Stress Free Veterinary Visits


Just like people, pets all have unique personalities.  Some are relaxed, easy going and love meeting new people and trying new things, the equivalent of Tigger in Winnie the Pooh.  They roll with changes, love a new adventure and going to visit the vet is just another fun experience!  Other pets are the equivalent of Piglet, and a visit to the vet provokes intense anxiety and stress.  If you have a “Piglet” on your hands, don’t worry, at West Kootenay Animal Hospital, we understand.  Every pet is unique and we want to do our best to make your pets visit the best possible experience it can be.


Here are a few tips to help reduce anxiety for your special "Piglet":


  1. Get your pet used to going in their kennel at home and make it a positive place.  This is especially important for cats.  Often the travel kennel lives in the garage or basement and is only brought out for those scary car rides and trips to the vet.  Why not keep your pets kennel in a favourite room?  Set it up with a special blanket, place treats in the kennel and leave the door open to allow your pet to explore the kennel on their own, enjoy a treat in it and sleep there, in a relaxed and positive environment.


2.  Help build the familiarity to car rides with your pet by having them enter and exit your     vehicle while parked or go for short rides around the block. Treats always make this fun!


3.  Visit the vet just for fun.  One of the major reasons pets fear the vet is simply because it is strange and unknown to them.  Dogs rely on their sense of smell, hearing and vision to judge a new situation.  When they come to the animal hospital, they hear strange noises, experience new smells and new people and for those “piglets” out there, this can evoke fear and anxiety.  Inform the team of your pets timid nature and ask what are the best times to stop by for a visit.  Come in and say hello frequently, let us give him or her a treat and start to desensitize your pet and help them learn that visits to the vet can be fun!


4.  Practice basic commands.  If your pet is well trained, practice being a calm, focused leader while at the veterinary hospital.  Focusing on commands, such as sit, down, stay, helps divert your pets attention from their fear and allows us to reward and reinforce their positive behaviours.


5.  Some pets have “personal space” issues just like humans.  Veterinarians need to touch and handle your pet intimately during the examination and touch areas like their ears, mouth, feet, eyes and bum areas.  When you and your pet are relaxing together, practice examining your dog at home.  Try running your hands over his body, head to toe, lift each limb as the vet will do, palpate his joints, look in his ears, lift his lips and expose the teeth and open his mouth.  The more you do these things at home, the less terrifying it will be when the vet tries it at the animal hospital.


6.  Don't feed them right before their visit. We can use treats at the clinic to encourage them and make the visit more enjoyable and if your pet is a little hungry, the treats will be a big hit and your pet will think, “this vet rocks!”.  Also consider bringing along your own special treats or a favourite toy.  One of our patients would always visit the animal hospital with her special duck toy tucked safely in her mouth.  We all thought it was pretty cute, but later realized it was her “safety blanket”, as long as she had her duck, everything was going to be okay!


7.  Consider a pheromone spray like Feliway for cats or Adaptil for dogs.  These products, available from your veterinarian, have a calming effect on pets.  They come as collars, sprays or diffusers that can be used at home or applied to blankets in your travel kennel or even sprayed on the veterinarians lab coat!


8.  One simple way to minimize your dog’s stress is to walk him around outside or keep him in the car until the receptionist is ready to bring you into the exam room. This allows you to spare your pooch the sights, smells and sounds of the waiting room.  You can also bring along help, having a second person to take your pet outside, immediately following the exam, while you talk to the doctor about their recommendations, pick up food or medication and pay your bill, reduces the amount of time your pet spends in the office and helps reduce their stress.


9.  Say yes to drugs!  There is nothing wrong with admitting that your dog needs help. Anxiety is a medical condition just like any other, and your pup deserves relief. If all else fails, set up a consultation with your vet to discuss the issue. He or she may recommend any number of drugs to help relieve the symptoms. There are low dose meds that can be taken daily for dogs who suffer from fear and anxiety in multiple situations. Pups whose fear only surfaces at the vet may just need a pill or two prior to their appointment in order to ease their symptoms.


10. Be sure to stay calm yourself.  We share such strong bonds with our pets, it can be very difficult for many of us to watch our pet suffer anxiety.  If you feel your own anxiety skyrocketing while at the vet, please let us know.  Our dogs are extremely intuitive and often if they sense their owner is stressed and worried, they will feel that way too.  If going to the vet induces a panic attack in yourself, or you are worried about your pets condition, talk to us or schedule a consult without your pet present to go over the treatment plan.  Remember often what we imagine in our own minds is 10 times worse than the reality!  Talking it out makes all the difference.


Our goal is to make visits to West Kootenay Animal Hospital, fun, informative and stress free for you and your pet. We hope these tips are helpful for all the piglets out there, and the Tiggers too!