Pets Going to the Vets
You have finally obtained your furry friend and it is fantastic. Now is the time to take your pet to the vet for examination, check-up and possibly vaccination. But wait, could there be something in between getting your puppy or kitten and taking them to the vet?
It is estimated that 40% of pets in the United States do not see a veterinarian, with the primary reason, because they do not like seeing their pets afraid. Pets fear of the veterinarian is real, but they can be conditioned to be more open to a trip to the vet.
While many dogs and cats are brought to the vet, largely against their will, there are other pets that willingly stroll through the front door in order to get some loving and lap up the treats in the consult. Those pets that love the vet are considered to be ‘conditioned’ to vet visits.
The best ways to condition your pet to the vet visit are:
Take many frequent short car rides and do NOT go to the vet hospital. Make these as pleasant as possible for your dog and finish with a treat.
Take your puppy to the vet just for a visit, treats and some pets from the vet and the nurses. Make several visits with no poking or prodding, apart from pats.
Make sure they are safely contained, on a leash or in a carrier.
Consider using pheromone spray, or collar to reduce stress
Ensure your puppy is on a non-slip surface in the car ride to the vet to prevent sliding.
Bring familiar objects from home such as a toy or blanket.
Condition your cat to their carrier by feeding them in it. This way your cat does not hide when the carrier comes out. Starting this process early is best practice.
Put the carrier in the car and take a short ride but end up at home. Cats can learn how to travel well, like dogs.
Cover the carrier in the car so that they feel like they’re in a cocoon and safe. Make sure you have enough air flow to prevent overheating.
Use a non-slip surface in the carrier so they are not sliding around.
Make short trips to the veterinarian with only positive interaction such as play, pats or treats.
Use pheromone sprays such as Feliway on a towel in the carrier.
Cat carriers that open at the top tend to be less stressful for insertion and extraction, compared with front-loaders with a small door.
Familiar objects from home such as a toy or blanket can make your cat less stressed in the carrier.
All pets are conditioned at different speeds, but the more time you have available to commit to the de-sensitisation, especially when they’re young, the better. The greater the exposure when they’re young with positive experiences, the greater the effect, and the easier they will be behavioural. If many different positive experiences are gained during the sensitive socialisation period the better. Puppies are best exposed between 8 -12 weeks old and kittens 2-7 weeks old. Avoiding unpleasant experiences during this period can be important.
Handling your pet at home in the way the veterinarian will during an exam condition them to be handled in this way in a very safe environment. This may prevent grumpiness from your vet after they are scratched or bitten. Look in their mouth, hold their ears, lift their feet and tail, and lift up their front legs, then the back. Not all at once of course!
If you’ve acquired an adult dog, the same principles apply, but it may just take a bit longer. If your adult pet becomes upset with this type of handling then do not continue and discuss with your vet the best ways to progress. Bad experiences in the home environment from their trusted owner may be exacerbated at the vet clinic.
If these non-medical, introductory trips and the easier handling at home can pay dividends for the life of your pet. They may also result in your pet building confidence. It can take extra time but the results are worth it.
Adaption of the article ‘Acclimating your Pet to the Vet Visit, published on October 2, 2017, and written by Teri Ann Oursler, DVM.