There was a recent article in one of my veterinary journals that has had me mulling for a few months now. It stated that one of the most common reasons for an owner not to take their pet, particularly cats, is STRESS – the hassle and stress of getting them to the vet, cat hates carrier and car stress and/or dog is scared of entering the veterinary clinic. But, if stress is keeping your pet from seeing the vet, then there are sick pets whose lives are being shortened by well intentioned neglect. The article calculated out a potential number of unseen pets in the high hundreds of thousands annually – too many.

What can be done? Many things can be done beginning at home and before you enter the veterinary clinic setting to help make your pet less stressed. The following tips will help to make you relax as your pet relaxes as well. And, open the conversation with your veterinarian for additional ideas.

For Cats:

    1. Transport your cat in a carrier, preferably a hard-sided plastic carrier with a removable top. The carrier provides a means to safely bring the pet to/from the vet hospital and, if needed, is much more accessible for veterinary staff to open and help access your cat. Additionally, a carrier is much more safe and secure for car travel and prevents your cat escaping should they be frightened by a loud noise or abrupt movement.
    2. The carrier should be a part of the home environment, not just brought out only for dreaded car rides and vet visits. Have the carrier be a part of daily life with a comfy favorite blanket, a place where they get the best treats or other goodies.
    3. Conditioning the cat to travel in the car is also great. Take your cat for a few short car rides before any veterinary visits – gradually extending the length of the drive and rewarding them with the yummiest of treats.
    4. Take a few “happy visits” to the veterinary hospital – visit with cat for a weight check or just a small amount of time at the hospital in the exam room and having a few treats while they remain in their carrier and then home.
    5. Allow time for decompression after arrival for your true examination appointment – the kitty should be allowed to wander the exam room and have some treats for five minutes or more before any handling by a veterinary team member.

For Dogs:

  1. Bring your pup in for some “happy visits” prior to appointments – come into the hospital for some love from staff, treats and a walk around an exam room. For puppies, pop into your veterinarian’s office regularly between visits for vaccines for cuddles, love and attention from staff during their first year of life – this helps to socialize your puppy.
  2. Skip or make their breakfast really small so that they can receive lots of treats for good behavior during their veterinary visit. If your pet, including cats, has a known food allergy, bring some of their food kibble or approved treats to be used by the veterinary staff.
  3. If you have multiple dogs, consider separate visits for each rather than a group visit. This ensures that each dog has a thorough exam and treats without another pet causing distraction or having a negative response that can be contagious between pets.

Sometimes there is no way to make a pet feel less stressed for a veterinary visit, but you should always feel free to ask your veterinarian for additional ideas and approaches for making your pet or pets more comfortable at the vet. Medications, other approaches or sometimes a house call might be best for your individual pet. Don’t let your pets miss out on the veterinary care that can extend their life span because of fear and stress.