CVMA-ACMV

A Trip to the Veterinarian

June 20, 2012

If you have ever had the frustration of enticing your pooch or kitty to go to the vets, you will want to read this! Getting in the clinic door when your furry friend wants to exit stage-right can make for a tough day! How can you reduce the stress of going to the veterinary clinic?  Not always really easy—especially if our four-legged friend would rather be napping on the couch!  Here are some tips to help make things go smoother though:

  1. Take only one pet along per appointment. The sight of a fine member of the community (like you) leashed to three 40 kg doggies—being dragged—to the nearest fire hydrant, well, we will say no more!  If you have been there and done that, you should remember that if the weight of the pet is greater than you, best to ask friends or family to lend a hand for the trip into the clinic!
  2. Bring along only those children who can be calm and attentive during the visit. It is fun to let them share the excitement, but trying to bring along a brood of lively children, with teething toddler in tow can take the “Fun factor” out of it for you. Too many children can be just as taxing as multiple pets!
  3. For dogs, start early in life with proper socialization and obedience training. This can make going to the vets a whole lot easier for all! A pup who knows new people are not too scary will be more likely to enjoy his visit. A pup that knows the basics such as “sit”, “come” and “stay” will be a pup that will be under your control in a strange and exciting place. All those doggie smells around the hospital can really excite!
  4. Take your cat or dog for short drives that don’t include destination “pet vet“!  If a cat or dog is used to travel and is not stressed, most certainly your stress levels will be lower too!
  5. The pet with motion sickness or a real aversion to car rides may be slowly accommodated to travel to vet visits by first training them to travel.
  6. Veterinarians often get asked for sedatives. Sedatives should never be a substitute for gentle gradual training. Sedatives are variably effective, and titrating the dose to calm (but not over-sedate) can sometimes be a challenge. “Tipsy Tuffy” is not easy to move around, especially if he is a giant breed dog! Overweight, pug-nosed, pediatric, or ill animals are at increased risk of side effects of sedatives, so they must be used cautiously. Each animal has an individual reaction to sedatives—some fine tuning may be needed. Doing a test dose prior to a vehicle trip is helpful to determine the optimal dose. Some sedatives may not work well if the animal has already become excited before the dose is administered. Sedatives can be helpful if the veterinarian prescribes them as needed for some pets.
  7. Always keep your dog on a leash, and the collar snug when not in the kennel so you do not watch your little buddy go into reverse, and slip out of the collar on the front doorstop of the vet facility and run off. Just because your puppy is really sick do not assume he will hang around if you do not attend to leash restraint. A dog that is lying around at home, seeming on death’s doorstep, sometimes will get a second wind when out in the stiff breezes and may bolt from your arms or blanket if given the chance to make a run for it. He may happily head for the hills when set down on the ground while you grapple with purse and keys, these things do happen!
  8. If your four-legged friend is experiencing vomiting, diarrhea or oozing secretions or blood, make sure your transport vehicle is well protected. A moisture proof seat or compartment cover (like plastic throws) can be used if a kennel or carrier is unavailable.
  9. Animals in pain may bite! A trip into the vets is not fun at all if the next step needs to be a trip for you or your friend/family member to the ER for your very own wound repair. Remember to protect yourself during the trip in. Bumpy rides may put a painful pet over the edge. Talk to your vet before transport for advice on safety if a pet is in pain.
  10. For routine visits, bring along a favorite toy so that you can play with a puppy if there is a wait. Bring along a favorite treat if he is not having digestive upset. When your puppy behaves well, you can reward good behaviour.
  11. If this is a trip to a new vet, bring all of your records with you or arrange to have any records forwarded from previous visits elsewhere. Make sure you tell the veterinary staff if the dog has had a previous reaction to any medications or vaccines. Bring along previous vaccine, worming, registration, microchipping, and adoption papers—you’ll be glad you did. This will help the vet healthcare team become familiar with any previous recommendations.
  12. Give staff a heads up if your pet has a “prior” for biting—before staff handle your pet—very much appreciated! Good to have our (and your) fingers and faces intact, so help protect everyone’s health and welfare. And allow qualified assistants to restrain your pet while being examined and treated, for everybody’s safety.
  13. Get to know your vet and their care team. This will make the trips to the vet a lot more fun. Knowing the practice well will help you to be most comfortable, and your pet will get familiar with the routine too.
  14. Cat Friendly practices exist. Look for the logo, and you can be reassured that the practice does everything possible to help your cats experience the visit with minimal stress. Quiet, slow, and gentle restraint all help your Kitty feel cared for. The Cat Friendly initiative by the American Association of Feline Practitioners is a training and resource kit for veterinarians, applicable for both feline-only, and dog and cat practices. Separate waiting areas and care kennels, and well trained staff work together to ensure cats are not just treated like small dogs!

Everyone at the practice wants to see “Nervous Nellie” get back to your fireside at home ASAP, and looking forward to the next visit! Making the trip “fun” might seem to be a bit of a reach, but proper preparation will at least help to reduce the stress of the visit.

With some preparation, it can become a visit high on fun factor and low on stress.