Reduce Stress at the Vet in 11 ways
There are many ways to reduce stress at the vet office. Going to the vet can be stressful for both the pet and owners alike.
Firstly, it's important to choose a vet that handles your pet gently and knows different methods to reduce fear/stress and can calm your pet by offering treats or getting down to your dog's level if your pet doesn't like the exam table. Finding a vet with an approach that works for your pet is important since a stress response can sometimes alter test results and make an accurate diagnosis more difficult. Therefore, it is important to take the time to prevent this and reduce stress at the vet office visit.
A stressful first vet visit is very likely to be imprinted in your pet's memory and would make each future vet visit stressful and cause even more fear and stress.
11 Steps to Reduce Stress at the Vet
1. Get Your Pet to Like the Carrier
Use the carrier with your cat or dog often and avoid only taking it out when going to the vet. A good way is leave the carrier out at home as a place to nap or eat. This reduces stress and your pet will be more likely to go inside the carrier when necessary. This will help to reduce stress at the vet when getting ready to go.
2. Familiarize Your Pet With the Vet
Take a trip to the veterinarian's office on a day when your pet is feeling well. Let your pet explore the waiting room and exam room and give your pet a few treats before leaving. When your pet visits again, they will be familiar with the space and relate it to the good experience they had last time.
3. Familiarize Your Pet With the Car
Take short car rides to get your pet used to it. Pets can often be stressed and scared about riding in a car. Familiarizing them reduces the fear. It helps to take short trips to somewhere fun like a dog park, doggy playdates, a friend's home, or somewhere your pet enjoys. This way, your pet won't relate car rides to only visits to the vet.
4. Choose a Quiet Time for appointments
It helps to schedule your appointment for a less busy time at the hospital will also help reduce stress at the vet. Visiting the vet when it's less crowded will be less stressful for your pet. If that's not an option, it helps to wait in the car until it's closer to the time of your appointment if your pet is very stressed.
5. Get Your Pet Used to Handling
Pets that are used to being handled will be able to tolerate an exam better than those not used to handling. Begin when your pet is a puppy or kitten if possible and get them used to having their paws, ears, tails or other areas handled. Older pets can learn to enjoy or tolerate handling as well if approached in a little-by-little way.
6. Be Prepared and Calm
Be sure you're not exhibiting signs of stress or nervousness. If your pet picks up on emotional cues because you are nervous, stressed or frazzled when heading to the vet, it will add to your pet's stress. Be sure to prepare all your pet's medical history prior to the appointment and have enough time to travel to the location without being rushed. Be aware of the tone of your voice and try to speak in a calm way.
7. Keep Your Pet Secure
Secure your pet by keeping your dog on a harness or cat and other smaller animals in a carrier. This provides safety for your pet, you and other people that may be near your pet. Try to give your pet space from other pets and keep them away from other stressed animals. Try to locate a quiet part of the waiting room away from other curious pets to reduce stress at the vet. If this isn't possible, put yourself between your pet and other stressed animals, or make sure your pet is facing you to avoid worsening tension.
Another trick is to keep yourself in between your dog and any other agitated animals. You can also make sure your dog is facing you (not other animals) to avoid escalating tensions.
Use this time at the veterinarian's office to practice training your dog's good behavior and enforcing that with treats. This will keep your pet focused and busy with less time to worry. You should continue to reward your pet's good behavior throughout the exam and especially after the visit is over.
8. Bring Along a Comfort Item
If your dog has a favorite toy, let him bring it along for the visit. You can also bring along a familiar blanket or one a worn t-shirt. Use these to put on the exam table for more familiarity and comfort.
9. Alert Staff If Your Pet Is Extremely Anxious
Let the staff and veterinarian know as soon as you arrive if your pet is extremely stressed. This allowes time for them to take extra care to avoid exacerbating the situation. If your pet denies his/her favorite treat you'll know that the pet is very stressed. You’ll probably know if this is the case, but if not try offering your pet a high-level treat. If she won’t eat, it means she’s very anxious.
10. Choose a Vet Who Uses ‘Fear-Free’ Handling Techniques
Restraining pets when they are stressed traumatizes them and worsens their anxiety. Unless it's necessary, try to choose a vet who uses “fear-free” handling techniques which are designed to calm your pet through the exam and treatments. These techniques are designed to help calm your pet through necessary exams and treatments and will reduce stress at the vet office. When an animal is trained to receive medical care, it reduces stress, pain and trauma for the animal.
11. Let Your Pet Relax Once Home
Let your pet relax and regroup quietly once you get home. Give your pet space if they want it, but keep an eye on them for changes to behavior or reactions to medications.
Natural Relaxation Aids Can Help Some Pets
Other methods to reduce stress at the vet can be holistic. Some pets are anxious in nature, and might need more help even after taking all the 11 steps listed above. The steps help make vet visits less stressful, but some pets could benefit from a natural relaxation aid if they're anxious in nature. Species-specific pheromones are one option that are a chemical substance that can positively affect an animal's emotional state and behavior. For dogs, the D.A.P. diffuser
for dogs and for cats, Feliway
. If you prefer a more holistic approach, ask to referred to a holisitic veterinarian and ask about traditional Chinese medicine and batch flower remedies that can help to alleviate your pets stress. An anxiety wrap can also be helpful. Nutraceuticals and herbs can also help. Consult with your holistic vet about options of herbs you can use and what is right for your pet.
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