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Behavioral Health: Addressing Anxiety & Stress During Routine Pet Wellness Exams

Not all pets handle wellness exams as well as others. Some can experience a lot of stress and anxiety when it comes to the vet, even if it's just for a simple routine exam. In this blog post, our Capitola vets discuss some signs that your pet is experiencing stress or anxiety while at the vet, and what you can do to help.

Your Pet's Behavior at the Vet

For all pets, routine wellness exams are essential for maintaining their health and well-being. Unfortunately, these vet visits can become a source of high anxiety and stress for our companion animals. Just as a child might fear a doctor's visit, pets can feel similar emotions when faced with an unfamiliar environment and unusual procedures.

If they have continuous negative experiences, it can leave your dog or cat traumatized after their vet visit. If not managed as soon as possible, this behavior could last their lifetime. That's why our Capitola vets want to help you realize the signs of a stressed pet so you can curb your dog or cat's behavior after a vet visit and during their exam.

Signs of Anxiety & Stress in Pets

Every owner wants to ensure their pet is comfortable and happy in every situation. Recognizing the signs of anxiety or stress in your pet is the first step in addressing their discomfort so it can then be dealt with and hopefully cured. 

If your pet is feeling stressed or anxious whether they are at the vet or any other environment, you may notice: 

  1. Hiding or attempting to escape: Dogs might try to retreat to a corner or hide under a chair. Cats often seek refuge in their carrier or attempt to flee.
  2. Vocalizations: Whining, meowing, growling, or even hissing can all be signs that your pet is uncomfortable.
  3. Shaking or trembling: This is especially common in smaller dogs, though any pet check-up can exhibit this when they're nervous.
  4. Increased salivation or panting: This can be a clear sign of stress, especially in dogs.

The Impact Anxiety & Stress Have on Pets

When a pet experiences stress or anxiety, several physiological and behavioral changes can occur. This could include their heart rate and blood pressure rising, causing them to become overly aggressive or submissive. 

Furthermore, it's worth noting that the accuracy of some diagnostic tests might be compromised under these conditions.  Additionally, these emotions can string the trust bond between the pet and its owner. 

Subsequently, what might have been a routine cat or dog check-up can become a traumatic experience if not properly managed. It's essential to be proactive when it comes to ensuring your pet's emotional well-being to create a healthy and strong relationship.

How to Make a Vet Visit Less Stressful for Cats & Dogs

Trips to the vet don't have to be a stressful and difficult endeavor for your cat or dog. By paying attention to their emotional needs and preparing in advance, you can make the experience much more positive for you both and create less stress for your pet in the future.

Here are some strategies you can try to help your pet feel at ease during their next visit: 

  1. Familiarize them with the environment: Before their appointment, visit the clinic to let your pet sniff around. This can help them get accustomed to their surroundings.
  2. Use calming aids: Talk to your vet, as different products are available to help ease your pet's nerves, like calming spray.
  3. Bring their favorite toy or blanket:  Just like a child has a favorite blanket or toy for comfort, the same can be said for pets. Having something familiar can help them feel safe.
  4. Consultation on medication: Consult your vet about calming medication, they can benefit pets with extreme anxiety. These are usually reserved for pets that cannot be calmed through other means. 
  5. Offer positive reinforcement: Treats, praise, and petting can make the experience more positive for your furry friend.
  6. A pet should arrive with an appetite:  If your pet is somewhat hungry, he or she may be more motivated by treats. This lets your vet use your pet's favorite snacks as a tasty distraction. You might consider skipping breakfast that morning and bringing their favorite treats with you to the appointment.
  7. Stay calm: Pets can pick up on your emotions. If you're anxious about the visit, they might be too. Ensure you're relaxed and reassuring. 

Post-Visit care 

After the visit, make sure to spend some quality time with your pet to let them know everything is alright. Make time to play with them and give them lots of treats and cuddles. This can help them associate the vet visit with a positive experience, making future trips easier for them.

While routine pet wellness exams are crucial for your cat or dog's physical health, we must not neglect their behavioral health. With the proper preparation and aftercare, vet visits can be a stress-free and positive experience!

Is your cat or dog due for a wellness exam? Contact our Capitola vets to book an appointment or for more tips on how to reduce your companion's stress and anxiety.

New Patients Welcome

Santa Cruz Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Capitola companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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