How to Stop Vet Anxiety

Veterinary consultation with his Golden Retriever dog and cat

Do you have a cat or dog at home that fears the vet?

New environments, animals and people can be scary to pets who are used to their own homes and humans. Not to mention, anxiety can be driven by unpleasant memories of past visits, pokes and probes that may have occurred before your vet figured out what soothing or distraction tactics worked best for your pet.

But vet visits don’t have to be anxiety-inducing forever. Follow these tips to make your next appointment less stressful for your pet – and you!

Introducing puppies to the vet

Between eight and eleven weeks of age, puppies are very sensitive to their environments. They experience their first perceptions of fear within these weeks, known as the socialization period. Experiences that happen during this time can lay the foundation for what provokes fear in your pet. They can also establish how your pet copes and behaves during frightening situations later in life.

Follow these tips to introduce your new puppy to the vet.

Get your pets comfortable with a carrier

If you know you will be transporting your cat or dog to the vet in a carrier, get them used to it prior to the day of your appointment. If the only time they are put in a carrier is when they are being taken to the vet, they will more than likely try to resist by scratching, clawing and crying.

A good way to get a pet used to a carrier is to leave it open on the floor in your home, where they can wander in and out of it at their leisure. Often, they will find it an ideal place to nap. You can even offer them treats while they are inside the carrier, so they associate it with something they enjoy.

Practice car rides

Another problem often encountered with cats is getting them to remain calm during the car ride.

By nature, they do not welcome change in their routines. A ride in a car, where different sights and smells are in abundance can be overwhelming for a cat and cause them high levels of stress.

If your cat is experiencing a lot of anxiety, Feliway, a solution that contains a synthetic hormone known as a pheromone, can be sprayed on a blanket inside the carrier. Feliway is proven to have a calming effect on cats and can be purchased at your vet clinic.


Although most dogs are more adaptable to car rides, they can still become fearful or anxious when visiting a vet.

They may have encountered various animals in the park, but being in a closed environment with other animals, who may also be stressed, and unfamiliar people can set off unwanted and sometimes dangerous behaviour.

It is very important to socialize your dog from the time they are a puppy. Some clinics offer a preschool for puppies between eight and sixteen weeks, where they interact and have fun in the clinic reception area.

Make fun visits to the vet

If a pet is very fearful, it is advisable for the owner to take them on numerous visits to their vet clinic. These visits are not for a check-up or any medical treatment, but solely for the animal to get acquainted with the staff and learn that the clinic is a welcoming place, not somewhere to be feared.

Give them a security blanket

A great way to reduce stress, especially if your furry loved ones have to remain overnight at the clinic, is to leave them with their favourite blanket or a piece of your clothing. The object will help give them comfort because it has your scent and will remind them of home.

Play doctor

It is also important to get your cat or dog used to being handled. Pretend you are a doctor and give them a home examination from head to tail. It’s important that your pet gets used to being touched all over. Place your pet on a table and examine their teeth, check in their ears and feel their legs and in between the toes on each paw. Give them a much-loved belly rub while checking their abdomen. At the end of each session reward them with treats for good behaviour.

Anxiety medication for dogs and cats

If your pet is still anxious after following these tips, you can talk to your vet about whether anxiety medication is right for them. If this is the route you choose, Pets Plus Us could help cover the costs of eligible prescription medications for anxiety with the  Accident and Illness policy.

At home visits

As a last resort, in case you find it impossible to take your cat or dog to the vet because of anxiety problems, there are mobile vets that will come to your home for visits. Sometimes the only way to get your loved ones the medical attention they need is in their own home where they feel safe and are therefore less likely to resist an examination.

We hope these tips help you and your pet feel less anxious at their appointments!

Get a quote for the Accident and Illness Policy.