If the thought of heading to the veterinarian fills you with dread because you know your pet is going to become a nervous, anxious wreck, our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team has just the tips for you. We know veterinary visits can be stressful for pets and their owners, and our goal as Austin’s only Fear Free Certified Practice is to care for your pet’s emotional well-being just as much as for their physical health.

By taking some proactive measures and a little preparation, you can transform these visits into positive experiences for everyone involved. To help make veterinary visits as stress-free as possible for pet owners and their pets, our team provides eight tips.

#1: Choose a veterinary clinic that practices low-stress techniques

While every veterinary practice is devoted to pet care and well-being, not all hospitals incorporate low-stress and Fear Free handling techniques. As a Fear Free Certified Practice and a Cat Friendly Practice, Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital strives to alleviate as much stress and anxiety as possible for pets and their owners. Through a multitude of environmental modifications and handling techniques, our highly trained team does our best to make every visit a positive experience.

#2: Familiarize your pet with the hospital environment

Unfamiliar territory can make pets, especially cats, anxious and afraid. Acclimate your four-legged friend to our hospital and all the various sights, sounds, and smells before their actual appointment by dropping in for happy visits. A quick trip through the lobby during our slowest time of day, paired with treats and gentle stroking from our team, will help your pet form a positive view of veterinary visits.

#3: Practice handling and gently restraining your pet

Get your pet used to being handled and restrained gently at home in a relaxed setting. Many pets are naturally leery of their paws, ears, and mouth being handled, but with plenty of patience and positive reinforcement, you can teach your pet to tolerate being handled. 

Gradual desensitization and counterconditioning methods work well for acclimating pets to handling. To teach your pet to accept having their paws handled, for example, start with a quick stroke across a paw, then reward with treats and praise. Gradually build up to longer periods of touching your pet’s paws, then holding a paw and manipulating the toes, all while making the experience positive. These techniques can take weeks to achieve cooperation, but gradual desensitization sessions at home greatly reduce your pet’s anxiety at being handled during veterinary visits. 

#4: Establish positive associations for your pet

Form a positive association with veterinary visits by offering treats, praise, and rewards during and after any trip your pet takes to our hospital, whether for veterinary care or a simple weigh-in. Bring your four-legged friend’s favorite toys or comfort items to help them relax in the hospital environment, and stock up on high-value treats as the ultimate reward.

#5: Reduce pet stress during transport

Many pets become stressed during car rides, whether a case of nerves is triggered by motion sickness, fear of the carrier, or generalized anxiety. Ease your pet’s worries by acclimating them to your car while it is parked, then on short trips around the block to get used to the motion. 

If your pet is small enough to ride in a carrier, avoid only bringing the carrier out for annual veterinary visits. Leave the carrier out in a common area for at least a week or two before a car ride to give your pet time to become comfortable with going in and out of this cozy space that holds treats and favorite toys.

#6: Schedule veterinary appointments strategically

Choose appointment times when our hospital is likely to be less crowded, such as during weekdays or mornings. Weekend and late afternoon appointment slots tend to be the most popular, so our lobby can be full of pets and their owners during these times.

#7: Stay calm and relaxed for your pet

Pets can pick up on their owners’ emotions, so try to remain calm and composed during veterinary visits. Speak in soothing tones—no high-pitched baby talk—and avoid displaying nervous or anxious behavior, as this can exacerbate your pet’s stress.

#8: Communicate with our veterinary team

While our team is trained to detect subtle nuances that indicate stress and anxiety, you know your pet best. Tell us beforehand about your pet’s likes and dislikes, such as whether they prefer having their ears rubbed rather than their back, or if they are happiest being examined inside their carrier. These tips will guide us on providing the most comprehensive, yet stress-free, care for your four-legged friend.

Additionally, we can discuss the possibility of using previsit pharmaceuticals (PVPs) for your pet to ease their anxiety. These medications and supplements are designed to produce a calming effect without excessive sedation, effectively changing the way your pet views veterinary care. 

With a little effort and preparation, you can transform veterinary visits from dreaded tasks into positive bonding experiences for you and your furry friend. Give our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team a call for help in making future visits pleasant.