Fear Friendly Vet Visits

There is no mistaking that a visit to your local veterinary practice can make for a very hairy scary visit for your furry, scaly or feathered pet. Lets face it, its not a pleasant experience being frightened out of your mind, not knowing what is about to happen to you.  For your pet, this is exactly what they are thinking when they are pulled out of their comfortable and familiar surroundings, into the car and then into a place full of other critters with different smells and noises. It is often quite a confronting situation for your pet and for pet parents who worry about why their pets may be showing signs of fear.

This is especially so in the extreme weather conditions that we are experiencing this week.

Your pet is very clever at picking up on ‘out of routine behaviours’ of their parents. Remember that time your cat went missing as soon as the cupboard with the cat carrier in it was opened? 

Thankfully there are a number of ways to help make that all important vet visit more enjoyable for your pet. 

Firstly, try to make the car harness or cat carrier part of everyday life. Making the car carrier part of the furniture in the house is a great way of familiarising your cat with the item and creating a friend rather than an enemy.

Taking trips in the car often with your dog to the park or the river, rather than the veterinary clinic is another way of making that car trip less stressful.

There are great vet recommended pheromones for cats and dogs when sprayed in bedding, cat carriers or bandanas, make for a much more relaxing outing. For very nervous patients, a phone call to the clinic to seek supplement or sedative advise before the trip is advisable. Remember to stay as calm as possible and ‘in routine’ yourself as dogs and cats are very sensitive to their owners moods and behaviours and will usually pick up on you being anxious about that upcoming vet visit. Avoid too much chatting and patting of your pet if you are feeling nervous yourself as they usually pick up on nerves through touch and a change in voice pitch.  The radio playing in the car is the best way of calming both you and your pet and remember to run the car for five minutes with the air conditioning on before placing smaller pets in pet carriers and dogs in a vet approved and fitted car harness.

The vet clinic itself can be a big difference maker to the way you and your pet feel during and after the visit. Many practices are now implementing fear free principles into their daily operations to assist in making that vet visit as relaxing for you and your pet as possible.

Fear free principles include friendly and gentle staff willing to take things slow and give behaviour advice, separate waiting, consultation rooms and wards for different species mean minimal challenging smells and noises for sensitive pets. 

In home vet visits for patients that find that trip in the car too much are another way that modern vet practices can look after pets and owners. 

It is important to research the least stressful options for your pet to help minimise any stress associated with their medical care for the long term. Less stress means a happy healthier pet for the long term!

Written by Dr Renee Pigdon