Veterinary visits can be stressful for pets and their owners, especially if the pet is ill or injured. However, with some proactive measures, you can significantly reduce your furry friend’s anxiety and help ensure a pleasant experience for everyone involved, whether your pet is visiting for a routine wellness visit or requires urgent care. Our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team shares 10 proven strategies to help minimize your pet’s stress before and during veterinary visits.

1: Familiarize your pet with Staples Mill Animal Hospital

Familiarity leads to confidence, so bring in your pet for short, positive visits before the actual appointment. Let them explore our waiting area, receive treats, and interact with our team. Your pet will associate our hospital with positive experiences and be less anxious during future visits.

2: Practice handling techniques

Handle your pet regularly and gently, mimicking where they likely will be touched during a veterinary examination. Look inside your pet’s mouth, pick up their paws, lift their tail, and peek inside their ears. When you handle your pet in these unusual spots, you will desensitize them to being touched, restrained, and manipulated, and the examination process will be less stressful. Reward calm behavior with treats or praise.

3: Make the carrier a happy place

One of the most challenging aspects of veterinary visits is trying to load a reluctant cat into the carrier. Make your cat’s carrier a happy place with cozy bedding and a favorite catnip mouse or toy. Entice your cat to enter and explore the carrier by placing strong-smelling treats or a small portion of canned food inside. 

Once your cat is comfortable entering the carrier, latch the door and carry them around the house to acclimate them to the carrier’s motion. Keep the carrier as still as possible and avoid swinging your cat around. Stay patient and consistent, making carrier training a regular and positive part of your cat’s routine. 

4: Acclimate your pet to car travel

Many pets are uncomfortable and uneasy, or have motion sickness, when they have to leave their home territory and travel by car. Make car trips positive and rewarding experiences by first taking your pet on short rides to fun destinations, such as new parks or a pet-friendly restaurant. If your pet appears ill at ease from the car’s motion on every trip, discuss treatment with our veterinarian. 

5: Schedule appointments strategically

Try to schedule appointments during off-peak times when our hospital is less crowded and busy. This reduces the likelihood of encountering other stressed pets, which can exacerbate your own pet’s anxiety. Additionally, ask for appointment slots with minimal wait times, such as one of the first few appointments of the day. 

6: Avoid interaction with other pets

During your pet’s appointment, they—or other pets in the lobby—may tug at the leash to interact, but keep to yourself. Pets in unfamiliar environments or who are ill or injured are more likely to react negatively toward others. If your pet is particularly sensitive or reactive with other pets, let our team know, so we can take you to an exam room immediately when you arrive. This helps prevent potential conflicts and ensures a more peaceful environment for your pet. Keeping your pet calm and focused on you can help reduce their stress before their veterinary examination.

7: Use positive reinforcement

Reward your pet for calm behavior with treats, praise, or their favorite toys to reinforce a good positive experience. This creates a positive association with our facility, team, and handling techniques and will help your pet remain calm during future visits.

8: Use calming pheromones

Calming pheromone products, such as sprays, collars, or diffusers, can soothe your pet. These products mimic natural pheromones that help reduce stress and anxiety in pets. Use them at home before you leave and during the veterinary visit to promote calm.

9: Consider anti-anxiety medications

If your pet suffers severe anxiety or fear when they visit, talk to our veterinarian about sedatives or anti-anxiety medications. These medications can help relax your pet and make the experience less stressful. However, always follow our recommendations and dosage instructions carefully.

10: Communicate with your veterinarian

Finally, communicate openly with our veterinary team about your pet’s anxiety and any specific triggers, such as touching their paws or ears. We can offer personalized advice and support to help minimize your pet’s stress during visits. 

Together, we can develop a plan that meets your pet’s individual needs and helps ensure a positive, peaceful veterinary visit. Give our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team a call to discuss the best options for your four-legged friend.