Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings

A Pet’s First Visit to the Vet: Tips to Avoid Trauma

Nov 01, 2009 02:00AM ● By Erica Pytlovany

The first trip to the veterinarian’s office does not need to be a traumatic experience. With savvy planning, you can make the whole experience less stressful for both you and your pet.

Handling: One of the most important steps to ease the way for a veterinary visit is getting an animal acclimated to handling. During routine cuddle times, gently play with the ears, feet and tail. Manipulate body parts in a way that the veterinary staff might use to examine a patient or apply medication. Keep it fun.If a pet is uncomfortable with certain touching, feed him tasty tidbits while handling sensitive areas. Starting in the least sensitive areas and progressing slowly to the least comfortable areas helps. The goal is to teach the pet that beyond merely tolerating this sort of handling, they can also enjoy it.

Note that adult pets will not be as naturally tolerant of restraint or touch, so more time and care may be needed to teach them to enjoy handling. If an adult pet shows any indication of threatening behavior, such as biting or scratching during handling, stop immediately and try again later, or contact a behavior consultant.

Pre-visit Visit: Many clinics welcome a pre-veterinary visit, which gives your pet a chance to meet the veterinary staff in a setting that doesn’t include uncomfortable poking or prodding. Bring yummy treats and ask the staff to feed your furry companion while you both visit the lobby and perhaps an examination room. Call ahead to ask what kind of visit your veterinary office can accommodate.

The Visit for Dogs: On the day of the visit, arrive a few minutes early to take your dog for a brief walk before entering the clinic. Even if you need to travel only a short distance to the office, it can be reassuring for a dog to sniff, explore and relieve himself before going in.

Once inside, have your dog’s favorite treats and special toy at hand to help keep him distracted and happy. Engage him to keep his attention on you, and do not allow him to visit with other dogs without express permission from the other owner. Dogs in the waiting room could be contagious, sore or simply not comfortable greeting other dogs in a confined space. Protect your dog from an unpleasant interaction that could color future visits.

The Visit for Cats: For comfort and safety, first introduce the cat to a secure carrier at home. Feeding the cat meals inside the carrier for a few weeks before the visit will make it feel more like a place of safety than a place of confinement. You can also leave a small towel or mat on her usual sleeping place for a few days before the vet trip. For the visit to the vet, place it in the carrier along with her, so that it smells like home.

Alternative Therapies: If a pet is particularly anxious during veterinary visits, try two alternative therapies reported to make a big difference. Rescue Remedy is a popular liquid homeopathic treatment sold at many pet supply shops and at health stores that carry Bach Flower Remedies. Apply four drops directly in the pet’s mouth or add it to water, food or a treat.

Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) and Feliway are synthetic pheromone products that mimic those which a mother releases when nursing her pups or kittens and are designed to cause a relaxation response from the pet. These products come in different forms, including a dispenser for spraying a pet’s collar or the inside of the carrier.

By conscientiously preparing your pet for a first visit to a veterinarian when the animal is healthy and not in need of vital medical attention, you lay the foundation for future experiences that you both can look forward to with a great deal more ease.

For more information on Bach Flower Remedies, visit For more information about Dog Appeasing Pheromone search “pheromone” at; for cats visit

Subscribe to our Free Newsletter

* indicates required