We animal people (me included) like to make our pets happy and do things that they enjoy. We all know that if our pet hates the trip to the vet, we are less likely to prioritize it. Clients tell us all the time, "He LOVES to come here!" and those are the pets that we can keep the healthiest. The dogs that have to be dragged in our door and the cats that howl all the way are the ones that we see the least. And let's face it, when we do finally see them, it is more likely to be when they are very sick so our chances for an ideal outcome are lessened dramatically. So what can YOU do to help? Here is the countdown.
Teach your pet to not fear the crate and car.
If your pet is a cat, only bringing out the crate when you are about to go to the vet is the worst thing you can do. Place the carrier in plain sight weeks ahead and at random intervals. Make sure it is comfortable free from scary odors. For example, don’t loan it to your neighbor to catch a wild raccoon and then use it to take Fluffy to the vet. Leave it accessible and open for the cat, maybe in a favorite sunbeam with kitty treats hidden in the blankets inside. There are products that you get from your veterinarian to make the carrier a less fearful place. Since animals are so tuned into scent, they can smell things that we cannot imagine.
Chemistry plays an important and often unidentified role for all of us, but animals specifically with their acute sense of smell are sometimes victims of chemistry. We can influence this invisible force with things like pheromone sprays. Make the carrier and car great places and take trips only around the block to decrease anxiety. If your pet is a dog, take him with you to other places so that the car is a routine part of daily life. Create an association between travel and the grounds of the vet hospital with treats and praise. Try not to reward fearful behavior with reward. For example, if your dog is hiding and cowering and you talk gently and cajole him, you might be telling him that you are pleased with his fearful behavior. Instead, watch him carefully, when his ears come up or his posture relaxes then it is a great time to tell him what a good dog he is. These training techniques do take some time, but the time is investment in your pets’ long term health and happiness…and yours.
Bring your pet to the vet on an empty stomach.
This suggestion is twofold. Your pet will be less likely to experience nausea and motion sickness on an empty stomach during travel and he/she will be hungry when we offer our treat/bribes! I always carry treats in my pocket and there are treat containers on every counter at Applebrook. Many of my patients REALLY like the treats we have and will run to me and bury their nose in my pocket. If you can stop by for a treat any time you have your pet with you, it is a great idea because we like to see them at a time when all we have to do is visit. Drum roll please. The NUMBER ONE thing that YOU can do to make vet visits easier is.....
BRING A STOOL SAMPLE from home.
Your pet makes a stool sample every day and if you can bring a fresh sample along with you to see us, it will save your pet the dreaded "fecal loop". The fecal loop is the instrument we have to use to obtain a sample directly from your pet's colon. Animals understandably resent this intrusion and it is sometimes uncomfortable for them. Fecal exams are a necessary and important part of our diagnostic panel, so make your pet's visit easier by bringing a sample along!
We are all here because we love animals and we love for them to love us too!