Vet Phobia!

Catherine Forman

Does your pet panic when you reach the veterinarian's office? Maybe she shakes. Maybe she complains loudly. Maybe she runs for the door at every opportunity. You may just have a vet-phobic pet on your hands!


Certain impressions last a lifetime. If your pet has ever had a negative experience at a veterinarian's office, she may be anxious about any other vet visit for the rest of her life.

Try to keep things positive right from the start. If your pet enjoys car rides, that's half the battle. A fun car ride to and from the vet's may make the exam time worth it. If your pet isn't a fan of the car, you may want to have a friend or family member come with you. One person can hold and comfort the upset pet while the other drives. Picking a vet that isn't too far away couldn't hurt either.

Once you get to the office and if you have the time, give your pet a few minutes outside to sniff around and stretch their legs. This place is just full of exciting new smells to investigate! It never hurts to offer a little treat or some praise and petting to keep things positive.

Inside the waiting room, again, let your pet explore a little if space (and other patients) allow. My vet's office has a few resident cats who will claim a waiting room chair as their own; my dogs are very good about sniffing politely and then leaving the cats alone.

In the exam room, your pet has a whole new set of smells to investigate. They may be placed on an examining table, and need a moment to adjust to their new perspective on the room. My vet always offers a treat after an exam, so the pups have something positive to look forward to at the end. He also talks to them and pets them while performing the exam, to help keep them at ease.

Keep in mind that "your" emotional state is just as important as your pet's emotional state. If you are anxious about potential health issues, your pet will notice. If you are afraid of other animals you'll meet at the office, your pet will know. If you are worried that the routine vaccinations will hurt your fur-baby, that worry carries over. Pets are very sensitive to the emotional state of their humans! Staying as relaxed as possible, regardless of the reason for your visit, will help your pet stay calm too.

You can also practice certain parts of the exam at home with your pet. Check his ears, open his mouth, and look at his teeth. Feel his body and check the condition of his skin and coat. If your pet is used to the physical aspects of the examination, it won't be quite as stressful when you get to the vet's.

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