Some people freak out about going to the veterinarian. This stress isn’t good for you, your pet or the vet.
What are you stressed about?
- Your pet may be very sick.
- You’re worried about what it will cost.
- You’re worried your pet doesn’t behave well at the vet.
- You’re afraid you won’t like what the vet has to say.
Although these are all reasons for anxiety, most people who are nervous about a vet visit begin to relax as soon as the appointment begins.
The Sick Pet
Let’s say you’ve been worried about something that hasn’t seemed right for a while. Perhaps you found a new lump. Maybe there’s a bad smell, skin problems, a cough, you name it. Of course this is reason for fear and anxiety.
But let’s face it — you are not a vet. You don’t have information yet. You may be more worried than you need to be.
Out of stress, you ask friends for advice. Some friends say something like, “Oh, my dog did that, and we found out he had cancer.” This is not a helpful comment.
Perhaps the friend will say, “Well, my vet says…” Think about this one for a minute. The friend’s vet hasn’t seen your pet. Your own vet hasn’t seen your pet yet.
Don’t listen to speculation. Call your veterinary practice and get reasonable advice.
Many people search online looking for veterinary information or a diagnosis. Although there are outstanding websites out there, a misdirected search can get you worried over nothing.
Looking up a symptom such as a common cough can tell you your dog may have anything from kennel cough to advanced heart disease to lung cancer.
My suggestion is to educate yourself on good websites once you have met with your vet. Then you can approach your search with good direction.
I would be lying if I told you not to worry about what your veterinary costs could be.
Depending on the situation, the medical problem, your vet and the recommendations, you could be stressed about the money. But too many people have a preconceived notion that they will not be able to afford the care their pet needs.
My advice: Go into your visit with the idea that you want the best for your pet, you trust your vet and you are willing to be honest about financial concerns. If it doesn’t go well, seek another opinion.
Your Pet’s Behavior
Veterinarians are getting better and better at dealing with fear behaviors earlier and earlier. If a trip to the vet doesn’t go well and the pet is fearful, this will only get worse over time.
Cats are a breed apart. If you have one of those pussycats at home but a vicious mountain lion as you walk through the vet’s threshold, possibilities are:
- Sedation or anti-anxiety medication
- A house-call vet
If you’ve had a stressful visit with a cat, talk with your vet about how the next visit might go more smoothly.
Dogs are a different story. Through the great work of veterinary behaviorists, vets know to work with a fearful pup sooner rather than later. The older fearful dog poses a much more difficult problem.
If you have had multiple bad experiences at the vet or have an aggressive dog or one with social challenges, discuss these ahead of time:
- A “meet and greet” visit with only treats and kisses — no vaccines or poking
- A home visit with a house-call vet
Call the veterinary office before your vet visit to discuss behavioral concerns.
Recently, we saw a nervous Great Dane. We did the exam with moderate but safe restraint in the car. This went extremely well. Next time, maybe we’ll get the Great Lady into the clinic.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the world is made up of lots of personalities. That goes the same for vets. I worked with a veterinarian once who thought every pet that walked in was “morbidly obese.” Clients did not take to this too kindly.
Another vet chastised clients if their dog was improperly groomed. Other vets might just offend clients without being aware of it. Stuff happens. People are people.
If you feel insulted during your veterinary visit, bring it up with the practice owner. See another vet or go to another hospital. If you are trying to do the best thing for your pet, you should not feel uncomfortable or that you are unable to voice your feelings.
Bottom line: If you are stressed about going to the vet, your pet will pick up on it. The ideal situation is open communication, pets who feel relaxed and, above all, people who feel relaxed.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed July 22, 2015.