Some pets enjoy trips to the vet, but as you probably know, many don't. They cannot understand that the procedures and medications they receive at the veterinary clinic are for their own health and well-being.
But there are ways to help make the vet's office experience easier for your pets, as well as for you and the veterinary staff. Here are some tips on what NOT to do.
1. Assume good behavior in your pets
We all like to think that our own pets are the best four-legged creatures walking the Earth. Unfortunately, it is very common and normal for pets to show a completely different side at the veterinary clinic, especially if they have never been to that clinic before or remember a previous negative visit.
Cats can have difficulty with a change of environment, even more so if they are strictly indoors. It helps to take things slow. You may also want to look for a “fear-free certified” clinic.
Let dogs sniff if they are on a leash. Use plenty of positive reinforcement cues, such as treats (if they can have them), verbal praise, and pets.
If your pet has not been to the veterinarian's office before, let the staff know it is your first visit. Assuming a pet will be friendly (even if it has been friendly in the past) can endanger staff and cause a negative experience for your pet.
2. Assume the price
Part of veterinary care is cost. Like people's bills, medical expenses can be high. You most likely will not visit two clinics that have the same price, as this depends on many factors such as location, quality and demand.
Don't assume that because your friend had a dog spayed for $120 that it will be the same for your own pet. Larger pets need more medications; smaller pets need less. Different medications cost clinics different amounts and some are very difficult to obtain. If you are in a small town at a local vet and your friend went to a large chain vet in a big city, the rates will be different. Please know that he is paying for the best possible care for his beloved pets.
Pet insurance can help you be prepared for unexpected expenses and save your life – literally! Wellness plans can help you prepare for all the expected expenses to keep your pet healthy.
3. Assume the diagnosis
When bringing your pet with an illness, come with an open mind. Many symptoms can appear with tons of different diseases. For example, vomiting in cats can be due to hairballs, allergies, thyroid disease, irritable bowel disorder, anxiety, or many other diagnoses.
In addition to this, pets tend to hide symptoms until well into the disease. Let your veterinary staff perform the necessary physical examination and diagnosis to find out what is wrong with your pet rather than assuming what the diagnosis is.
4. Google your path to cancer
This is an important question: Don't panic Google before a sick visit. The Internet can be a great resource for pet information, but it can be misleading if the source is unreliable. It can lead you to expect the worst possible outcome for your pet.
This can cause you a lot of unnecessary anxiety, and since pets can sense our anxieties, it can also stress your pet out. This can make a visit to the vet more stressful for everyone.
5. Do not use a leash
Please don't think that your oh-so-adorable Golden Retriever doesn't need a leash for his visit to the vet. You never know what your dog may react to in the parking lot or waiting room. There may be a very anxious large dog that may cause harm to you or your pet if approached by an off-leash pet.
Off-leash pets can stress pets who are sick or who are naturally anxious and already on edge. Some animals, such as rabbits and cats, can be startled very easily when a large dog approaches their carrier. We want to do what is best for each pet and their parents, so please make sure your pet is on a leash and does not get close to other pets.
6. Do not use a carrier
Keeping smaller or more anxious pets in a carrier is equally important. Many pets feel safer when they are in an enclosed space. This also protects them from other animals. Without a carrier, a cat, bird, small reptile, or pocket pet can escape or seriously harm themselves. Carriers also make it easier for veterinary staff to access the pet.
Here are some great options for shippers:
Keeping carriers in sight while at home and taking them out commonly helps pets not associate them with simply going to the vet, which can cause anxiety. Allow your pet to establish a positive association with its carrier.
7. Use a retractable leash or super long leash
You may not be aware of this, but it is important to know. Retractable leashes are dangerous. They can wrap around your pet, other pets, or people. This can cause injury and trip hazard. Instead, use a fixed length strap.
Long, fixed leashes are ideal for “sniffing” with your dog outdoors, but in a waiting room they can also be dangerous. Choose a leash that is short enough to allow you to keep your dog within a few feet. You can choose to combine it with a quality harness. It helps even more if the harness has a handle, or even if the leash has a handle.
Harnesses: *Pro Tip: When it comes to harnesses, the best way to ensure your dog doesn't pull is positive reinforcement training. Although certain harnesses will prevent a lot of pulling (walking easily), a strong-willed dog will continue to pull if he is motivated enough.
8. Medicate your pet before speaking to the veterinary health team or forget to mention current medications
Many people have anxiety medications for their pets or antibiotics/steroids at home that they were prescribed in the past but didn't finish.
You may want to ease your pet's anxiety before a veterinarian visit or a planned procedure or test, but unless you have discussed premedication with your veterinary care team, do not give your pet over-the-counter medications. This can cause all kinds of problems.
First, it is more difficult for veterinarians to see clinical signs and reach the correct diagnosis if they cannot see your pet when it is not sedated or medicated.
It can also cause unwanted or dangerous side effects. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx, or Etogesic) and corticosteroids (such as prednisone, triamcinolone, or dexamethasone) are two of the most frequently prescribed classes of medications in veterinary medicine. But when two or more are given at the same time, even a few days apart, gastrointestinal problems are likely.
Another example is the combination of certain medications that can cause “serotonin syndrome.” Several types of medications commonly prescribed to pets increase serotonin levels in the brain, and when used together, their combined effect can result in a dangerous and possibly fatal reaction.
Medications that may play a role in serotonin syndrome in pets include Anipryl (selegiline or L-deprenyl), Mitaban and Preventic (amitraz), Clomicalm (clomipramine), Reconcile and Prozac (fluoxetine), and amitriptyline. These medications should not be given together. When changing from one to another, transition or “washout” periods lasting several weeks may be necessary.
Be sure to have previous medical records and a list of medications your pets are currently taking when you go to the vet. You can even find templates online that can help you prepare for the most frequently asked questions about veterinary visits.
Dr. Judy Morgan Example Template
9. Judge Veterinarians or Veterinary Staff by Their Coverage
At a veterinary clinic or hospital, you are likely to see staff from different backgrounds. But one thing they probably all have in common is that they are there to help keep your pet healthy and make them feel comfortable at the clinic. Please do your best not to judge any of these dedicated professionals by their appearance. For example, don't assume that if a veterinarian seems young, he must not have experience or know what is best for your pet.
10. You think we are adding unnecessary tests to charge more
One of the most common misconceptions pet parents have is that veterinary professionals charge high prices and make a ton of money from their field of work.
The truth is that veterinary professionals are not in this field for money. In many cases, they could be earning much less than expected. Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that recent graduates have an average of $147,258 in veterinary school debt.
Veterinary professionals also sometimes sacrifice their physical and mental well-being for the love of their field. Unfortunately, suicide and depression rates are high among veterinary professionals compared to the general US population. The reasons for this are many: burnout, high-stress jobs, heavy workloads, long hours, and even though they hide it , compassion fatigue from having to give bad news to pet owners about their beloved pets.
They have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of pets by doing the best they can for them in times of need, whether it is placing an IV catheter, performing orthopedic surgery, or simply giving your pet personalized time and love so they can know they are in good hands.
Cover image: iStock.com/aldomurillo