Top Ten Strategies for Preventing Veterinary-Related Fear in Pets

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1. Kennel Train – Kennel train your pet and make being in the car for short, fun rides a part of life. Incorrectly, many pets are only put in kennels and cars to go to the veterinary hospital.

2. Fun Visits – Go to the veterinary hospital for fun visits during errands. Go in, weigh your pet, give a treat and leave. Bring your pet when you go in to purchase food, prescriptions or other products. Participate in puppy or kitten socialization classes if offered at the veterinary hospital.

3. Hungry Pet – Always skip the meal before the veterinary visit so your pet is hungry. Food tastes better when you are hungry. Bring in a special food for small treats that your pet only gets for these visits. Ask each veterinary staff person you meet to offer your pet one of your treats. Ask the DVM to give your pet a treat when he or she first enters the exam room.

4. Pheromones – Put a fresh new dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) collar on your dog or spray Feliway in the cat carrier the night before the visit. Both these pheromone products have a mild calming effect on the pet.

5. Extended Exams – Ask your veterinarian if you can separate out the exam from the vaccine visit for the same fee. Or ask if you can pay for an extended exam to avoid a rushed physical exam so the DVM can go slowly to avoid a negative experience.

6. Medications – For panic prone pets, ask your veterinarian about options to lower anxiety similar to what dentists offer to fearful patients. Be willing to pay for anti-anxiety and pain medications to protect your pet from both emotional and physical pain. Tell your veterinarian that your goal is for your pet to enjoy visiting the veterinary hospital.

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7. Hiding Place – Bring cats in kennels covered with a towel or in pillowcases. Cats are less stressed if they can hide. If your cat needs to stay for a procedure, bring in a brown grocery bag and ask the veterinary staff to put the bag in the kennel, BEFORE they put the cat in.

8. Exercise -Take dogs on long walks before the veterinary visit to empty out and reduce stress. Engage your cat in a long session of interactive play. Being tired helps to reduce anxiety.

9. Be Relaxed – Resist the temptation to soothe your pet in ways that may reinforce fearful behaviors. What gets rewarded gets repeated. Instead, act happy and relaxed to provide your pet emotional leadership. Your pet is more likely to relax if you are relaxed.

10. Wait Outside – If your pet is fearful of other pets, especially cats who fear dogs, ask to wait in your car with your cat until an exam room is ready. Cover the kennel with a big, fluffy towel. For dogs, let the vet staff know the plan, then instead waiting inside, go for a short walk or wait outside while giving treats and practicing obedience cues.

Authored by: Rolan Tripp, DVM

Rolan Tripp, DVM is a Veterinary Behavior Consultant and founder of www.AnimalBehavior.Net. He helps pet owners nationwide solving pet behavior problems by working with the local attending veterinarian who handles all medical issues. He can be reached at (800) 372-3706 x82 or RTripp@AnimalBehavior.Net.

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