Scaredy-cat or paranoid pooch: tips for a stress-free vet visit

Tips for helping your pet overcome their fear of the vet

SCARY: Pets are often afraid of a visit to the vets.

SCARY: Pets are often afraid of a visit to the vets.


Australian Veterinary Association has tips for making a vet visit less traumatic.


IF YOU’VE ever had to take a pet to the vets even just for its annual shots you’ll know it can be a traumatic time for animal and owner.

Just the sight of the cat carrier can send kitty into  paroxysms of panic and many an owner has had to drag or carry their reluctant pooch across the clinic doorstep.

Some pets will also show their anxiety as aggressive behaviour, according to the Australian Veterinary Association.

“Understanding the animal’s point of view and handling them to minimise distress results in fewer injuries to veterinary staff and it improves everyone’s experience of the veterinary clinic,” said veterinary behaviourist, Dr Jacqui Ley.

“Often when owners perceive that their pet is frightened of the veterinary clinic, they delay visiting the veterinarian when they have a health or welfare concern, which is the last thing we want to see.

“The key for owners is to recognise if their pet has feelings of fear or anxiety when visiting the veterinary clinic and to work with their veterinarian to implement strategies that will ultimately improve the pet’s experience.

“There are many things about a clinical examination that can be frightening for pets and they will often give signals, albeit subtle and ambiguous, that indicate they are unsure. They will either display out of context behaviours such as grooming, sniffing the ground or scratching or they will display avoidance signals such as yawning or lip-licking.”.

 Dr. Ley has some tips for helping you and your pet when it comes to visits to the vet.

  • Booking the appointment – much like people who prefer a certain doctor or dentist, pets too can have a preferred veterinarian. If your pet has a preferance book your appointment with that veterinarian. Also consider your vet’s recommendations about managing your pet’s stress before getting to your appointment, for example, your vet may have advised using a pheromone product before leaving the house to help manage their anxiety.
  • Consider working with your pet between visits to improve their travel experience to the clinic. The easiest thing for cat owners to do is leave the cat carrier available for your cat as a bed – make it cosy and comfortable so the cat can use it all the time.
  • Analyse the waiting room and find a quiet spot away from other animals.

AVA President, Dr. Paula Parker, said that if owners find they have a pet that is fearful of veterinary visits, they should speak to their veterinarian who can work with them to help manage their response.

Get your cat used to a carrier.

Get your cat used to a carrier.

“As veterinarians, we can appreciate that taking an anxious or frightened dog to the clinic can be stressful for owners. The thing to remember is that you’re not alone and as veterinarians, it’s something we deal with on a regular basis. Talk to your veterinarian about suitable strategies to help your pet have a positive experience. This will help to make veterinary visits easier and safer for everyone and ensure your pet gets the veterinary care they need to keep them at their best” Dr. Parker said.