Yelping dogs, strange smells and the cold shock of the steel examination table’is it any wonder that some cats and dogs are terrified of visiting the vet? Dr. Troye McPherson, a veterinarian in Dartmouth, N.S., and a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association council, has some tips.
Pop in to say hi
Dogs and cats may associate going to the vet with scary procedures. To break this pattern, drop in on a regular basis just to say hello and score a treat. ‘We encourage friendly visits,’ says McPherson. ‘We weigh your pet, and they meet everybody.’ Keep the visit brief and positive.
Prep at home
Some pets bristle at being restrained, having their feet or tummies touched, or their gums inspected. Practise these actions at home, and always praise good behaviour with some cuddles and treats afterwards. ‘The more they’re handled, especially when they’re young, the better,’ explains McPherson. ‘This makes them more comfortable during a physical exam.’
Celebrate the crate
Many cat owners haul out their travel crate only when a vet visit beckons, and so the feline negatively associates the carrier with this event. McPherson recommends keeping the crate out so your cat can play or sleep there. ‘Leave the door open and put favourite toys or treats inside,’ she says. Cats that view their carrier as a happy place, and routinely go in and out, exhibit less stress when they’re placed inside for a trip to the vet.
Bring ‘home comforts’
The presence of a familiar object can make the experience seem less threatening, especially if your pet has to stay overnight. ‘People will bring a dog or cat bed to put in the kennel, or even their own T-shirts’something from home that smells of them,’ says McPherson. ‘Pets will curl up on the item, or tuck their heads under it.’
Collars that emit happy pheromones may help cats feel less skittish. For dogs, wearing a Thundershirt (which uses gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety) may ease their worries. ‘Sedatives don’t help pets get over anxiety,’ says McPherson. ‘Medication just masks it.’