Pets of all species and sizes don’t appreciate their veterinary visits. From tiny feisty kittens, to giant cowardly Great Danes, pets dig in their paws when faced with walking across a veterinary practice’s threshold. Although we love caring for and helping pets, they don’t realize that preventive medicine is good for them, and that we’re trying to keep them happy, healthy, and by your side for many years to come. To help your pet understand that visiting their Mountain Legacy Veterinary Center veterinarian is a good thing, here are eight ways to create a Fear Free experience.

#1: Take the carrier out of the closet to take away your pet’s fear

Does your cat’s carrier come out of the closet only once each year? If so, no wonder your feline friend is terrified of the contraption. They associate the carrier with being stuffed inside, jostled in the car, and being poked and prodded by strangers, so they flee in panic. Make the carrier a pleasant place for your pet by placing inside a fleece blanket spritzed with a soothing pheromone spray. On occasion, toss in tasty treats or catnip toys, to encourage your cat to regularly check out their carrier. Feeding meals inside will also help form a positive association. By always leaving out the carrier with the door open—and with treats inside—your cat will be climbing inside in no time.  

#2: Every visit doesn’t have to require needles

When your pet steps into the veterinary hospital for their appointment, they may be expecting the worst. Instead of ending every appointment with a round of sharp needles and vaccinations, stop by for happy visits full of treats and attention. Load your pet in the car, stop by our hospital, and let our team lavish them with love and rewards for a few minutes, and then head back home. This will create a positive experience in your pet’s “bank,” and can provide a buffer against negative experiences—like vaccinations—when the time comes. 

#3: Come hungry, leave happy

A double pocketful of treats will help your pet’s veterinary experience go more smoothly. Bring plenty of your pet’s favorite treat, chopped into bite-sized pieces so they can be given quickly, to ensure your pet’s focus remains on the snack instead of necessary health care tasks. A little food can go a long way toward changing your pet’s feelings about a veterinary visit.

#4: Refrain from racing to our hospital for your pet’s appointment

Although you may be in a hurry to get to your appointment on time, don’t rush. Feeling rushed can cause you stress, which will transmit to your pet. And, when you’re in a hurry, you’re more likely to drive quickly, which can translate to a rough ride for your pet. A veterinary visit on top of car sickness is no fun for anyone.

#5: Breathe deeply and relax

Stress-relieving pheromones can help calm your furry pal, and promote a positive mindset. These species-specific scents are designed to soothe anxiety and comfort your pet. Spritz some on your pet’s favorite blanket or a collar bandana to carry the calming scent. Or, bring a treasured toy or blanket from home that will provide a familiar scent, and help your pet feel comfortable.

#6: Talk to your pet—and your vet—about drugs

If you don’t talk to your veterinarian about drugs for your pet, who will? Medications can be given prior to your pet’s appointment to prevent car sickness and nausea, or to alleviate anxiety. These medications can make a world of difference in pets who are exceptionally frightened about leaving home. Ask our Mountain Legacy Veterinary Center veterinarian if your pet would benefit from anti-anxiety or anti-emetic medications.

#7: Skip the head-banging playlist while driving

While you and your pet may enjoy rocking out at home, heavy metal music is not calming when your pet is on their way to a veterinary appointment. Instead, play a soothing soundtrack composed of classical and reggae music designed to calm your pet.

#8: Practice makes perfect with exam techniques on your pet

The physical exam can be the most unsettling part of the entire veterinary visit, because pets are unused to such handling methods. Acclimate your pet at home before their visit with a modified veterinary physical exam—touch their ears and paws, open their mouth, and examine their eyes. Gently palpate their abdomen, lift their tail, and flex their joints. Reward your pet for accepting the unfamiliar and awkward handling with continuous praise and treats, and they’ll become an old pro in no time.

If your furry pal is the sort whose anxiety kicks into overdrive when visiting the veterinarian, contact our Mountain Legacy Veterinary Center team for help. We can provide tailored recommendations—and possibly anti-anxiety medications—to make your pet’s veterinary experience calm and positive.