Veterinary Care Where You Need It - In Our Clinic, In Your Home

In-Clinic & In-Home Veterinary Care

5012 1/2 E Hwy 62
Jeffersonville, IN  47130
(812) 590-3081

Quick Tips For Low-Stress Vet Visits

Imagine your mother dropped by this morning with a very large box; without words or explanation she unceremoniously forced you into it, then tossed you in the car and took off. Eventually the car stops and she lugs you into the doctor's office (she's stronger than she looks, that mother of yours). She doesn't seem to understand your repeated questions, so you still have no idea what's going on or why you're here. However, several others seem to be in similar situations. Some are in boxes like you, others are tied to ropes - there's one person who won't stop shouting nonsense, another urinating on a chair leg, and one guy who won't stop trying to lick everyone in the face. Eventually you're taken into another room, dumped out of the box and onto your keister, then poked and prodded for no apparent reason by some strange woman in a white coat. They finish off with a couple of unexpected shots in the rump, then good ol' mom shoves you back in the box and drives you home.

Yeah, I guess that might be a little stressful. 

A little food cajoles most cats...
For some pets there may be no such thing as a "stress-free" vet visit, but we can reduce that stress to manageable levels. It's also important to note that animals deal with stress differently, just like people - some may growl or cower, but acting overly submissive or affectionate can be less-obvious signs too. Today's article covers several simple things you can do to make veterinary visits easier on your furry housemate's nerves (and in turn, your own).

Setting Expectations
Animals are bright, fast learners. If that cat carrier, leash, or car ride always culminates in getting poked in the butt by a stranger, it won't take them long to start freaking out at the first sign trouble is on it's way. I have one diabetic patient whose owner tells me Tiny's fine in the car if they turn left out of the driveway - but turning right always means the vet, and blood draws, and one instantly ticked-off Tiny. Fortunately, pets make positive associations just as easily, so you can undo most of this stress with a little effort.
....and the odd dog. This one
is more odd than most.
  • Get in the habit of setting the cat carrier out once or twice a week with a treat or toy in it. They'll be eager to get in the next time you need to use it for travel.
  • Likewise, take your dog on fun leash walks around the neighborhood regularly if you don't already.
  • Once they are good with the paraphernalia, start taking your dog or cat on short car trips. Bring a food reward or two to make it fun - some fast food places like Sonic keep dog treats at the drive-thru so you can both get a little positive reinforcement.
  • Placing a familiar-smelling item like a blanket in the car or carrier also helps pets relax.
  • Drop by the vet clinic occasionally with Muffy, just to say hello or check their weight. Bring a favorite reward and ask a staff member to offer it.
On a related note, I highly recommend the pet carriers with snap-on tops. It's so much less stressful on everyone to just pop the top off, instead of prying Muffy out only to force her back in afterwards.

There's Stress In Numbers
Stress is additive and contagious. It's tempting to try getting all the pets in at once, and make it a family-fun event, but....Take two hyperactive kids, one mother shouting for them to calm down, then add in your incessantly barking Beagle-buddy to boot, and even the calmest Shih Tzu in the world is going to be on edge.
  • Making veterinary visits an adults-only, single pet endeavor can really go a long way toward lowering the stress levels for everyone - you included. Plus, you get a lot more for your money when you can focus on asking questions and listening to the staff's recommendations without extra kids, furry or otherwise, vying for your attention. 
  • If your significant other likes to argue or won't let you get a word in edgewise, get them a sitter too (my wife says her spouse is like that...). 
  • On the other hand, if you are stressed out - which is okay, and often understandable - your pet will sense that and follow suit. It's always okay to ask to wait outside during the exam, and sometimes it really is less stressful for everyone.

The same strategies can be applied when choosing a vet or setting an appointment:
  • Some clinics have started providing separate waiting areas for cats and exotics, since a room full of barking dogs is pretty much guaranteed to stress them out. 
  • If you're flexible, asking for an appointment at a slower time of day is a good move too.
  • Lastly, the discount walk-in shot clinic is almost guaranteed to have a waiting room full of chaos; that's one of many arguments for paying a little more to see the doctor down the street.

Better Living Through Chemistry
Of course, there are a few pets out there who just aren't going to adapt well to the clinic, car, or carrier no matter what you try. For those guys, there are varying levels of "chemical intervention" we can try to help them out.
What, you don't recognize Benadryl?
  • Mild Anxiety: Pheromone sprays or collars like Feliwayand D.A.P. may be helpful. They're also useful initially in conjunction with the above techniques to take the edge off.
  • Moderate Anxiety: Ask your vet about trying Benadryl. It often provides some sedation and is quite safe for mostanimals at the proper dose - again, ask your vet.
  • Severe Anxiety: There are several sedatives and anxiolytics that can be life-savers for dogs that truly need them; all have the potential for significant side-effects and require a prescription, however, so a good chat with your vet is in order. Furthermore, pets who need this level of intervention for a trip to the vet likely have other behavior issues that need addressed. Remember, Access Vet Care offers house calls - that might be a much better option for routine care.
Lastly, but probably most important - if the stress of veterinary visits is truly tough on you and your pet, consider making an appointment solely to discuss this issue and come up with a plan of attack. You can even consider a consultation without your pet, if need be. Fortunately, though, most dogs and cats can learn to manage a trip to the vet with a just a bit of work and forethought on your part. I'm really not that bad. Plus, I have treats!