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Precautions for a safe visit to the vet

Going to the vet can be scary for pets as well as for their owners. We see it all the time at our clinic. So one of our veterinary technicians had a good idea: Focus one of my columns on tips and techniques to help our animal and our human clients decrease stress when visiting the vet.

My advice starts at home. If you have a dog, make sure you've set aside enough time to get in a long walk. Burn off excess energy and make sure your dog has had a chance to go potty before getting into the car. If you have a dog that gets carsick, it's a good idea to withhold food and water.

Cats should be acclimated to their carriers and to cars well before they need to visit the vet. This can be accomplished by setting the cat carrier out in the house and making it an inviting area for the cat to explore. You also can try sprinkling it with catnip or placing food or favorite treats in the carrier.

Once the cat has become accustomed to the carrier, place the carrier in the car and buckle it into the seat to help keep it from shifting. Take short car rides with your cat to get it used to riding in the car.

Before you leave the house for the vet's office, fill a bag with your pet's favorite treat and bring it along. Once you pull into the parking lot, take a deep breath, put a smile on your face and walk into the clinic with confidence. Your pet will feed off any fear or apprehension you show. So don't show it.

From the moment you start to enter the clinic, try to look at the situation from your pet's perspective. If you have a cat, place it on the counter or a bench rather than on the floor at your feet. This will give the cat a higher vantage point to look around and will decrease the chances of a scary dog sticking its face directly into the front of the cat carrier.

If you have a dog, pull out the tasty treats in the parking lot and start feeding them to the dog as you walk in. We like to say it's hard to have a bad time when you're eating.

Make sure your dog is on a leash and controlled at your side. While some dogs are social and enjoy meeting other dogs, others do not. Allowing your dog to run up to another dog in a place full of strange sounds, smells and people may result in unnecessary stress to one or both dogs.

In our clinic, the exam room is the place we recommend letting your dog off the leash or your cat out of the carrier. This allows time for your pet to explore the sights and smells of the room and size up our staff.

Often, all it takes for an animal to calm down in a new environment is a little time. If you can maintain a calm demeanor and bring some treats from home, it will go a long way toward setting the stage for a positive experience at the vet.

Dr. Amanda Bruce of Superior is owner of PetCare of Duluth, 2701 W. Superior St., Suite 102, Duluth. You can reach her or ask questions for future columns at or 218-461-4400. For information on this subject go to