Often I hear about how people’s animals hate the veterinarian hospital:“My dog shakes and pants at the vet. I literally have to drag him in there.”
“He is not a biter but they have to muzzle him at the vet.”
“My dog is car phobic. She thinks whenever we put her in the car she is going to go to the vet. She salivates and paces in the car. She still hasn’t learned that we take her to fun places too.”
“My cat hates the cat carrier. If I take it out of the closet she runs and hides in places I cannot find her. I have to lock her in the bathroom the night before.”
My animals, on the other hand, while not thrilled about their experiences at the vet, go willingly in their carriers. They enjoy the car ride and are amicable when the doctor and the technician need to handle them.
Why is this? It is simple. Knowledge is power. My animals know why they have been neutered or spayed, why they are getting stuck with needles, why their ears are pricked or their bladders drained, and why the doctor with strange plugs in his ears bends over them holding a cold mirror to their chest. Most importantly, my pets know why they are being taken away from me, and whether they’ll be staying for only moments, for the day, or for several days.
When you do not explain to your animal what is happening to them, they develop fears and insecurities. They will come up with their own ideas about why they are being tortured at the building that smells strongly of cleaning products, hums with the sounds of electricity, and has the air of death and fear about.
Talk to your animals before and during visits to the animal hospital. I can assure you that they will understand. Be clear by telling them everything that will happen and why. You can either explain out loud or in your head while trying to picture procedures in step-by-step images.
Here are some things you can say, depending on the circumstances:
“We are going to the doctor’s. It is a place where animals heal and get medicine to feel better. The doctor or his assistant will stick you with a needle to draw some blood. The amazing thing about your blood is that it can tell the doctor everything that is going on inside of your body and its organs.“
“You know how you have been peeing outside the litter box? He will test your bladder also to see if you have an infection and what medicine you may need to make you feel better. What he does may be slightly uncomfortable, but you need it in order to feel better.”
“He will listen to your heart with a strange tool he puts in his ears. It makes sure your heart is beating normally.”
Maybe a toothache has been plaguing your pet. Try this: “You have an infected tooth. It may be causing you pain when you eat. Do you have an earache or headache? We have to take the tooth out so you can feel better.”
“The doctor has to give you a shot that makes you feel dizzy and fall asleep. When you are asleep he will take the tooth out. When you wake up you will feel very sick and disoriented. You might feel like you’re going to throw up. Lights will seem strange. You may be put in a cage that reflects light in odd ways. But relax: You will feel normal again. You may have stitches in your mouth, but they will dissolve and you will feel way better than you did before. I promise. You will be at the vet’s all day long. I will pick you up at nighttime.”
Talk to the other animals while you are waiting and picture in your mind why they are there. Tell them what you know. Tell them that the visit will help them. Tell them to be brave.
I like our vet. I truly feel that he is good at keeping animals healthy. He loves animals and so do the people that work there. So I tell my pets: “They want you to be healthy. Remember that.”
When you speak to your pet remember to talk in positives. Tell them, “Be confident,” rather than “Don’t be scared.” It’s better to say, “I will pick you up around dinner time,” than to say, “I won’t leave you.” “The vet does these things to help you; they have a purpose,” is more consoling and more believable than, “The vet won’t hurt you.” Instead of “You won’t feel sick anymore,” say, “You will feel better.”