on all parts of his body.

Socialize your animals. Try to get your cat or dog accustomed to hearing, seeing, and being touched by many different people. Even leaving a television or radio on for strictly indoor cats will help them get used to the sounds of different human voices.

Lavish your pet with praise. During the vet visit and afterwards, reward your animal with praise for being calm and cooperative. Some treats on the ride home will make him think the whole experience was worthwhile. Some treats on the ride home will let them know they are special.

The goal of any vet visit is that the pet’s perception of the visit was good. We will likewise do everything in our power to make the visit as low stress and even fun as possible. 

Calming products like L-tryptophan and pheromone sprays may be useful to help relieve your animal’s fear, nervousness, and aggression. An occasional animal may benefit from a light dose of tranquilizer to help take the edge off. It has been shown that tranquilization is far superior for the overall health of the animal than stress and its accompanying high adrenaline levels. When tranquilized, an animal is aware of its surroundings and procedures, but unable to react or or especially over-react.

If you have concerns about your pet’s visit and would appreciate a consultation for the proper course of action, please call.

Author: Diane Noll, D.V.M., Hometown Veterinary Care

Copyright 2005. Updated 10/2012.