Welcome to the brand new Allwest Animal Hospital Blog! Our first blog aims to give you some top tips on how to make a trip to the vet office less daunting. You and I know that you have your furry friends’ best interest at heart, but they are experiencing a whole new world. New smells, other creatures they have never encountered, combined with prodding and poking can all lead to a pretty stressful experience.
The first year of your new puppy or kitten’s life will involve trips to the vet for vaccinations, booster vaccinations, spaying, neutering… Making it an important time to teach them that it is not a scary place to go! The biggest consequence we see of fear in pets, is aggressive behaviour. Ultimately leading to a difficult experience for the pet, owner and vet!
Reducing fear is absolutely a combined effort. There are many things that staff can do at the clinic to help. For example, we can minimise cat and dog interactions, as they do not always get along. We also use pheromonal sprays, Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats, to relax and comfort your pet. Another way to help make seeing the doctor a positive experience is by handing out treats, helping to make your pet feel rewarded during their visit.
So, what can you, as the owner, do to reduce stress?
1. For cats, it starts with the crate, An excellent way to teach them that the crate is not their worst enemy (you know how dramatic cats can be) is to have it open in the house. This way, it smells like them, they can sleep in it and be at one with it. If the only time you get the dusty carrier out from the attic is for the annual visit, they are likely to run away from you and might even make you late for your appointment.
2. For dogs, it starts with the car… If the only time your cat or dog goes in the car is to come to the vet, they will may already start to have a negative association. It is easier to train your pooch to like the car than your kitty. For dogs, you can simply make sure to take them to places they will enjoy such as the park or a lake.
As you are less likely to be taking your cat to the beach (unless they are the adventurous type), you can start by placing them in the crate in the car and giving them a treat. The next day, you can put them in the crate in the car, turn the engine on for a short time, and turn it off, ending with a treat. Eventually working your way up to short trips and finally the trip to the vet. Sorry! Cats can be quite high maintenance!
3. Make a waiting room strategy … Is your kitty particularly high stress? Perhaps wait in the car with her up until your appointment to reduce time in the waiting room. Whilst in the waiting room, covering her carrier with a towel may also help calm those nerves. If your pooch does not like interacting with other dogs let us know and we can try our best to get you straight into the room.
4. Practice, practice, practice!
We can’t emphasise this enough. Practise handling your pet like we will, so touch their feet, ears, tail at a young age. If they are used to be touched, they will be a bit less scared when the doctor comes to do his check. It is also an excellent way to check for any lumps or bumps that you weren’t previously aware of.
5. Make regular visits to the vet
Why not pop in just to weigh your pet and say hi to us? This ensures your pet does not always associate the vet with having their personal space encroached upon. We even stock human treats, so there’s nothing to lose!
6. Bring treats
Sometimes they quite simply don’t like ours. To be on the safe side, bring something you know they love. A plentiful supply of rewards really helps them learn that being at the vet is not so bad after all.
7. Teach your pooch a few commands
For your puppy, knowing how to sit and stay is invaluable at the vet clinic. For example, at the weighing scale if your puppy thinks he is performing a command he will get a reward. This is much better than you having to lift him and keep in place. It also helps keep them distracted from being at the vet as they focus on those all-important treats.
8. Be calm yourself!
Last but certainly not least, keep your nerves down (as well as you can). It is great to comfort your pet and tell them ‘it’s going to be okay’ but be careful not to overdo it. You can very easily pass your nerves on to your pet, they are great at picking up on your energy and if they feel you are scared, they will start to be fearful too.