The veterinary hospital can be a frightening place for pets. Consider the visit from your pet’s perspective—on a random day they’re taken from their cozy home and established routine to a place with unfamiliar smells, unpredictable noises, other equally stressed animals, and strangers who want to restrain, transport, and examine them.

If we were in their paws, we might hide, hiss, or growl, too!

Viewing the veterinary visit from your pet’s perspective may feel silly, but can help you understand your dog or cat’s sometimes unrecognizable and uncharacteristic behavior. While we can’t make every pet love us, the team at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital and Emergency Center strives to make your pet’s visit as stress-free as possible. We have compiled this helpful guide that, when followed prior to your appointment, will help provide your pet with the most positive experience possible.

#1: Get your pet travel-ready

Owners often admit that transporting their pet to and from the veterinary hospital is the most difficult part of the visit. If your pet is a homebody, that once- or twice-yearly car ride means only one thing—a trip to the veterinarian! Prepare in advance with these tips, which will help your pet become a savvy traveler:

  • Bring the cat carrier out of storage — The carrier’s arrival is a neon warning sign that a veterinary trip is imminent, and triggers immediate anxiety and fear. Make your cat’s carrier part of your home, and take small steps to acclimate your cat. If your cat has had a traumatic experience with their carrier, consider introducing a new one with a different design
  • Request motion sickness medication — Car sickness is stressful to pets. We can prescribe anti-nausea medication to be given prior to travel, and may advise you on withholding food in the hours before a car ride. 
  • Safe travels with seat belts and crates — Riding loose in the car is dangerous for pets and people, and can increase your pet’s anxiety. Dogs should always be safely restrained in canine seat belts or a crate, and cats in carriers. Place small carriers on the floor behind the seat, as they can roll off the back seat during sudden braking. 
  • Feel good with pheromones — Dog and cat pheromones that mimic natural chemical communication can send calming messages to your pet. Spray Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats on the pet’s bedding, seat belt, or bandana, to encourage relaxation in the car.
  • Get in and get out — Always keep practice sessions short to prevent stress. For example, once you can load your pet into the car without panic, calmly let them back out without actually leaving the driveway or garage. Keeping things easy and attainable for the pet means faster, more successful training.  
  • Short trips for success — Go on short rides around the block or to the local park. If possible, go somewhere the pet enjoys, so they learn that every ride doesn’t end at the veterinary hospital.

#2: Strategize your veterinary visit

Bringing a fearful or stressed pet to the veterinary hospital is difficult—witnessing your furry friend’s anxiety or trying to control their unpredictable behavior can upset you equally as much, and trigger a vicious stress cycle. But, this isn’t a good reason to avoid your pet’s annual exam. Instead, make a few specific arrangements to help ensure a smooth visit.

  • Ask for medication — If your pet has a history of severe anxiety or reactive behavior (i.e., growling, lunging, biting), contact our veterinarians about pre-visit sedation, or anti-anxiety medication. 
  • Request an early appointment — Mornings in the hospital tend to be quieter and less hectic.
  • Tell us about your pet — Notify our team if your pet is nervous, reactive, or aggressive. Clear communication helps us tailor the visit to your pet’s needs.
  • Skip the lobby — The lobby can be chaotic and scary for anxious pets. Call us when you arrive, so we can take you and your pet straight to an exam room. We can also schedule any follow ups and take payment in the room, so you can make a quick exit.
  • Make a list — Keep a list on your phone of any food or medication refills you’ll need, questions you’d like to ask, or samples you need to bring, to help ensure you make the most of your pet’s appointment and don’t forget a thing. 

#3: Keep your pet comfortable

Your pre-visit preparation will help you focus solely on your pet at our hospital. Once you’ve arrived, here are some easy ways to reduce your pet’s stress, whether you’re in the exam room or curbside:

  • Bring a piece of home — Your pet’s favorite toy or blanket can be a great distraction.
  • Keep the cat in the cradle — If your carrier has a removable top, let your cat rest in the lower portion for their physical exam. This helps them feel safe, and they will be less likely to react.
  • Let them sniff — Sniffing is a natural stress-reliever for cats and dogs.
  • Pack lots of tiny irresistible treats — Reward good behavior, such as focused attention, relaxed body language, and getting on the scale.
  • Ask your pet for their favorite tricks — A few rounds of “Sit,” “Down,” and “Shake” can help your dog—or trick-savvy cat—refocus and relax.

The team at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital and Emergency Center is dedicated to being available whenever your pet needs us. Whether your pet is happy and healthy, scared and sick, or requires emergency care, we want to work with you to ensure each visit is as stress-free as possible for them, and for you. Contact us to schedule an appointment.