Many pets battle fear, anxiety, and stress when visiting their veterinarian, whether for a routine wellness visit, a sick pet exam, or simply a monthly weigh-in. If your four-legged friend plants their paws at our front door, you can help prepare them for a veterinary visit and ease their anxiety. Try implementing the following five methods to help your pet experience a stress-free veterinary visit.
#1: Acclimate your pet to handling techniques they may experience during physical exams
One of the most stress-inducing parts of visiting a veterinary hospital for pets is the handling during a physical exam. Many pets are unused to the attention their physical exam involves, and they can feel extremely uncomfortable. Help your pet relax during their physical exam by practicing at home. Carefully palpate and examine each of the following areas on your pet:
- Eyes — Coming directly at a pet’s face can be threatening, especially if a bright light is shined in the eyes. Help your pet feel comfortable with an eye exam by gently holding their head still, peering into their eyes, speaking in a soft tone, and rewarding them with high value treats.
- Ears — Ears are another touchy area for pets, since they are highly sensitive, especially if they are prone to painful infections. Acclimate your pet to their ears being handled by wiping them out weekly with a small amount of ear cleaner applied to a gauze square or cotton ball. Many pets enjoy having the base of their ears massaged, so this can be used as a reward during an ear exam.
- Mouth — Almost all pets over age 3 have some form of dental disease, so an oral exam is a vital part of a physical exam. Scratch under your pet’s chin, and then slowly work your way up their muzzle, gently lifting their lips to check their teeth. If possible, open their mouth to take a quick glance at their tongue and oral cavity.
- Paws — Nail trims are often the worst part of a veterinary visit, so acclimate your pet to paw-handling through regular paw massages. Spread their toes, apply gentle pressure to their paws, and reward heavily throughout the process.
- Under the tail — This is a sensitive area, especially for pets with anal gland issues, so they may become stressed as soon as their tail is touched. Desensitize your pet to their tail being touched by scratching at the base, and then gently lifting up the tail. Food distraction works well for this part of the physical exam.
#2: Teach your pet to love their carrier
Cats often bolt when they see their carrier come out of the closet after a year-long reprieve. Help your feline friend be unafraid by leaving the carrier out year-round. Make the carrier inviting with a soft bed, unexpected treats, and a catnip mouse, so your cat will explore on their own. Consider feeding special meals of canned food in the carrier to further form a positive association.
#3: Overcome your pet’s fear of the car
The car can be another terrifying indicator of an impending veterinary visit, so take your four-legged friend for joyrides around the block, through a drive-thru, or to visit their favorite furry pal. If your pet suffers from motion sickness, speak with our Stone Ridge veterinarian about anti-nausea options.
While you’re in the car and your pet is calm and relaxed, stop by Stone Ridge of Willis for a happy visit, which will serve as a positive experience, since your furry pal will receive only love, attention, and treats while here—no vaccinations, exams, blood work, or nail trims allowed. Our team will dote on your pet, reassuring them that veterinary hospitals aren’t such scary places, and these happy visits will help form a positive association.
#4: Bring your pet hungry
A hungry pet is a highly food-motivated pet, which can greatly alleviate their anxiety. During your pet’s exam, we’ll ply them with their favorite treats to help distract them from needles, handling, and restraint. If your pet is picky about their favorite treats, bring their preferred snack to help keep them occupied.
#5: Ask your Stone Ridge veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication
For pets who need a little extra support in overcoming their anxiety during veterinary visits, we may recommend pre-visit medication you give at home. These medications are designed to help relax your pet without sedating them too much, and will encourage a calm mindset that will form a good experience.
If your pet views veterinary visits with worry and anxiety, help them combat their stress by discussing anti-anxiety options with our Stone Ridge of Willis team. Give us a call, to see how we can help you and your furry pal.