A trip to the doctor or dentist can be stressful at the best of times. Whether it's the waiting in a small, overcrowded room that you dislike, or the very act of seeing and being treated by a specialist, there are few of us that would voluntarily go to see our healthcare professional if we didn't really need to. Spare a thought, then, for your pet.
When they feel unwell, our natural response is to take our furry, feathered, or scaly friends to see a veterinarian, and their response to such a trip is often much like our own, but amplified. Not only does your pet feel unwell and have no voice to tell you what's wrong, they are now also faced with a scary car journey, a whole host of sharp new sights and smells in the vet's office, as well as the prospect of being poked, prodded, and thoroughly looked over by relative strangers. It's little wonder, then, that many cooperative pets turn into entirely different animals when faced with a trip to the vet. Wouldn't you act out when faced with such extreme stress?
While trips to see the vet are inevitable at some time or another during your pet's life with you, it's important to keep such trips as calm and stress-free as possible. Stress can be incredibly bad for your pet's health, as well as making the veterinarian's job far more difficult. Luckily, there are numerous things that you can do to ensure that the journey, and the subsequent wait for treatment, are as anxiety-free as possible. These tips, shared with the Greeley Tribune by veterinarian Sarah Wooten, include:
- Show your cat that their carrier isn't to be feared by leaving it out when you're at home. If your feline friend is comfortable with its presence, car journeys will suddenly seem less daunting. Ensure that the carrier is kept warm and cozy with a selection of familiar blankets, and try leaving treats inside to encourage positive association.
- Discuss the prospect of keeping your pet out of the waiting room for as long as possible, whether this means sitting with your companion out of sight in the vet's office, or arriving just in time for your appointment. Your vet will be as keen to limit your animal's stress as you are, so never be afraid to ask the question.
- Use treats; positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to win a dog over, so be sure to reward your four-legged friend if they have remained relatively calm for the duration of the visit, or allowed the veterinarian to examine them with little fuss. Try taking your dog to the surgery on an empty stomach as this will make them more likely to react to tasty persuasion tactics.
- Finally, practice happy visits; that is, take your dog to visit the vet on a day that you're not due to attend. Give them treats for staying calm and happy, and allow the surgery staff to pet and fuss your dog. This will ensure that the vet's surgery becomes a safe and happy place, and will allow your animal to relax during more formal visits.
If all else fails, you may wish to speak to your vet about the prospect of sedating your animal prior to a visit, or using anti-anxiety medication to calm them down. There are numerous products on the market that are safe for your pet, but nothing should be administered without a prior consultation.