How to Make Vet Visits Fun & Calm for Your Pet [Vet Approved]

A dog happily visiting Sploot Veterinary Care, a vet clinic with locations in Denver and Chicago

Stressful vet visits are so common that many see it as the norm. This common experience has even been depicted in movies and shows, showing a dog or cat protagonist slowly realizing their owner is bringing them to the vet and then consequently panicking. Although depicted light-heartedly, this experience can be challenging for pet parents in real life. Is there a way to keep vet visits stress-free?

We, at Sploot Veterinary Care, believe that vet visits can feel like a walk in the park. It can be a pleasant experience for both dogs and cats. It all starts with choosing the right vet — and the rest is all about pet preparation. 

Here are our vet-approved tips for making vet visits fun and calm for your furry companion!

What’s in This Guide

 A cat being calm while visiting Sploot Veterinary Care, a vet clinic with locations in Denver and Chicago

1. Choose the Right Vet Clinic

The foundation of a positive vet visit starts with selecting the right vet clinic. Look for a vet clinic that maintains a serene clinic environment and makes use of fear-free methods to keep dogs and cats as calm as possible. 

In addition, it is important to observe the staff of the vet clinic. Calm, experienced, compassionate, and patient veterinary professionals will give a dog or cat the best chance at overcoming their fear of the vet (or not developing it in the first place).

2. Get Your Dog or Cat Used to Being Handled (Desensitization)

A majority of dogs and cats get stressed at the vet clinic because: 1) they are not accustomed to being touched in certain parts or 2) they are instinctively protective of certain parts (e,g. paws).

Therefore, it may be helpful for your dog or cat to get used to the handling that they will experience at the vet clinic. Gently touch your pet's paws, ears, and mouth a few times, rewarding them with treats and praise. This will help accustom them to this kind of handling and create a positive association with the experience. This exercise is easiest to do when the pet is relaxed and calm, like when just hanging out at home or watching TV.

In this video by Sploot Veterinary Care, Tanya Lim, from Family Pupz demonstrates how to help a dog get used to handling:

Dr. Sylvia Berns, Sploot’s Veterinarian explains further: “Incorporate positive reinforcement besides treats including verbal praise, petting/touching, or clapping (if they’re not averse to it). Get excited for them and let them know when they are doing well. In addition, the more consistent pet parents can be with touching/handling at home, the better. [...] It’s also important to start as early in life as possible.”

3. Schedule Your Appointment or Call Ahead

In many cases, shorter wait times in the vet clinic are beneficial for dogs and cats — especially for anxious pets or those visiting the vet for the first time. To avoid long waits, schedule your veterinary appointment or call ahead. 

Vet clinics like Sploot Veterinary Care have an online booking system that shows a live update of when the next available appointment is. We also offer in-app booking on our Sploot Vets mobile app.

In addition to our easy booking system, we also make additional accommodations to keep dogs and cats calm, such as:

  • We strive to put fur babies directly into their own room. We do this for all pets but we prioritize an anxious pet. Dr. Berns explains further: “The reason [Sploot’s] lobby is small is because we know the importance of having each pet in their own room with their owner — and how waiting in the lobby with noises, other pets coming in, etc can worsen the anxiety greatly.”
  • For reactive dogs and cats, we encourage pet parents to let us know in advance. We will do our best to make sure the lobby is clear before a reactive dog or cat comes in.
  • For cases of severe pet anxiety, we may be able to issue a prescription before the vet visit. Prescriptions are available for patients that we have seen within the last 12 months, a requisite for maintaining an active veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). As for new pet parents or pet parents that we have not seen within the last 12 months, please contact our team for further information.

4. Know the Best Way to Bring Your Pet to the Vet

Understanding how to transport your pet to the vet clinic safely and comfortably is essential. In many cases, this helps contribute to an overall positive experience.

However, in emergency cases, proper transport is not just for comfort, it may also be crucial for protecting injured parts.

a. Puppies and Kittens

When transporting puppies and kittens to the vet, use a crate lined with towels that carry familiar scents. This creates a sense of comfort and security for the young animal during the journey. You can also include a few of their favorite toys to keep them entertained.

Pet parents can also spray the pup’s or kitten’s blanket with FELIWAY (for kittens) or Adaptil (for puppies). These are formulations that mimic calming pheromones for each species. As explained by Sploot’s veterinarian, Dr. Berns: “These pheromones are similar to the pheromone their mothers emitted, so can help keep them calm and help with anxiety — it’s especially helpful for cats.” 

b. Adult Dogs 

For adult dogs, the preferred method of transportation may vary based on individual preferences and needs. Some dogs may feel more comfortable being leashed, while others may prefer the crate. Choose the method that your dog responds to best to ensure a stress-free journey to the vet.

Note: If you’re bringing your pup on a leash, it is recommended to use a shorter leash and a harness (if your pup is used to wearing a harness). Retractable leashes are not recommended.

c. Adult Cats

Transporting adult cats to the vet can be done using a crate, a cat backpack, or a cat stroller, provided that the cat feels comfortable and secure. Opt for the option that your cat is most at ease with, ensuring a calm experience during transportation.

d. Injured Dog or Cat

In cases where your pet is injured and requires immediate medical attention, prioritize their safety and comfort during transportation. Depending on the severity of the injury, consider using an ambulance, stretcher, or a secure crate for safe transport to the vet clinic.

Note: For Denver pet parents who need an ambulance, one service we can recommend is Pet Medical Transport; serving Denver and surrounding areas, Pet Medical Transport can take care of urgent transport and hospital transfers. 

If you have an urgent or emergency situation you can call us at 720-740-8129 — or an emergency vet clinic if we are not available. For urgent cases, Sploot’s tele-triage can give instructions on transporting an injured pet safely to Sploot’s vet clinic.

5. Make Sure Your Dog or Cat Has a Positive Association with Their Crate

Crates are suitable for transporting certain pets to the vet and serve as safe havens for pets during waiting time. To help keep dogs and cats calm at the vet clinic, the crate should be a secure space. This would only be possible if the dog or cat has a positive association with their crate.

To achieve this positive association, here are some essential dos and donts:

  • DON’T use the crate as a method of punishment. 
  • DO place treats, toys, or comfortable bedding inside the crate to entice pets to explore and enter voluntarily. 
  • DO Use praise and rewards to reinforce desirable behaviors — such as entering the crate willingly or remaining calm while inside.
  • DO leave the crate out in the open as an accessible personal space for your fur baby in the house. Crates should not be used solely for vet visits or travels, as this can make dogs and cats anxious about going inside. 
  • For nervous feline companions, DO try gently placing them into their carrier backward. This reduces the struggle (i.e. negative association) of getting a cat into the carrier.

6. Keep Calm

As much as possible, try to be calm and composed when bringing your dog or cat to the vet. Dogs can detect stress and cats are sensitive to human moods. Therefore, maintaining calmness during your pet's vet visit may also help reassure them that everything is okay. 

A dog being calm while visiting Sploot Veterinary Care, a vet clinic with locations in Denver and Chicago

7. Reward Your Pet After the Visit

Positive reinforcement is key to creating a positive association with vet visits for your dog or cat. Therefore, reward your pet with their favorite treats and toys before, during, and after the vet appointment. This rewards-based approach reinforces good behavior and helps your pet feel more relaxed about future vet visits. 

As a reminder, make sure to bring some treats to give during your pup’s or kitty’s vet appointment. At Sploot Vets, we have a FREE treat bar; however, we highly recommend pet parents bring their own treats if their fur baby has specific dietary needs or intolerance.

8. Go on Happy Visits

Happy visits’ are vet visits wherein pets are brought to the vet clinic and they get to experience positive attention (e.g. get treats, play with toys). No need for an appointment, check-up, or treatment — just a simple and short visit with positive interactions.

Choose a vet clinic that offers a calm environment and fear-free methods (like Sploot Vets). This gives your fur baby’s happy visit the best chance of being a positive experience. Over time, happy visits can help a dog or cat be calm (or calmer) during future vet visits because they’d have been able to develop familiarity and a positive association.

Note: Happy visits may or may not be suitable for some kittens or cats. As for pets with situational anxiety, happy visits may be most beneficial when combined with an appropriate behavioral modification plan. Consult our veterinarians for a personalized recommendation. 

Final Thoughts on Calm, Stress-Free Vet Visits

By implementing these strategies and prioritizing your pet's comfort and well-being, you can transform vet visits into stress-free experiences. If you have further questions about your dog’s or cat’s health and well-being, we’re always here to help. 

Sploot Veterinary Care is a primary and pet urgent care provider with vet clinics in Chicago and Denver. We are revolutionizing the veterinary experience with compassionate care, utmost convenience, and unparalleled appointment availability, 365 days a year

Even if your dog or cat is afraid of going to the vet, our dedicated team is committed to helping you and your pet have the most seamless and stress-free experience. Feel free to drop by for a happy visit to check out what our clinics are like! 

You can also book an appointment here or through the Sploot Vets app. Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!