Making Veterinary Visits Better for Your Dog

We have all seen owners and/or trainers who have taught their dog, bird, horse or cat to do amazing things.  Birds with huge vocabularies, bike riding dogs and dancing horses.  So how hard should it really be to teach our dog to tolerate a visit to the vet??  If you’re willing to invest a little time, you can train your dog to be a happier patient.

It’s all about practice, practice, practice.

  • The first place your new puppy should visit is the veterinary office. The very first visit should just be to say hello and get some treats. Use the second visit to make sure they are healthy…
  • Get your puppy used to having his/her feet handled at home. Start by holding a paw then move on to grasping a toenail. Even if you never plan on clipping nails at home, get your pup accustomed to the clipper around their feet.  Remember to use lots of treats and praise! 
  • Teach your puppy how to take pills before they actually need to.  Have your puppy sit sideways next to you or on your lap if they are small.  Place one hand around the top jaw with your thumb and middle finger behind the canines.  Use your other thumb and forefinger to gently open the lower jaw.  Now just place a small treat or piece of cheese in the mouth on the tongue.  Do this a few times and you shouldn’t have any trouble when the time to actually medicate comes along. Today there are even specially made products to hide pills in that most dogs love!
  • Handle your puppy’s ears, clean the area around their eyes, lift their tail and run your hands along their abdomen. Desensitizing your pup to handling is one of the kindest things you can do for them.
  • Teach your dog to stand quietly.  Much of a veterinary exam is done with the pet standing.  If your dog is accustomed to standing calmly beforehand the stress level will go way down.  Again, use treats and gentle praise to let your dog know they are doing the correct thing.
  • Teach your dog to walk on a leash.  If your dog is out of control in the waiting area things will only go downhill in the exam room.
  • Once your pet is protected by vaccines, schedule a puppy class and/or doggie daycare. A well socialized dog is a stable dog.  
  • It’s OK to bring something from home. A toy or blanket work fine.  The familiar odor of home is calming.
  • If you‘re nervous your dog will be too.  Whatever you feel telegraphs directly to your pet.  Some people can’t actually be in the room with their dog.  That’s OK.  Just don’t let your limitations make things more difficult for your pet.
  •  If your dog acts up on the exam table please don’t stroke them and tell them everything will be OK.  Even though it seems reasonable to you it is actually rewarding negative behavior.  Remember your dog has no idea what you are saying he just knows he’s getting good feedback so his bad behavior must be fine with you.
  • When you’re done with your visit take your dog for a short walk around the outside of the clinic before you get in the car.  This will allow them to relax at the clinic not in the car as they are leaving.
  • Finally, don’t let going to the vet be the only time your dog gets in the car.  Make sure to take lots of fun rides as well where you can both relax and enjoy yourselves.

Making Veterinary Visits Less Stressful for Your Cat


Did you know that cats actually out number dogs as pets in the US?  Yet in spite of their greater numbers we see much less of them at the clinic than we do dogs.  Cats don’t like coming to the vet.  They don’t like the carrier, the car ride or the office visit.  The great news is that there is something we can do to make things better.  Cats can  learn to tolerate, dare we say even enjoy,  veterinary visits if we just take the time make things a little more cat friendly


As an owner, you can help decrease your cat’s stress by taking the time to get them used to the experiences associated with a veterinary visit ahead of time.  We have included a list below of some feline friendly recommendations based on information provided by the International Society of Feline Medicine and American Association of Feline Practitioners.


  • Start working with your cat at as young an age as possible.  You can retrain older pets but youngsters will always be easier.


  • That means getting your cat accustomed to the carrier as early as possible.
    1. Make the carrier a part of the furniture so it isn’t just the evil box that comes out for veterinary visits.  Leave it open and out in the main living area.
    2. Place toys and treats inside.  Use a familiar favorite blanket, catnip or a pheromone product such as Feliway to make it even more inviting.
    3. Try feeding your cat in the carrier. It allows you to keep track of what everyone is eating in multi-cat households and as an added bonus, makes the carrier even more inviting.


  • Get your cat used to riding in the car.  Again, start as early as possible.  Start with short trips or even just sitting in the car with the motor running.  Don’t be in a hurry and don’t be afraid to use treats.  Believe it or not, there actually are cats that like to go for car rides.


  • Once your cat is accustomed to the car, try going to the clinic for a social visit.  Have technicians and front staff give your cat loving and some treats.  Walk kitty around the clinic and then go home.


  • Practice doing the types of things your veterinarian will do at home.
    1. Hold and look at paws, peer into ears and gently handle your cat all over his/her body. 
    2. Try using tasty treats as a way to teach your cat to open their mouth.  This could come in handy should you ever have to medicate kitty later on.  Its helps when it’s time to introduce the tooth brush as well.


  • Plan ahead.  Don’t be in a rush.  Make sure you know where your cat is long before it’s time to leave. If you can, get the cat to enter the carrier on their own.  If you know that your cat gets upset in the waiting area, call ahead and make arrangements to get them in a room right away.


  • Make sure that there is a familiar blanket and/or toys in the carrier. The smell of home is always calming.



  • Understand how your stress and anxiety affect your cat.  Whatever you feel telegraphs straight to your pet.  Veterinarians know this but few owners realize it.


  • Plan for the trip home as well.  If you have more than one cat at home leave the patient in the carrier until you know whether their housemates will behave aggressively or not.  If they do, keep them in separate rooms until friendly relations have returned though the door.


Hopefully these suggestions will help make veterinary visits less stressful for you and your kitty if you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at 563-391-9522 or check out our website