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Low-Stress Veterinary Visits: What you need to know/do to make it easy for your pet see the vet!

Low Stress Visits Start at Home

A visit to the veterinarian’s office can be a stressful affair — for animals and their people. At Arroyo Veterinary Clinic, we strive to make the process as smooth and stress free as possible for all involved. Many animals who have had scary experiences at any veterinary office are hypersensitized to the sights, sounds and smells of an office and will work themselves up into a frenzy before they are even settled in an exam room. The following considerations can help to ease the stress your beloved friend feels, making the office experience acceptable, and maybe even fun!

Carrier Training: For cats and small dogs who come to see us in carriers, the carrier, itself, can be a trigger. We can reduce stress associated with the carrier in several ways. Make the carrier a comfortable and safe space by having it available for longer periods of time – not just on the day of a visit. You can offer food and treats in the carrier daily so your friend makes positive associations with it. Pheromone sprays, which will be discussed below, can also make the carrier feel more comfortable and secure. Consider “trial runs” in which you load your friend in the carrier and take them for a short car ride before coming home and having a special treat. For more information on carrier training, please visit:

Car Training: Much like the carrier, a car can be a trigger if it is only associated with coming to the vet. Make sure the car is a fun and secure place, and associate it with trips to the park, play dates, and other fun things. If you live near our office, it can also be helpful to drive down our street and even into our parking lot en route to these fun outings.

Pheromones: For dogs and cats, pheromone sprays can help in making a carrier or car feel more secure. Feliway is a spray that mimics the pheromone cats apply when they headbutt and rub on things in their environment. Adaptil (or DAP, Dog Appeasing Pheromone) is a synthetic version of the pheromone a dog’s mom would release while nursing. Both can help  instill a feeling of safety and calm. Check our online pharmacy to get these products: Arroyo Vet Online Pharmacy

Supplements: Many herbal supplements are available that can help alleviate anxiety in cats and dogs. Composure, Solliquin, and Cosequin Calm are all good, reputable options. For best results, start using these daily in the days leading up to an appointment and then the day of, give a double dose. Check our online pharmacy to get these products: Arroyo Vet Clinic Online Pharmacy

Pre-Visit Pharmaceuticals (PVP’s): Some patients need the added benefit of prescription drugs to alleviate fear and allow handling. These medications are administered at home at least 2 hours before an appointment. If your friend is too worked up when she comes in for an appointment, your veterinarian may recommend rescheduling the exam and coming back with some medications on board. Pushing through an exam and treatment when a patient is overwhelmingly stressed or anxious will only cement these patterns of fear so it is always better to regroup and reschedule if this is the case.

Muzzle Training: Even the best dogs sometimes need a muzzle to keep them and us safe. For dogs who have had stressful experiences while muzzled, the very sight of  muzzle can be a trigger. If your dog generally needs a muzzle, it is a good idea to buy one to have at home and acclimate him to it with LOTS of positive reinforcement. That way, he can come into a visit already wearing the muzzle, which limits stressful handling around the face by staff and breaks the association between a muzzle and a scary event. Although they appear more severe, basket muzzles are preferred. These allow for dogs to open their mouths and pant, and allows for the VERY important treat administration during the visit. For more information on muzzle training, please visit:

Breathe… When you have an anxious friend, the very thought of coming into the office can cause stress for you too. Our animals are astutely tuned into our emotional states, and when we are upset, they will be too. Try to relax, breathe deeply and remain as calm as possible. Your friend will see how relaxed you are an be more inclined to follow suit.