Is your companion animal ready for a veterinarian check-up? Or maybe you’d like to know how to be well-prepared to provide for your furry, feathery, slimy, or scaly friend’s needs in the event of sickness, injury, or emergency. As animal-loving Green Monsters, we know how stressful vet visits can be (especially if you are a very protective pet-parent)!
People don’t like going to the doctor and neither does your companion animal. Being poked and prodded, restrained, stared at by strangers (doctors and technicians), exposed to suspicious smells – none of this is fun. It’s no wonder many domestic animals develop strong veterinary phobias. But, a vet visit doesn’t have to be scary … for you or your companion animal! In fact, Green Monster veterinary technicians and clients have witnessed animals being excited to see their favorite doctors and technicians! Check out how you can have a positive vet visit experience, while keeping your animal healthy and happy.
1. Stay Calm!
If you are like some protective parents we know, you might be stressed right off the bat simply thinking about taking your animal to a veterinarian….Take a deep breath and STAY CALM! Your animal will likely sense your tension and become stressed as well. We’ve viewed the research in regards to animal companions having the ability to lower human stress when people are in need of help. So let’s do our animal friends a favor and help lower their stress when it’s their turn for healthcare.
2. Come Well-Prepared
Prior to visiting the veterinarian, write out an organized list of notes and questions. A veterinarian’s job is to provide professional medical care for your animal, but a vet should also educate the animal’s caretaker about improving their animal’s health and well-being. It is your responsibility to ask plenty of questions about your animal’s care and to be sure you’ve provided the veterinarian with as much detail about your animal as possible, including normal versus abnormal behaviors. You can also prepare your animal for receiving medical care by getting them used to being restrained, touched, confined in a crate, etc. prior to visiting a clinic.
You might also ask your veterinarian if your animal can come to the clinic a few times for a simple sniff around the place, so that the location is not directly associated with pain and fear. This “practice visit” will also give your animal some time to experience being in a car, which can be very scary for some animals. Oh! And bring a sweater for you and your animal (some clinics can be a bit chilly).
3. Comfy Confinement
When exiting your home with your animal, be sure to keep your companion on a comfortable leash or in a cushy crate. Managing your animal in a confined space will reduce disastrous possibilities such as conflict with other animals at the clinic. Also, if your animal is ill or injured, a this will limit mobility and help keep your animal calm. BUT … Be sure your animal has been crate trained to avoid increased stress! Before visiting a vet, try introducing your animal to being crated by allowing her/him to enter and exit freely, while offering positive rewards (e.g. treats) for entering. It could take a while for some animals to feel comfortable with being in a crate.
4. Offer Your Animal an Ear Massage
If it is needed for your animal to be restrained, ask your veterinarian if you may scratch your animal’s (if your animal is a mammal) ears. Dogs and cats respond well to injections when they are distracted by pressure on their ears (similar if you were to pinch a human child’s ear at the same time she/he was getting a shot). Your dog or cat might not even notice what happened! Rubbing the ears not only functions great as a distraction, you might notice your dog get “high” on ear rubs, since dogs’ ears contain a network of nerve branches that release endorphins (some of the brain’s chemicals that make you calm and relaxed) when massaged.
5. No Spoiling!
When handling your animal at a vet clinic, try not to excessively “baby” her/him. We know it can be hard not to show love or comfort when your animal is whining, shaking, crying, or screaming. But your companion might learn that her/his nervous behaviors will be rewarded with pets, cuddles, and “it’s okays,” and use the same behaviors for every subsequent vet visit – more stress for you and your animal (remember – our goal is less-stress!). Be aware of your own behaviors and how you react to the behaviors of your animal. An appropriate attitude is one that is calm, caring, and observant of the animal’s needs. If your animal is behaving positively, then by all means, praise your animal!
Being distracted from a veterinary clinic? Is that even possible? Yes, especially if you’ve considered the previous five suggestions. You might want to pick up a new toy, train your animal some fun tricks with positive reinforcement, or bring a favorite blanket. Like human children, some animals have limited patience waiting in a veterinary clinic. Therefore, a toy can make the time pass a little quicker for your animal and you won’t have to endure whining or other forms of complaining.
If you trained your animal with positive reinforcement to follow commands such as sit, stay, roll over, etc., exercising these commands at a veterinary clinic will allow your animal to concentrate on tasks instead of focusing on the scariness of the setting.
7. Should You Go Or Should You Stay?
Some companion animals actually behave better for a veterinarian when their caretaker is not present. They might be expecting an exaggerated reaction from you and thus, will use dramatic behaviors. Some animals become more submissive when they are insecure and will allow the veterinarian to handle and restrain them. However, this is not the case for all domestic animals. Many animals will feel much more comfortable knowing their caretaker is right beside them. Know your animal’s behaviors. If your veterinarian is struggling with your companion with you in the room, try leaving for a moment (if you have developed trust with your veterinarian’s methods) to see if the scenario might change.
8. Find a Veterinarian You and Your Companion Animal Will Trust
Of course, all other factors aside, the veterinarian is the most significant aspect of your animal’s visit to the clinic. Perhaps you will want to know that your animal is in safe hands, that you will not be overcharged for the services provided, and/or that your animal will be receiving the best possible medical care without being overmedicated. Be sure to research veterinarian reviews online by other clients to choose an honest and compassionate clinic.
Image source: Tuvez.com