Making vet visits stress-free

Some pets find vet visits very stressful even though the staff do their best to reduce stress in their patients. Owners can help make vet visits stress-free by starting training for them at home. Here are some tips I shared in an article I did for our local newspaper:

“Reportedly, one of the main reasons people do not regularly take their pets to see their veterinarian is that the animal is terrified of going, making visits difficult.   

Many pets are also extremely uncomfortable with being groomed or with having their nails clipped or with receiving vet prescribed treatment even at home and by their owner. This issue can lead to other problems. For example, the dog who goes without toenail maintenance can develop soreness and joint problems when the nails and toes twist or when the nails are pushed back into the nail bed as they contact the floor.

When pets are stressed and frightened, it makes things difficult for veterinarian and the veterinary team to diagnose a health issue, and to treat a problem and it interferes with the animal’s own healing.

Through reward training though, these pets can be much more comfortable with home and professional grooming and with receiving veterinary attention and treatment.  Reward training is the way progressive sanctuaries teach the animals (for example bears and large cats) to offer a foot for nail or hoof trimming or to offer easy access to a vein for a blood draw.    

The training involves small steps. Only when the animal is completely comfortable at one level and ready to progress will he be introduced to the next step. For example, a cat who is afraid at the vet hospital becomes stressed when his crate is brought out because he only goes in his crate when he is going to the vet. He has made an association with the crate and objects to going into the crate. The first step this cat’s owner can do to help the cat is to train the cat to be comfortable in the crate at home. The owner could also further set this cat up for success by using a crate that has a removable lid and start by rewarding the cat for any interest in the crate.

Before surgery, an owner can help their pet get used to an “Elizabethan” collar (which prevents the pet from licking the surgery site) making wearing one much easier after the surgery.

Reducing stress in pets before and during veterinary and grooming appointments and in shelters is part of the “Fear Free” initiative ( This initiative was founded by American veterinarian Marty Becker and provides certification for trainers and other professionals who work with animals.

For more information and if you have a pet who is stressed by visits to the vet and/or the groomer or by things like having their nails trimmed at home,  please visit and check out “Fear Free training” or visit”

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