Cat or Dog Scared of the Vet? How to Create a Fear-Free Visit
You know the routine…As soon as you get the carrier out of the closet, your cat goes AWOL. The situation only becomes more dramatic once you get them in the car and simply escalates in the clinic lobby. Or, as soon as your dog realizes that you’re on the way to the vet, they give you the stink eye or try to hide.
Fear of the vet is common among many pets. If you have a cat or dog scared of the vet, how can you ensure good veterinary care without the fear and drama? The team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services is trained to help reduce fear and stress once your pet is here. Our suggestions for reducing your pet’s anxiety and creating a less fearful visit can help you reduce the drama before your visit and while you’re waiting.
Plan Your Trip
One of the most important things you can do to create a drama-free vet experience is to give your pet positive associations with the trip and their crate. Train your dog by getting them used to the visit and by giving rewards during the car ride and at the clinic. Doing this takes planning and consistency, but your pet will be more relaxed over time. Here are a few tips.
- Go for fun rides – Practice getting your dog used to car rides by going to places where they get a reward, like a park, pet store (to buy treats and toys), or a favorite family member’s home. That way, they will associate the car with good things.
- Exercise beforehand – Reduce your dog’s anxiety by exercising them before coming in. A tired pet is a more relaxed one.
- Bring snacks – Entice your pet to go by keeping some favorite snacks in your pocket to reward them while they wait, during the exam, and on the way home.
- Play happy music – Soothing music like classical can reduce stress in humans and our animal friends. Play classical music while driving or enjoy your favorite songs that are upbeat and sing along to them. This can help ease your pet, knowing you are at ease.
- Get feisty cats at ease in their carrier – Many cats rarely see the vet because of their owners’ stress in dealing with their fear and loathing of their carrier. Use these low-stress ways to get your feisty cat to accept, even like, their carrier.
Easy Does It: In the Waiting Room
If your cat or dog is anxious about other animals or waiting in the lobby, it may be better to wait outside or in your car. Just call and let the receptionist know that you’re waiting outside. If possible, fill out your paperwork in advance to reduce the distraction and wait time.
Some pets respond well to toys or activities, like a chew toy or a challenging puzzle. The anxiety-reducing product, Thundershirt, can ease stress in pets and be very helpful, along with soothing pheromone sprays, such as ADAPTIL or Feliway, and flower essences, such as Rescue Remedy.
Tips for a Fearless Exam
Once you are in the clinic, use the following tips to create a lower-stress experience for your pet (and everyone else!).
- Let your veterinarian know that your pet is feeling anxious.
- Keep your treats handy during the examination.
- Use a calm, soft voice when talking to your pet.
- Touch and pet your fur friend for extra reassurance.
We have techniques for putting your pet at ease or distracting them during their exams. Choose a veterinarian who focuses on using Fear-Free techniques. Afterward, plan a special outing to a park or other activity as a great end to a fear-free visit. Keep reinforcing the fact that a trip to the veterinary office can be a good experience for your pet.
Is your cat or dog scared of the vet? Ask us or your regular veterinarian about ways to reduce anxiety during a vet visit. Our goal is for pets and their families to feel supported and cared for during their time with us. We are here for you!