Taking Your Pet to The Veterinarian and Beyond

As pet parents, we always care for our pets. Most of us need to take our pet on trips with us, at least once in a while. And every pet is going to have to visit a veterinarian on a regular basis.

Here are some tips to help keep trips with your beloved pet safe and comfortable:

Tip 1: Use Some Restraints

People today recognize that wearing seat belt saves lives. Your pet need to be kept safe during car rides as well. One option is a crate. Choose a crate that is designed for transporting pets and sized properly for your pet. And make sure your strap or tie it securely so the crate won’t bounce or slide around if you have to stop suddenly or encounter some other incident.

You can also find special doggy seat belts or seat belts for cats. There are typically harnesses that attach to the car seat belt. If you do try a harness, introduce it to your pet in a relaxed way, giving him lots of treats and petting so that he associates the harness with rewards.

Tip 2: No Pet in the Window

If you take a dog to the vet, you will see how a dog love to stick their heads out the window and smell the air as they rush by. Though it's sad to deprive them of this enjoyment, many dogs are injured when road debris or insects fly into their eyes, nostrils or windpipe. They can also become ill by having cold air forced into their lungs. What’s more, dogs have accidentally strangulated themselves by stepping on the electric window control.

So keep your pet  inside, and take frequent breaks in the trip. Give him some water or potty breaks, walk him outside fresh air and let him stretch his legs just like yours do. Then your pet will be more obedient in the car trip.

Tip 3: Care about Your Pet in Case of Car Sick

Some people get car sick; so do some animals. If this sounds like your pet, give him a light meal a few hours before you leave and feed him minimally during the drive. Offer him small amounts of water periodically in the hours before the trip. If you can, take along ice cubes, which are easier on your pet than gulping down large amounts of water. (They'll also keep him busy.) If your pet isn't accustomed to car travel or to a carrier, break him in gradually, well in advance of the trip, by taking short trips and using lots of praise.

Tip 4: Consider the Temperature

Your pet can't tell you if he's feeling hot or cold, so be aware of the temperature. If the humans are wearing jackets, perhaps your pet would appreciate a blanket, too. In warm weather, open a window or raise the air conditioning to prevent overheating or dehydration. (Direct sun can be even harder on dark-colored dogs, so consider sunshades if your windows aren't tinted.) Bear in mind that while there are vents for the heat or A/C in the front of the car, there may not be any in the back.

Never leave your pet — or child — alone in the car. In the summer, the car's internal temperature can rise to fatal levels very quickly, even with the windows ajar. If you need to run into a store or stop for a bite to eat, take your pet with you if possible. If not, ask a travel companion to walk your pet or remain with the pet in the car while you attend to business. This also prevents pet-napping. It's rare, but it happens.

Tip 5: Make the Car A Happy Place

Make sure your pet associates car trips with good things. For example, if your pet typically only goes in the car for reasons he considers negative (like trips to the vet or groomer), then he may feel uneasy about being in a vehicle. Remedy this by taking him for short rides that end with a happy destination, like a trip to the dog park for a game of Frisbee. Extend the trips over a few weeks until he gets more comfortable in the car.

Tip 6: Tag Your Pet

Your pet should always have a sturdy collar with home address and telephone number on a tag. To protect him while traveling, tape your local contact information or your cell phone number onto the tag before leaving, or get a second tag. Many pets today also have a microchip implanted under their skin as a form of permanent ID; it can be read with a special scanner. Also carry a current photograph of your dog that can be copied, to make it easier for others to recognize and return him if he gets lost.

Tip 7: Make the Positive Outweigh the Negative on Vet Trips

Veterinarians and their staff poke and prod. They deliver vaccinations and sometimes oral medications. They expect pets to do things, like stand on high metal tables, which may seem strange or upsetting.

Your job is to make sure lots of nice things happen, too. What does your pet find most rewarding ? Find ways to incorporate rewarding experiences into your vet visits. Bring along some treats, feed them to your pet throughout the visit. You might also want to have the veterinary staff offer treats as well. That way, the pet will associate trips to the vet with positive, instead of negative experiences. 

Tip 8: Get Your Pet Used to Being Handled

Give your pet plenty of at-home practice being handled the way veterinary professionals handle pets. Pretend you’re giving him an examination. Touch and hold your pet’s feet. Look in his ears.

Combine your “exam” with lots of petting and treats so that your pet learns that being handled that way is fun and pleasant.

Tip 9: Don’t be Afraid to Switch Vets

Veterinarians are human. Each handles their canine patients a little differently. Not every pet is going to do well with a given vet.

You are your pet’s protector and advocate. If you suspect your vet isn’t a good match for your pet, find a new vet who is able to make exams a more positive experience for your pet.


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