By Dr. Emily Wilson
Just like people do, pets can experience anxiety associated with unfamiliar situations, new people… and medical checkups. For many dogs and cats, a few tasty treats and cuddles in a familiar environment is all they need to feel at ease. Anxiety medications for pets are a common and safe alternative to help dogs and cats that are way more skeptical, and have more extensive anxiety and fear associated with a vet visit. SIT BACK AND RELAX
A vet will want to be able to evaluate your pet from nose to tail with a thorough physical exam, and the best way to be able to do this is with a relaxed pet. Nervous or tense pets are not only harder to handle, but they also make it harder to pick up on small nuances or abnormalities during an exam. For example, a much more thorough, careful evaluation of the mouth and teeth can be done for a happy, relaxed patient. The ability to pick up on abnormalities early, and be proactive about preventive care or management changes is key to a long, healthy life.
OPTIONS TO HELP AN ANXIOUS PET
If your pet is just a little anxious, an over-the-counter supplement such as Just Food For Dogs-Calm may be enough to keep him calm. For pups and cats that are significantly nervous (they exhibit visible signs of stress such as growling, anxious panting and unwillingness to be handled), oral medications are often prescribed.
A vet will prescribe anxiety medications according to the pet’s weight, stress levels, while taking into consideration other medications the pet may be on.They should be administered well prior to the visit. However, if for any reason a pet is weak to the point of risk of organ failure, or has a decreased ability to metabolize medications, anxiety medications are not a safe option and the pet will have to be physically restrained in order to be examined.
Trazodone is our preferred anxiolytic medication for anxious dogs. You may notice your pup slow down 20 or 30 minutes after taking this medication. Some dogs take trazodone on a regular basis to help with behavioral modification, in conjunction with training. Trazodone is also often prescribed to dogs that are going through periods of cage rest.
Gabapentin is our preferred medication for cats. You may notice them feeling nice and mellow for a few hours after the visit. This medication is given a few hours prior to their vet visit in a tasty snack to allow it to have time to take effect. It’s usually well tolerated.
It is important for you to talk with a vet to make sure that your pet is good candidate for oral anxiety reduction medications – every pet is different. Even if you think your pet is a “lost cause”, please don’t let anxiety get in the way of a checkup. Regular nail trims, vaccines, and blood draws aren’t always fun, but they are critical to our pets’ health and longevity.
If you’re a Fuzzy pet parent, congrats, you have already taken the first step to having your pet have a positive, relaxed vet visit in the comfort of their own home (if you’re not a member, you can give it a try!). If you think your dog or cat may need some help staying relaxed for their next vet visit, reach out to us on Ask-A-Vet to chat with one of our vets.