As you scour the internet for healthy recipes, refill your super-sized glass of water, take a hard look at your finances, don workout clothes and actually exercise—or whatever else you need to do to achieve your New Year’s resolutions—don’t forget about your furry friend. Consider adding one more resolution—making veterinary visits stress-free for your pet—to your list, and check out Lebanon Animal Hospital’s four tips that will help make that resolution a reality. 

#1: Practice veterinary visits at home

We aren’t asking you to dress up in a white coat and borrow your child’s doctor kit—unless, of course, you want to—because you can easily simulate some of the potentially stress-inducing portions of a veterinary visit in the comfort of your workout clothes or pajamas. Many pets have certain areas such as their feet, ears, eyes, mouths, or bellies that they would rather keep a touch-free zone, which works out fine at home but not so much during a thorough veterinary exam where every body part needs to be handled. Help your pet learn to tolerate, or perhaps enjoy, an examination by pairing a high-value treat or toy with handling the problem areas. Start by simply touching the area for a second, and work up to extensive handling of each area as your pet becomes more comfortable.

#2: Teach your cat to love their carrier

You may be thinking, “Hold on a minute, my cat is never going to love their carrier. They sound like a horror movie soundtrack every time I try to put them in it.” But, hear us out, because we think you will be pleasantly surprised. Instead of unearthing the carrier only for an imminent veterinary visit, make the carrier part of the pet furniture in a room your cat frequents. Ensure the carrier door is propped open or removed so they don’t accidentally get trapped, and entice your pet inside with treats or toys. Consider using bedding your cat has recently slept on, or a cat-specific calming pheromone spray (e.g., Feliway) to make it smell comforting. These steps can help your cat understand that carriers are an acceptable part of everyday life, not a cat torture chamber. If you have a small dog who rides in a carrier, the same principles apply, except you should use a dog-specific pheromone (e.g., Adaptil). 

#3: Transport your pets with care

The car ride to our clinic is another potential stress-point, especially if visiting us is the only time your pet gets into the car. Depending on your pet’s car-ride anxiety level, you may want to start by simply placing your cat in their carrier in the car for a few minutes, or hanging out in the car with your dog for a short time without driving anywhere. Then, move up to driving around the neighborhood or on short errands, gradually increasing duration. Offer treats or toys to make a positive association with the car, and ensure the car’s temperature is inviting and the noise level low. Also, ensure you have a non-slip surface so your pet feels secure. When heading to and from the car, ensure your dog is wearing a well-fitting collar they cannot slip out of, and carry the cat carrier against your chest with two hands wrapped around, which will give your cat a smoother ride compared with holding the handle, where the carrier likely will tip or bang into your legs. Ask our team about car-sickness medications if your pet drools, vomits, licks their lips, or shows other car-sickness signs. 

#4: Select a veterinary clinic that uses low-stress handling techniques

As a Fear Free-certified hospital, our team is well-trained in low-stress techniques to ensure your pet’s visit is as stress-free as possible from the moment they set paw in the clinic. We understand that our current curbside model, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, means that you cannot see our team in action, but rest assured that we are as dedicated as ever to assessing and managing your pet’s fear, anxiety, pain, and stress levels as we navigate these difficult times. We continue to use peanut butter, spray cheese, or the treats you send in with your pet to help them remain at-ease and distracted during the examination, which we perform wherever your pet is most comfortable—on the floor, in the carrier with the top removed, on a non-slip table, or elsewhere. Whenever possible, we prevent your pet from seeing other animals, and we use Feliway and Adaptil pheromones to create a pleasant, calming atmosphere. Our veterinarians are also well-versed in anti-anxiety medication use should they need to further reduce your pet’s anxiety level. Some pet problems can be addressed from the comfort of your home using our telehealth platform Medici.

While we can’t do much to help you lose weight, eat healthy, or manage your finances, we can help you achieve stress-free veterinary visits for your pet. Contact our Lebanon Animal Hospital team to formulate the right strategy for your pet.