First published in the
Santa Barbara News-Press
My animals have never had a problem going to the vet. Sure, it’s not their favorite thing to do, but they stay calm and attentive. They don’t exhibit a high-level stress by panting, barking or meowing. They don’t shake or stiffen their body. They don’t refuse to go into the vet clinic or snap or bite while we are in there.
Let’s face it, veterinary hospitals are scary places. They have a strong sterile smell. Other animals are fearful. People do things to the animals that are unnatural and against animal instincts. Without realizing it, people are exhibiting dominant, somewhat aggressive, behavior by leaning over the animals, evaluating them, staring into their eyes and palpating their abdomen. They put cold things up against their heart and make strange faces while doing it. They stick instruments in places no one wants to hear about and swab their sensitive ears. They poke animals with needles that can make the animals feel pretty yucky for some time.
So how do we make these visits better for our pets? If you have an animal that travels well, bring him or her to the vet just for a visit. Let the staff give your pet treats and a warm welcome.
You can also talk with your animal. Explain to your pet what the vet is all about. Take a breath. Clear your thoughts and explain to your pet that a visit to the vet’s office is to keep your pet healthy. Something cold held to the body is to hear the heart beat to make sure it has a healthy rhythm. A light in the eyes is to gauge the pet’s vision. A needle is to pull blood to test how all the organs are working or to administer a shot to keep the pet healthy. A needle in the bladder is to see if the pet has an infection. And so on.
If your pet is at the vet’s office because of illness, tell your pet the doctor is trying to find out why he or she is throwing up or having seizures or whatever the ailment is. Tell your animal you know that the people act strange, but it’s to help your pet live longer. Tell your animal that if there’s pain anywhere to inform the vet over and over in his or her mind and to physically exaggerate the pain to let the vet know. If you are in the examining room with your animal, you can explain what is happening and why in real time. You can do this out loud or you can do it in your head, sending it to your pet’s heart center.
Remind your animals how to calm themselves. Tell them to lick, yawn, stretch, blink their eyes. Remind them they are OK. Tell them you like your vet and you trust him or her. Remind your animal he or she will be going home with you. Whatever diagnoses or news you hear, be sure to tell your animal either at the vet’s office or when you get home. Talk to your vet about something personal. What animals do they have? What do they like to do in their free time? Make them a real person instead of someone who is just poking and prodding your animal.
Even if the visit becomes chaotic, stay positive. If you are nervous, your animal will be nervous. Sometimes your animal’s relationship to the vet office is all about your attitude. Choose a safe and confident vet and your animal will learn to deal with a visit to the office maybe even enjoy it!
Want to hear what your animals have to say?