It’s no secret that many pets become nervous, stressed, and afraid when visiting their veterinarian. While we love taking care of pets, working with cats and dogs outside their home turf can unsettle them. Cats in particular are most comfortable at home in familiar surroundings, and being stuffed in a carrier, bounced around in the car, and exposed to the strange sounds, smells, and sights at a veterinary clinic can be exceptionally disorienting. Dogs can also feel uncomfortable outside their normal domain, and being face-to-face with other pets in the lobby can send their adrenaline into overdrive, making the entire veterinary visit stressful. To help your four-legged friend love visiting their Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care veterinarian, try the following five tips.

#1: Accustom your pet to being examined

When your pet is being examined, they likely think they’re under attack from all the poking and prodding. These unfamiliar “petting” techniques impart a great deal of information about your furry pal’s health, and are essential for learning about their heart, lungs, abdomen, eyes, ears, and mouth. To help your pet feel comfortable with being examined, practice examinations at home, pairing them with plenty of treats and encouragement. Look over the following areas on your pet for a complete physical exam:

  • Eyes — Looking into a pet’s eyes can seem intimidating, so acclimate your pet to this action. Gently grasp their muzzle in one hand—or under their chin, if they’re flat-faced—and peer intently into their eyes. Go a step further by using your other hand to gently hold the eyelids open. Softly praise your pet during this entire procedure, and then reward them with treats and pets for cooperating. If your pet struggles, let their head go, and allow them to relax before trying again. Training sessions should be brief, starting with your teaching your pet to hold still in one-second increments.
  • Ears — A pet’s ears can be sensitive, so lift the ear flap slowly, and gently wipe the inside with a cotton ball. Reward your pet after each ear has been “examined,” and they’ll soon realize they have nothing to fear.
  • Mouth — The majority of pets have some form of dental disease during their first few years of life, so oral exams are a necessity for ensuring their mouths remain healthy. Start by lifting your pet’s lips to look at their teeth, and then gently grasp the upper muzzle behind the canines, and open their mouth to peer inside. This can be performed quickly. Reward your pet when you’re done.
  • Under the tail — Checking under your pet’s tail may be unpleasant, but it’s necessary, to ensure everything looks healthy. Scratch your pet’s rump before gently lifting their tail for a quick peek underneath, and then offer a reward.
  • Paws — Many pets are sensitive about their paws being handled, but plenty of high value treats and praise can take their mind off what is happening. Have someone give your pet treats while you separate your pet’s toes and examine nail beds.

#2: Positively introduce your cat to a carrier

A carrier that comes out only once a year can be seen as a harbinger of doom. Instead of encouraging that fear with an unfamiliar object, leave the carrier—with the door open—out all year. Place a cozy bed and various treats and toys inside to encourage your pet to explore on their own, or feed them special meals of canned food to entice them inside. With time, your cat will become comfortable with going in and out, and you won’t have such a struggle to place them inside for a veterinary visit.  

#3: Use pheromones to help soothe your pet’s worries

Pheromones are a great natural way to alleviate stress in pets. These species-specific scents impart a calming message, and can work well in conjunction with other stress-relieving tactics. Pheromone products come in sprays, collars, and room diffusers, and can meet all your pet’s needs.

#4: Stop by for happy visits

An unfamiliar place can be scary for your pet, so make a point of dropping by Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care for happy visits. These visits give your pet the chance to come in, sniff around, and accept attention from our team, without going through an exam or round of vaccinations. Come prepared with your pet’s favorite treat, to make the visit more rewarding and fun. 

#5: Ask about pre-visit pharmaceuticals

Some pets become extremely anxious when leaving their home and heading to the veterinarian, and they may benefit from pre-visit pharmaceuticals. These medications are designed to soothe pet anxiety, without making them so sedate they cannot walk. Instead, they take the edge off your pet’s fear and prevent their stress levels from escalating once they walk through our doors. By preventing stress, rather than reacting and trying to manage your pet’s fear once they’re already nervous, we can create a more positive experience for your pet. Contact our veterinarian, to see if pre-visit pharmaceuticals are a good option for your pet.

Visiting your Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care veterinarian doesn’t have to be scary. Drop by for happy visits, and contact our team for more tips on how to help your furry pal have a stress-free veterinary visit.