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How To Keep Your Pet Calm During A Vet Visit

Pet Care Tips 6 min read
Cat being examined by a veterinarian on an examination table.

Vet visits can be overwhelming for both dogs and cats. When they work in clinics, veterinarians see it all. To help you with your next vet visit, here are my tips on how you can keep your pet calm during a vet visit.

Why Do Pets Get Stressed At The Vet?

Kitties are naturally attached to their homes, this represents their territory and where they feel safe. Cats are very structured with their routines and anything that breaks it can generate stress for them. Some cats can get used to traveling away from home, and everything that comes with it in terms of noises, smells, and unfamiliar faces, but in the majority of the cases, their routine involves spending the days at home.

Although some dogs may associate car trips with fun destinations such as the park or trail, some pooches can get extremely scared and even aggressive when they realize that they are actually going to the veterinarian. The lack of familiarity with the place, the noises and smells in the waiting room, and being handled by strangers are the main reasons for that. A recent study with dog owners actually showed that 30% of dogs are very stressed in the waiting room at the vet. In this research, 6.4% of dogs bitten their guardian at the vet and 11.2% had growled or snapped at the veterinarian. According to the same research, two-thirds of dogs spent more than 20% of the time displaying at least one indicator of stress, and 53.3% showed four or more behavioral signs of stress.

It is common for pets to feel stressed at the vet.

The number of stressed cats during visits to the veterinarian is even higher. Another study found that in many cases the veterinarian is not even able to examine the cat properly because of their stress and aggression. 71% of the cats in this study were reported to have been aggressive to a vet at some point and 24% had bitten or scratched their guardian at the vet.

This is extremely concerning because in some cases, pet owners feel discouraged to take their little ones to the veterinarian for check-up appointments which are essential for a healthy life.

How Can You Make Vet Visits More Enjoyable?

The first thing to consider when you have a pet that gets stressed out with veterinary visits is to check if there are any at-home veterinary services in your area. More and more veterinarians are offering at-home services. This can actually benefit our pets since this option eliminates many stressful factors such as car rides, loud noises, unpleasant smells, and possible contact with other sick animals, for instance.

In case this is not an option, there are few things that can be done to make this experience less stressful for everyone: 

Familiarize Your Pet As A Puppy Or Kitten

Familiarize your kitten or puppy to clinic visits and to manipulations in a gradual and progressive way, and always associate any handling with positive emotions.

The sooner you start taking your pet to the clinic the better, especially when this visit doesn’t include any interventions. The idea is to get them used to the trip to the clinic, the veterinarian, the place, the noises, smells and to associate it with positive experiences. Make sure to have some food or treats and offer them right after as an extra incentive.

Check How And What To Feed Your Pet Before The Visit

Prior to the appointment, check with the veterinarian what should be the best time for your little one’s last meal before leaving the house in order to reduce the chance of vomiting, peeing, or pooping during the trip.

Yorkshire terrier laying down inside a blue and white plastic dog carrier.

Transportation

It’s very important to consider how you’re taking your pet to the veterinarian. A carrier for travel is the safest option and it’s also the most secure way to transport your pet to the vet clinic, especially for cats. This avoids any incidents on the way and especially at the reception when other animals can be around.

Sudden braking, acceleration, sharp turns, and loud noises will only add more stress to this event, so please avoid them and make sure that the temperature in the car is comfortable for your pet.

The ideal carrier should be easy to clean and you should be able to get your pet in and out of it very easily. Be aware of the size of the carrier, your pet should be able to stand comfortably and turn around with no issues. Ideally, the carrier must be sturdy, waterproof, and have a proper opening to allow easy access to the pet. Carriers with removable tops are great options as well because they allow your pet to remain nestled in the bottom while the veterinarian performs the physical examination. Make sure to add a small blanket in the bottom, or even a towel to provide a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and to soak up any possible fluids. 

Each pet must have their own carrier, so in case you’re taking more than one at the same time, please provide each one of them with a proper carrier. Some pets feel more comfortable if you cover the carrier, so this is also an option to reduce stress.

A very common issue pet owners find is to put their pets into the carrier. This normally happens when the carrier is only seen by the pet when it’s time to visit the veterinarian, so it’s easily associated with a stressful situation. You can get your pet used to the carrier, by leaving it open in an area that your pet uses constantly, especially to rest or play, instead of keeping it stored away from them. You can also use it as a place to give treats or to feed your pet so it’s associated with positive experiences as well. 

Arriving At The Vet Clinic 

If possible, you can check with the staff if there’s a quieter time of the day so you can book your appointment instead of staying for a long time in the waiting room. Some clinics can be especially busier in the early mornings so it’s always good to know if that’s the case. 

Another option is to call the vet clinic upon arrival to check-in since some of them allow you to wait in the car with your pet instead of taking them to wait in the reception area, which can be busy and loud. If you have your pet in a carrier, make sure to not tip it or bang it against any doorways on your way into the clinic and always place it away from other animals. 

What To Do After The Appointment

Your pet can be stressed after the visit to the veterinarian, so you’ll have to make sure that you’re not adding any more stress. Remain calm and relaxed at all times, always speaking to your pet in a calm and soothing voice. 

Tricolor cat laying on their back on the couch. How to keep your pet calm during a vet visit.

When you get home, leave plenty of fresh water available and feed your pet according to their regular schedule unless your veterinarian recommended otherwise. If possible, offer treats or at least leave them available. Don’t force your pet to eat treats or food right away and do not force them to cuddle with you if they don’t feel like it. Instead, let them take their time and allow them to rest properly so they can feel better again as soon as possible. 

Medications And Natural Support

If your pet gets too stressed out during vet visits, you could also talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of including prescription medications to reduce the stress of veterinary visits. As all medications have side effects, it’s extremely important to check with your veterinarian first and never give any medication to your pet without the veterinarian’s recommendation. 

NHV has two great supplements that can help with stress and anxiety and that can be added to your little one’s regimen at least 3 weeks prior to their vet appointments.

In case your little one is prone to stress, anxiety, and other behavioral issues, then you can add these supplements on a daily basis:

Matricalm. This supplement helps provide anxiety and stress relief for your pets since it is designed to reduce excitability. Matricalm has powerful herbs in its formula such as chamomile, which contains mild sedative properties, and passion flower, which is an effective and non-addictive sedative that helps cause a feeling of relaxation. Passion flower also has strong anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. 

Lesstress. Lesstress is an all-natural herbal formulation that can help calm dogs suffering from anxiety related to stress, like unwanted visits to the veterinarian. Besides chamomile and passion flower, Lesstress also has Reishi, an herb with sedative properties that also stimulates the immune system, and eleuthero, which helps dogs develop a healthy resistance to stress.

If you need additional information on how to make the best out of your vet visit, take a look at this article.

If you need help deciding which NHV supplements are right for your pet, one of our Pet Experts will be more than happy to assist you, don’t hesitate to reach out. Start chatting with us now by clicking the button below.

Dr. Aline Dias DVM

Dr. Aline Dias DVM

Dr. Aline Dias is a veterinary graduate from the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil. She worked for five years with research in Bacteriology and Virology fields, but she found her true passion in feline medicine. As soon as Dr. Aline immigrated to Canada, she adopted two kittens: Chilli and Keke. Dr. Aline is now a full-time crazy cat lady and when she’s not working at NHV she spends her time spoiling her furbabies or going for walks at the beach.

Published: July 13, 2021

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