You’ve likely been part of this routine at veterinary hospitals before. You head into your pet’s annual wellness appointment, only to have to drag your dog by the leash or carry in your hissing, scratching cat in their carrier. Once inside the lobby, your terrified pet is beset on all sides by barking dogs, yowling cats, and curious children. After clearing that hurdle, your furry pal is set on a cold metal exam table and heavily restrained for a nail trim, physical exam, and vaccinations. Your scared pet dribbles a trail of urine, or maybe defecates out of fear and distress. Once this visit is over, you vow to find a veterinarian who will provide calming, relaxing care to your beloved companion. 

Here at Cranberry Holistic Pet Care, we strongly believe in a stress-free, fear-free approach to our patients’ care. Stress affects pets—and people—negatively, and prevents us from providing gold-standard care for your pet. By implementing low-stress handling techniques and catering to your pet’s needs, we can achieve more with less. To ensure your best friend has a calm, relaxed veterinary visit, follow these 10 easy steps. 

#1: Drop by the hospital for happy visits

If your pet steps their paws inside our hospital only for vaccinations, blood work, nail trims, anal gland expressions, or other unpleasant activities, they likely will have a less-than-stellar opinion of our facility. Instead of visiting only for wellness and sick visits, drop by for happy visits packed with treats, love, and attention from our team. With time and a positive association, your pet will be tugging at the leash to come into our hospital, rather than trying to run back to the car. 

#2: Acclimate your cat to the carrier

Your cat likely equates the carrier with that dreaded annual car ride, so rather than dragging the carrier out of the closet for a yearly veterinary visit, leave it out all the time. Make the carrier a welcoming space with a cozy bed and catnip mouse, occasionally tossing in a few treats. Your cat will wander in to sniff out the snacks, curl up for a nap, and eventually learn the carrier is a safe, comfortable place, and not a harbinger of doom.

#3: Accustom your pet to handling at home

This step is essential for low-stress veterinary visits. Many pets detest having their nails trimmed, their ears cleaned, or their ears examined, all of which are necessary components of health care. Accustom your four-legged friend to these tasks by pairing potentially unpleasant activities with high value treats. Rather than forcing your pet to accept handling, use counterconditioning and positive reinforcement to convince them that a nail trim is a good experience. 

#4: Bring your pet hungry

High value treats go a long way toward putting a nervous pet at ease. Bring your dog or cat to their appointment hungry, and come armed with their favorite treats. Tasty snacks can not only distract them during the appointment, but also reward them for a job well done. 

#5: Use calming pheromones and supplements on your pet

Take the edge off your pet’s anxiety with supplements or species-specific calming pheromones. Wipe down your cat’s carrier with Feliway, spritz some on their bedding, and coax your pet inside 15 minutes after pheromone application. For your dog, you can use an Adaptil collar, or spray the pheromone on a bandana you tie around their neck. Ask our team for recommendations before purchasing one of the many products available, since some ingredients can interfere with your pet’s medications.

#6: Ask about pre-visit pharmaceuticals for your anxious pet

For nervous, fearful pets who become a quivering mass of nerves in veterinary hospitals, pre-visit pharmaceuticals (PVP) that you give at home before their appointment provide excellent relief. These medications will help calm and relax the most nervous of pets, without over-sedation.

#7: Monitor your own stress

Your best friend is incredibly in tune with your emotions, and will easily pick up on your stress. Stay calm, cool, and collected during your pet’s appointment, and you will likely see them mirror your behavior. 

#8: Schedule your pet’s appointment for a slow part of the day

Some pets do not like being with strange cats and dogs, and do best in an empty veterinary hospital. When scheduling your nervous pet’s appointments, ask for the slowest time of day to ensure a quiet, calm lobby.

#9: Minimize interaction with other pets while in the waiting room

Putting pets who are strangers in a room together can be a recipe for disaster, especially when they’re already stressed and nervous. Help your four-legged friend remain calm by avoiding interactions with other pets, keeping your dog focused on you, and covering your cat’s carrier with a blanket.

#10: Choose a veterinary team who practices low-stress handling techniques

Not all veterinary teams have embraced fear-free and low-stress handling techniques, but our team is devoted to minimizing our patients’ fear, anxiety, and stress, to provide a better quality of care. If your beloved companion becomes anxious during veterinary appointments, contact our team for help. We will take the time to assuage your pet’s fears, and ensure they feel comfortable every step of the way.