Fear and anxiety is cited as the number one barrier to people accessing the vet services their pet needs. In fact, it’s a much bigger health risk to our pets than even common problems such as dental disease, obesity and pain.
You – as much as us – want to give your pet the best care possible. In an ideal world this involves seeing a vet for a routine annual check-up and vaccinations, popping in every few months to collect worm and flea treatments and to discuss any concerns, ad-hoc visits for dentals and nail clips, and whatever else is required to keep your pet in tip top condition.
But sometimes fear and stress about a visit to the vets can make it feel not worth the hassle for them, or for you. Feeling terrified of the cat carrier, the smell of the practice, or people in scrubs is not pleasant, and if your pet is stressed the chances are you will be feeling it with them. Even if you CAN get your pet through the door and in to the consulting room, consultations are often trickier as your pet is less willing to be handled and examined, and routine care such as nail clips, anal gland care and blood tests can be virtually impossible. Some things can therefore be overlooked and remain undetected, putting your pet at risk of ill health that could have been prevented. Diseases that need constant monitoring such as diabetes suddenly become a lot trickier too.
So what can you do to help calm your pet and turn a dreaded event into something more positive?
Whether they’ve already had a tough experience at another practice or seems like irrational anxiety, talk to us and we’ll come up with a plan to start to make things better for your frightened pet, and you.
Depending on the severity of the anxiety some tricks we suggest include:
- Carrying out a few mock examinations at home. Look in their ears, examine their teeth if you can, play with their toes, stroke around their tail if they’ll let you just so they know its ok being touched and examined, and that they then get lots of fuss and treats for it.
- Leaving any pet carrying cases out for a few weeks in advance of an appointment so they can sniff them, go freely in and out, and not associated it with anything worse. You could occasionally pop a treat in there for them, and make sure bedding smells of them and/or you.
- Doing something relaxing with your pet before you travel to the vets is often a good idea to calm both them and you. Play games, go for a walk, sit and have some cuddles… whatever you and your pet like doing together.
- Ask us about plug-ins and food supplements that might help in the days leading up to a visit. Some products are available that mimic the pheromones found in mother’s milk and can help calm you pet down both in advance and on the day.
- Maybe consider missing a meal or take them hungry so you can reward them at each stage with a treat they’ll really appreciate. We’ve won a lot of dogs over with some doggy biscuits in our pockets!
- Smell is everything to dogs. Make the most of it and spray some lavender or other natural calming scents in the car and at home, and only any bedding you’ll take with you
- If your pet displays sign of anxiety during the visit, try not to make a fuss of them. It’s difficult not to offer what feels like reassurance when we see our pets distressed, but all this does is reinforce their nervousness because they’ll think you’re rewarding their behavior and there is actually something to be afraid of.
If you’d rather arrange a behavioural consultation before deciding how to tackle the issue, we can arrange that for you. We can come up with a step-by-step plan that will hopefully soon get us all to the point where we can get a cuddle from your pet every time they’re in for an appointment – or even just passing the practice. We all love our cuddles! And most importantly, they’ll be working towards a time when they allow us to take the very best care of them when they’re here.
I’ve just got a puppy/kitten. How can I make sure they don’t become scared of visits to the vet?
We take the mental side of health as seriously as the physical, and we aim right from day one to make every visit enjoyable and reassuring for your pet. Once they have been held down for vaccination, wrangled to the floor to get a wormer in or to listen to their heart, they associate that fear with the people and the situation, and pets don’t forget these things! From day one we will cuddle your pets when they arrive, offer a treat bowl you can help yourself to, and treat them respectfully and gently.
We encourage all of our clients no matter what life stage they’re at to pop in whenever they want for a cuddle and a treat (for your pet – not you – unless you ask particularly nicely). Just coming in for a sit down and some fuss for a while before leaving to continue their day shows your pet that nice things happen around as.
Need further advice?
If you’d like to discuss any health, behavioural or dietary issues with us, book an appointment, and we’ll do everything we can to help.
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