Behavior Tip: Visiting the Veterinary Hospital

It’s no wonder that many cats and dogs are scared when visiting their veterinarian. We handle your pet in unusual ways. We poke them with needles. We trim their nails. We touch their sore spots.  

You can help make your pet’s visit a little easier for them - and for you.  

  • Help your pet adjust to handling by mimicking a veterinary exam at home. Do this early and often while you and your pet are both calm and happy. Reward your pet with treats and praise. Don’t forget to touch their mouths and their feet.

  • Remain calm when you enter the hospital, especially if your pet seems anxious or frightened. To keep calm, focus on your breathing, making your exhale longer than your inhale (you can count 5 counts for your exhale and 4 counts for your inhale).

  • Avoid comforting your pet if they are showing fear (pupils dilated, eyes darting, ears back, panting, licking lips, refusing treats, cowering, trembling/shaking, tail tucked) or aggression (barking, growling, snarling, lunging, snapping, biting). Although it is natural for humans to comfort other humans who are anxious, you may inadvertently reinforce these behaviors in your pet.

  • Avoid punishing your pet because this may increase fear and aggression, making the problem worse.

  • Do not put your pet on the exam room table while you wait for the veterinarian. Keep cats in carriers and allow dogs to sit near you or on your lap as you remain calm.

  • Allow the veterinarian to take your pet to the treatment room for an exam or for treatments. Pets are often more calm without a nervous owner present. Your veterinarian is a professional who knows how to handle fearful and aggressive animals.

  • Allow the placement of a muzzle if needed. A muzzle will not hurt your pet, yet will allow your veterinarian to safely handle your pet.   

  • For cats, try Feliway, a cheek-marking pheromone cats use in their safe and secure territory. You may have experienced your cat marking your outstretched hand with it’s cheeks.

  • For dogs, try Adaptil, a pheromone released by mothers to help puppies feel calm and secure.

If your pet’s behavior at the veterinary hospital is unmanageable, or if you are having these problems in other locations as well, please contact me to discuss other solutions.