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How to Make Vet Visits Less Stressful for Pets

If your furbaby hides under the bed the moment the carrier comes out, you aren’t alone. Veterinary appointments are vital to the health and wellbeing of our pets, but they are often a source of dread and anxiety that can leave your cat or dog nervous or resentful for the rest of the day.

If you’re ready to leave veterinary appointment drama behind for good, here are a few practical tips for turning a potentially stressful experience into a positive one.

Make the car ride to the vet’s office less scary.

For many pet parents, taking the fear out of vet visits begins with taking the fear out of travel. We can’t blame our cats and dogs for dreading their car seats and carriers if the only trips they ever take are for exams and immunizations. 

Help break the association between travel and anxiety by taking your pet on short trips that end back at home, or a fun destination like a playdate or park.

Befriend your veterinarian.

Make your veterinary part of your pet’s trusted circle of friends by getting in some face time between exams. The next time you stop in your vet’s office to pick up medications or ask a question, bring your dog or cat along for a quick hello. Helping your pet see their doctor as a friendly face when they aren’t being subjected to an invasive examination can do wonders for building rapport and easing stress. 

Help your pet get used to being handled.

Part of acclimating your furbaby to a veterinary visit is helping them cope with the exam table.
When your puppy or kitten is young, make a habit of gently handling their feet and touching their ears and belly during playtime. The more your pet learns to associate all-over touch with affection, the less nervous they will be during their next wellness check.

Bring comforting items to your veterinary appointment.

It’s well known that pets use scent to introduce themselves and communicate with other animals. For your furbaby, the lingering presence of other cats and dogs can make the waiting room of your vet’s office feel crowded, even if it is completely empty. 

Fortunately, our pets’ sensitive noses are also great at sniffing out familiar scents, and items that smell like home help make overwhelming environments less scary. Before your next appointment, line your pet’s carrier with a favorite blanket or bring along a favorite plush toy.

Stay calm for your pet at the vet’s office.

If you’ve ever felt like your cat or dog could read your mind, you may be onto something. Studies indicate that our pets can sense our anxiety, and may feel stressed out on our behalf. 

If veterinary appointments are a source of drama for your family, consider what emotions you are projecting. If empathy for your furbaby causes you to get tense during their shots and blood work, it may be easier for both of you if you stay in the waiting room. 

Give lots of positive reinforcement after a vet visit.

One of the simplest ways to help your dog or cat cope with their next exam is by reliably pairing vet visits with treats and affection. Regardless of whether you stopped in for immunizations or just a quick exam, be sure to lavish your furbaby with snacks, cuddles, and praise.

Removing unnecessary stressors and teaching your pet to associate healthcare with their favorite things are reliable strategies for making vet visits positive experiences. With practice and consistency, pets of any age can learn to look forward to their next appointment.