Hi Friends! Tuki coming to you from my perch here at the Potter League. I see a lot of pets get adopted here and new pet parents often have questions about taking their new furry family member to the veterinarian – how often to go and how to make it a good experience for their pet.
Nobody particularly enjoys to the doctor, us animals included, however there are things you can do to make it less stressful for your dog or cat. First, you need to know how often to take your pet to see their veterinarian. Kittens and puppies up to one year old will need a series of vaccines and should visit the vet every three to four weeks until they are about four months old to be sure they receive all the necessary vaccines. They will be examined and be tested for any illnesses, if necessary. You should also plan to take your kitten or puppy to be spayed or neutered, if they have not been already.
Once your pet is over one year old, most vets recommend an annual wellness checkup. Dogs should be tested for heartworm and any needed booster shots can be given at that time, although some vaccines are only required every three years. A senior dog or cat (more than seven years old) may need to see their vet twice each year. Based on their overall health and any medical conditions that need follow up, you and your vet can decide how often your pet should be seen.
Now that you know how often to go, here are some things that can make your visit less stressful for your pet – and for you, too!
1. Get your pet comfortable with being touched – and no, petting them doesn’t count! When they are young touch their paws, ears and belly. These are areas the vet will need to touch during the examination, and it will be easier if being touched in those areas is not a new experience for your pet. Make it a positive experience – play with them as you touch her, speak lovingly or soothingly, petting in places they do enjoy, while provide them with yummy treats.
2. Stay calm. Many pets can sense when their pet parent is anxious so if you are anxious about the vet visit, chances are your pet will be too. Try to stay calm and treat the visit like any other routine. If your pet gets especially anxious in the waiting room, ask if you can remain outside or in the car until the examination room is ready.
3. Bring treats or their favorite toy. This is probably a good idea when going anywhere (I’m sure most pets think so too – I know I do!). Most vets have treats in the office, but if you bring treats that you know your pet likes, they will associate getting their favorite treats (a good experience!) with going to the vet (a sometimes not so good experience). Give some of the treats to the technicians and vet to give to your pet too. If they have a favorite toy, bring that along too – it may help ratchet down anxiety.
4. Get your pet used to their carrier or leash. You may have to put your pet in a carrier for the trip to the vet. Many vets require cats to be in a carrier while in the waiting area. Before your visit, place the carrier where your cat can see it and put some of their favorite toys or treats inside. This will give them a chance to go in and out of the carrier and get used to the sight and smell of it. I’ve heard that some people leave their cat’s carrier out all the time so their cats get used to it.
Dogs should be comfortable on a short (non-retractable) leash for vet visits. Walk your dog on a leash regularly so they are comfortable when it is really needed, like a vet visit. If you can teach your dog basic commands like sit and stay, this can make the visit easier for you, the examination easier for the vet, and less stressful for your dog.
5. Take a trip to the vet just for treats. You may want to take a practice trip to the vet where you just drop in to say hi and get a treat. By doing this, your pet becomes more familiar with the environment, including all its different sights and smells, and when you bring them back for the real visit, the environment won’t be as frightening.
6. Go places in the car with your dog. Many dogs only ride in the car for a trip to the vet so just getting into the car is a bad experience for them. Take your dog out and about in the car – maybe some place fun, so that riding in the car becomes a positive experience.
7. Pheromones. If you try all these things and vet visits are still stressful for your pet, talk to your vet about pheromones. Pheromones are natural chemicals that can have a calming effect on some pets. They often come in a diffuser that send the pheromones into the air and it can be plugged it in an hour or two before your vet visit.
I hope these tips help all you pet parents out there.