Vaccinations, blood draws, nail trims, and worse, anal gland expressions—none of these tasks contribute to a pleasant veterinary visit for your furry pal. After considering the uncomfortable, yet essential, health care tasks we undertake to keep your pet in tip-top shape, it’s no wonder they can become stressed and anxious when you pull into our parking lot. Although your pet may never be completely at ease during their veterinary visit, you can help prepare them for a much happier and less stressful visit. Try the following four steps, to help your pet enjoy their next veterinary exam.

#1: Stop by Somerset Animal Hospital with your pet for fun visits

If every time you stopped by your favorite pizza place, you received a series of needle pokes, you may not be as excited to visit, no matter how delicious that pizza slice tastes after you’ve been injected several times. Your pet likely feels the same way about their appointment, despite that we ply them with tasty treats throughout their visit. To help form a positive association about our hospital in your pet’s mind, stop by for fun visits that will consist only of pets, praise, and treats from our team—no needles or nail trimmers allowed. With time, your pet will be dragging you to our door, rather than putting on the brakes. 

#2: Bring your pet hungry to their veterinary visit

Many pets are highly food-motivated and can be easily distracted with tasty treats, including during a nail trim or vaccinations. Bring your furry pal hungry to their appointment, and a stash of their favorite treats. We provide a treat assortment to try to tempt your pet, but they may turn up their nose at our supply, so bring their most favorite treats from home for veterinary visit success.

#3: Acclimate your pet to handling and restraint techniques

From a pet’s point of view, we do some weird stuff to their bodies. From lifting their tail to sticking fingers in their mouth, your pet is likely uncomfortable with the handling necessary for a physical exam. To help their veterinary visit go more smoothly, acclimate your pet to the following unusual interactions:

  • Peering into the eyes — All animals view direct eye contact as a threat, so when we look into your pet’s eyes with an ophthalmoscope, they may become uncomfortable. Get your pet used to eye contact by teaching them a “watch me” command that rewards your furry pal for looking at your face. It’s easiest to capture this behavior with a treat. With repetition, they will learn that looking into your eyes is a rewarding experience.
  • Prodding inside the ears — With your pet’s exceptionally sensitive hearing sense, having their ears examined with an otoscope, or cleaned with gauze and cotton swabs, can be unsettling. Help your pet become comfortable with an ear exam by wrapping your finger in a gauze square or tissue, and wiping the inside of their ear flap and outer portion of their ear canal. 
  • Lifting up the tail — Lifting up your pet’s tail can leave them feeling vulnerable and trapped, depending on how tightly you grip the tail. Don’t use excessive force to elevate the tail, and drop it as soon as your pet moves away, to avoid yanking. Have someone stand at your pet’s face and reward them while you gently lift and lower the tail, to help them become accustomed to their tail being handled.
  • Inspecting the paws — Many pets are sensitive about having their paws touched, so spend time every day inspecting your pet’s paws. Spread the toes, put gentle pressure on the paw itself, and hold the leg still while you perform a quick exam. This will help your furry pal become used to nail trims, without their nails actually being trimmed.

During these handling practices, you can gently restrain your pet using a “hug” or towel wrap. These restraint methods are typically unfamiliar to pets, which is why they may feel uneasy during their exam, so practice restraining your pet at home, to promote familiarity and acceptance.

#4: Ask your Somerset Animal Hospital veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications

Many anxious pets benefit from taking oral anti-anxiety medications at home prior to their appointment. These medications work to alleviate your pet’s stress and anxiety, without overly sedating them. Discuss whether this option would work to ease your pet’s stress with our veterinarian.

Does your four-legged friend need help remaining calm and relaxed during their veterinary visit? Contact our Somerset Animal Hospital team for help.