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You reach for your dog’s harness and leash and immediately your best friend comes running. We’re going for a walk! We’re going to the dog park! We’re going somewhere! Your dog doesn’t know where exactly they are going but they are going somewhere with you and get to go for a car ride. But wait, we missed the turn for the dog park … where are we going? No! Mom just pulled into the vet’s office. Abort mission!

For many dogs, this is (maybe) what’s going through their heads when they have a vet appointment. There may be some treats at the vet’s and other dogs to sniff, but that doesn’t fool them. The vet’s office is where they get examined by a stranger and it’s no fun. But going to the vet’s is very important for your dog’s overall health and well-being, as well as the perfect time for asking questions, so as responsible pet guardians, we must bring them.

My two dogs give me a “how could you deceive me?!” look when we walk into the office, but I’ve figured out little ways to make the experience not so stressful for them. These tips may help lower your dog or cat’s stress the next time you two have to go to the vet!

Cuddle Your Pet 

No seriously. Give your furry friend lots of love and attention before going to the vet. It’s really scary to have a stranger poking you and giving affection to your BFF will help lower their stress. It will also help lower yours too! Companion animals can also give you a sense of meaning and boost your self-esteem, and they provide you with positive mental energy. They do this by raising serotonin and dopamine levels while decreasing cortisol, just from playing or having a snuggle session.

Make the Car Ride Easier

When a cat or a dog sees a carrier, they tend to get the hint that something bad is about to happen. If this is the case, you can help ease your pet’s anxiety by creating positive associations with the carrier. For instance, keeping the carrier where your dog or cat can always see it is a good idea. If they only see the carrier when it’s time to go to the vet, they will associate it with something negative. Keeping the carrier out where they can see and smell it might help. Don’t forget to put some comfy bedding and treats in the carrier!

Have Medical Records Ready 

When you get to the vet’s office, you don’t want to be fooling around trying to find your pets medical records. Have all the records ready and with you if the vet’s office doesn’t already have them on file. This way all you have to do is check in and sit down with your dog or cat in the waiting room. It’s also important to know what medications your dog is given, as well as any supplements. You can write them down or bring them with you. Either way, it’s best to be prepared.

Bring a Toy

When you go into the room for the check up, it may help to bring along your dog or cat’s favorite toy or treat to help distract them. Bringing a towel or a blanket that smells like home could also help soothe their fears. Remind them that they are safe and talk to them during the check up. My two dogs cling to me during a vet visit and I try to provide as much comfort as I can!

Other Calming Tips

You might want to try a pheromone spray. It contains a synthetic form of the scent dogs or cats use to reinforce their social bonds. Cats, for instance, usually don’t like change by any means and can easily be panicked because of the car ride and then having to wait in the sometimes loud and unknown waiting room. There are also pheromone wipes that you can use to wipe down your pets carrier before they get inside.

Going to the vet’s office is not a fun experience if you have a pet who is scared of going, but remember this is also an opportunity to have all of your questions answered by the vet. It’s important to have a good relationship with your vet because your pet’s health depends on it!

Do you have any other suggestions for ways to make the trip to the vet less stressful? Share in the comments below!

Lead image source: Joe Futrelle/Flickr