There are many joys of pet ownership, but not every minute is sunshine and roses. If you’re a responsible pet parent, at some point, you’ll have to visit the *lowers voice* V-E-T. It may not be your dog’s favorite outing, but vet visits don’t have to be traumatic. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your pet has painless vet visits.
Safety first- leave the retractable leash at home.
You never know what you’ll encounter in a vet’s office waiting room. There may be children, clinic pets (such as resident cats), and nervous pets of all varieties. Retractable leashes aren’t a great idea at the best of times, but they’re downright dangerous in a vet’s office. Even if your dog is friendly with everyone, keep in mind that other pets may not be. And while, ideally, all those other people would also be in control of their own pets, my own experience is… they’re not.
Your best chance of preventing things from going sideways and being able to respond quickly if there’s any sign of trouble is to keep your own pet on a tight leash and keep a close eye on your surroundings. Letting them explore on the end of a long leash, hooking the leash to something and walking away, or handing the leash to a child could be a recipe for disaster.
Visit before it’s an emergency.
Maybe you’re already established with a vet you know and trust. If that’s the case, awesome! Skip to the next one! But maybe your pet is new to you, you’ve recently moved, or you’re not so thrilled with your current vet’s office and are thinking of making a change.
If your vet is new to you or your pet, go in for a visit even if it’s not strictly needed. Talk to the staff and take note of how they interact with you and your pet.
Are you comfortable with the way they handle your pet? Does your pet seem okay with being handled? Does the staff seem organized and professional? How long does it take to get an appointment?
If you walk away feeling good about the whole thing, great! If there’s an emergency, you’ll feel better knowing that you already trust the people who are treating your pet. If not, move on. Even if it’s a simple matter of incompatible personalities or styles, issues that are small during a routine visit may be magnified when your pet is ill and the stakes and your stress levels are higher.
Stop by just to say hi!
Is your pup normally up for anything… except a trip to the vet? I can’t say I blame them. If every single time they walk through the doors, they’re in for some variety of needles, thermometers up the bum, nail trims, having their joints manipulated by strangers, or even surgery, of course they’re going to be apprehensive.
But for most healthy pets, vet visits only happen once or twice a year. What if, 90% of the time they visited, they actually had a good time? That sounds like a painless pet visit to me! If you’re out and about with your pet, stop in to the vet’s office. Bring a few of your dog’s favorite treats along and ask staff members to fuss over them, pet them, and give them treats. And that’s it! If you do it often enough, by the time their annual checkup rolls around, it will be a place they associate with treats and attention, not needles and anxiety.
Write things down.
Whether it’s just a checkup or your pet has something going on, you’re likely to have a lot of questions. It can be tough to remember them all in the moment, especially if the topic doesn’t come up. Do you want to ask your vet’s advice about your pet’s diet, exercise, or weight? Do you need a few doses of anxiety medication for an upcoming holiday or event? Are you running low on preventatives? Have you noticed any physical changes, bald spots, sores, or new lumps and bumps that you’d like to ask about? Painless vet visits should be for the owner just as much as their furry companion.
It seems almost inevitable that I’ll be in the car on my way home from a vet appointment and suddenly think, “darn it, I meant to ask about her poop-eating habit/her funny-looking eyes/whether freeze-dried chicken treats are okay while he’s on a prescription diet/if his knees seem normal” and writing down my questions beforehand helps alleviate that problem a lot.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you’ve got other relevant stuff written down, especially if your pet is unwell. When did they last have blood work? What medications do they take and what dosage? What brand of food do they eat? What date did this start? Your vet’s office will be able to look up some of that stuff if they were treated there, but it’s good to have it all in one place.
If your pet is looked after by more than one person or if the person taking them to the vet is not their primary caretaker (or not very organized in general), a written list of relevant details, dosages, and dates can be hugely helpful.
Ever notice how your vet-averse pup seems to know what’s going on before you even leave the house? Even if they’re normally all about going for a car ride and lose their minds with excitement when they see the leash? It’s because they take their signals from you.
If you’re filled with dread at the idea of a vet visit, your dog will pick up on that. If your manner and tone say “I’m so sorry I have to do this to you,” they’re going to be nervous about what’s going on even if they can’t understand the words. Even if you try to be soothing, it reinforces the sense that something weird is going on. Imagine a co-worker or loved one came to you and, without context, just said “I just wanted to let you know that everything’s going to be okay and I’m here for you.” Wouldn’t that make you nervous? Like… what? Why wouldn’t everything be okay? What?!
It’s tough to do, but watch your vibe. Keep your tone happy and excited- less “Sorry, Francine, but we have to go to the V-E-T” and more “Guess what?! We get to see your best pal the vet! Wanna go for a ride? Alright!” If you’re not worried about it, your dog will be much more relaxed!
Your pet may not be excited to see the vet, but you know who they DO want to see? Their dog walker! If you want to give your pet a daily (or weekly, or twice-a-weekly) dose of fun and exercise, book a mid-day visit ASAP! Check out our services page for more information.
Janie founded 4-Legged Kids, Inc in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1997 and provides education through her PetBizHIVE podcast and her PetBizMBA membership and courses. She is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator, Fear Free certified and a Certified Professional Pet Sitter. Learn more about the Founder, Janie Budnick.