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Minimizing the Stress of Veterinary Visits

stress-veterinary-visitsYou know it’s important to take your pet to the veterinarian for regular checkups and at the first signs of illness. You probably also know how stressful appointments with the veterinarian can be for both you and your pet. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. With some basic steps, you can minimize the madness and the upset associated with vet visits.

1. Accustom Your Pet to Being Handled

Introduce your pet to close contact at an early age. The sooner in life you begin handling your pet, the more comfortable she’ll be with close physical contact later in life. Gently touch the bottoms of her paws, her toes, and her ears often. Getting her used to the type of contact she will experience at the vet’s office will ensure she is cooperative during veterinary examinations and professional grooming.

2. Use a Carrier for Smaller Pets

Bring your cat or small dog to the veterinarian in a spacious pet carrier. It comforts her in the car and helps her feel secure in the office, particularly with the presence of other animals and many unfamiliar scents. Add a favorite blanket and toy into the carrier for additional security and a welcome distraction. Allow your pet access to the carrier at home, rather than store it out of sight. This encourages your pet to associate it with positive things instead of only with stressful vet trips. Use a leash or harness for larger pets.

3. Prevent Association between the Car and the Vet

If the only time your pet gets into your vehicle is when she’s going to the veterinarian (and maybe the groomer), she’ll quickly associate the look and smell of your car with a generally unpleasant experience. This brings on stress sooner and allows it to build longer leading up to the visit. Take your pet other places in your car, such as to the park or lake. At the very least, take her for occasional rides in the car.

4. Maintain Distance from Others at the Office

If you remove your pet from her carrier for some reason, or if you have a larger pet that’s not in one, keep her a safe distance from the other animals waiting to see the veterinarian. Some or all of the other pets in the room are sick, possibly with contagious conditions, and you cannot assume everyone else’s pet behaves well around unfamiliar animals. In addition, pets in the room are stressed–that’s why you’re reading this, remember? This can make skirmishes more likely.

5. Remain Stress-Free Yourself

Your pet has a knack for picking up on your anxiety and mood. If she can tell you’re stressed out or otherwise upset, she’s likely to become the same. Take a few deep breaths as needed and remain calm. Give yourself plenty of time to get your pet ready and to get to the veterinarian’s office. If you can avoid it, don’t schedule an appointment on a hectic day. Rushing around and being pressed for time only compounds your stress and your pet’s.

6. Prepare for the Appointment

The shorter your time at the veterinarian’s office, the less stressful it will be for everyone involved. Go in prepared to minimize the time spent on the visit. Jot down any questions and concerns you have ahead of time to ensure you get to them all efficiently. Outline your pet’s diet and exercise habits. If you’ve noticed changes to your pet’s sleep, urination or defecation, behavior, or mood, or any other potential symptoms, make a note of them before leaving your house. Everything you remember before you get to the office is one less thing you’ll have to think about after you arrive.

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