Many pets—and their owners—feel some measure of stress and anxiety during veterinary visits, but our Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital team wants to make the experience as pleasant as possible for all involved. To help ease your pet’s stress, and thus your own, try the following tips for a stress-free veterinary visit.

1: Acclimate your pet to routine handling techniques

Cuddles on the couch are great for bonding with your pet, but pets must understand common handling techniques to preserve that bond. When your pet is comfortable with you touching their paws, ears, and mouth, they’ll trust you to keep them safe when you perform potentially unpleasant tasks, such as nail trimming, ear cleaning, and toothbrushing.

Acclimating your furry pal to handling requires more than simply stroking their ears and paws. Teach your pet to also tolerate handling of their sensitive areas for essential care tasks with high-value treats, praise, and love rewards. Your pet must associate being handled with positive interactions to remain calm when low-stress veterinary care is performed.

2: Create a comfortable carrier experience

Cats are typically homebodies and the mere sight of a carrier can send them into a panic, because they know a trip outside their territory is imminent. Remove the stress—make the carrier a familiar object in your cat’s life. Leave the carrier out all the time and provide a cozy bed, a catnip mouse, and strong-smelling treats. Prop the door open and occasionally toss in more treats to encourage your cat to explore. If your feline friend refuses to enter the carrier, remove the top, and feed special treats, such as canned tuna packed in water, that they receive only in the crate.

3: Schedule your pet’s appointment strategically

Determine when our lobby will be at its emptiest to schedule appointments strategically. A pack of overexcited pets waiting for their appointment can cause the most easy-going pet to become tense and uncomfortable, so schedule morning appointments whenever possible.

4: Familiarize your pet with Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital

If your pet visits our hospital only when they’re ill or injured, they’ll associate the facility with feeling unwell. Bring your four-legged friend by for a fun visit that involves only pets and treats and leaves them happy. 

5: Bring your pet’s comfort items

Nothing brings more comfort than a feeling of familiarity and home. During your pet’s appointment, bring their favorite blanket, squeaky toy, or plush animal that will invoke positive emotions and make them feel secure and comforted.

6: Pack your pet’s favorite snacks

Pack your pet’s comfort food as well as their comfort items. Stock up on the favorite treats your pet rarely turns down and use them as bribes, distractions, and rewards for their cooperation. Also, ensure your pet arrives hungry and focused on food instead of on the surrounding sights, smells, sounds, and actions.

7: Use calming products

A wide variety of calming products are available and you should try different combinations to find the most effective protocol for your pet. Popular pet-calming products include:

  • Species-specific pheromone sprays and collars
  • Calming supplements
  • Compression wraps

Since these items do not require a prescription, you can purchase products and perform a trial run at home to find the most effective. Then, when it’s time for a veterinary visit, you’ll know the product combination that most impacts your pet’s stress.

8: Remain calm

Model the behavior you wish to see in your pet by remaining calm and confident. Avoid rushing to reassure your pet with, “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK,” and patting them vigorously. Fast-paced actions and words can ratchet up your pet’s anxiety because they detect your tension. Speak calmly, slowly, and soothingly, and pet them with smooth, gentle strokes.

9: Wait in the car

Consider waiting in your car with your pet until the exam room is available. Then, you can walk your pet straight into the room, bypassing the busy lobby and unfamiliar pets and people. When leaving, ask to check out in the exam room instead of at the front desk to reduce potentially worrisome interactions with strangers.

#10: Ask your veterinarian for help

Anxiety is common during veterinary visits and, while we can’t help ease your own worries with medicinal therapies, we can take the edge off your pet’s stress with pre-visit pharmaceuticals (PVPs). Your pet’s stress level will determine the medications we prescribe, and several anti-anxiety and sedative medications can be safely administered at home so they have taken effect by the time you arrive at our hospital. 

Many pets become stressed and anxious during car rides and veterinary visits, but our Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital team can greatly reduce those negative emotions. If your four-legged friend becomes uneasy during their appointments, contact our team for help.