Stress At The Vets
How to keep the stress at bay for your pets - an artice written by Dr. Claire Hesling
For many pets a trip to the vet is a stressful event, which in turn makes it stressful for their owners. Unfortunately, going to the vet is just as important for animals as the doctor is for people, and depending on your pet’s health they may frequently be visiting. Finding ways to make their visits less stressful can be really useful to keep everyone happy. Here is some advice on how to make this happen.
Getting your animal used to coming to the vet at a young age and having positive experiences here is very useful in setting them up for a lifetime of stress free visits. The easiest way of doing this in puppies is to enrol them in puppy preschool. Puppy preschool not only gives you tonnes of useful information in behaviour, training and healthcare of your pup but also makes going to the vet clinic fun. They get treats and meet all of their friends at the clinic, instead of just associating the clinic with getting examined and having injections.
Even without puppy kindy you can start positive associations for your dog at the vet clinic. Start by bringing them in regularly just to walk around the reception, have a treat (which we keep behind the counter for them), get some pats, and maybe even get on the scale if they wish. Some dogs won’t even come through the door the first time they come in, and that is fine, reward them for coming as close as they are comfortable and then work towards getting further each time. The more positive experiences they have at the vet the more likely they are to go into consults willingly and happily.
Handling at home:
The examination can be a big part of the stress for animals when they visit, particularly areas which are not normally touched much at home. Working with your pets at home to get them used to having their teeth and paws looked at are particularly useful. To do this wait until they are relaxed and then work on touching their feet,toes, legs and opening their lips. Give them rewards when they allow you to do things in a calm manor. Working on this from a puppy is useful but again it’s never too late to start as long as it’s safe for you to do so.
Cats are a whole different situation to dogs – they often aren’t used to leaving the house, they definitely aren’t excited to see a bunch of strangers or other animals in the waiting room, and generally they just want to stick to what is their ‘normal’. Because of this a lot of preparation for stress free vet visits is about making it as normal as possible.
These are often the signal to your cat that things are about to get stressful. You’ll chase them around, push them into a cage, drive them in a car and then have them come out to be examined by a strange person. The best thing you can do to prevent this stressful workup in your cat is to have the carrier be a safe place for them, and a normal part of their environment. Setting the carrier up in a quiet part of the house with a nice bed for them to sleep in can help. Giving cats or kittens treats in the carrier with the door open. Once the carrier does not send them running anymore then you can work on them being okay with movement. I’ve linked some videos from a great website called international Cat Care on how to do this. It is a process but if you work on it early and then keep things positive it should mean a lifetime of less stress for you and your fluffy friend.
If you need a helping hand to keep the drive in a bit more relaxed you may also want to use Feliway spray in the carrier 15 minutes prior to getting your cat in. This spray is a pheromone, a smell that we can’t smell but that signals to your cat’s brain that it is in its own territory. You can get this spray from any vet clinic, and you may find it useful in other circumstances as well.
Link for carriers:
Getting cats used to the exam is very similar to dogs. Wait until they are relaxed and then start by just patting them. When they are enjoying their pats then move to do a few things that may normally be stressful - little looks in the ears, gently touching their paws, maybe touch their belly. Always go slow and at the first sign of stress move back to what they are comfortable with or give them a break.
Below is a series of links for videos on cat handling that are very useful for many situations, not just
As always, if you have any questions or need advice on your animal’s specific situation don’t hesitate to contact us and we will do our best to help you out. Every animal is different and even if you can’t do any of the above things prior to your consult just let us know that your pet is nervous, stressed, or may become aggressive and we will factor it into how we approach our examination.