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6 suggestions for a smooth veterinary visit

Nobody enjoys going to the doctor. Unfortunately, high-tech, super-slick telemedicine and virtual consults will never compare to a face-to-face visit with the doctor. Dr. Google has no face. The physical examination is the cornerstone of good medicine for humans and animals alike. Since Dr. Google is neither touchy nor feely, there are times when owners must bring their pets to see the veterinarian.

To help your next veterinary visit go smoothly:

1. Be ready

Allow time to prepare, arrive un-rushed and on time. Be sure you understand all instructions for any prescribed sedatives or pre-medications the day before the visit, and plan accordingly.

Some diagnostic testing requires animals to be fasted prior to collecting samples, so being clear on these requirements will most certainly save a wasted trip.

For cats, place the carrier near a sunny window, door open, lined with soft bedding several days before the visit. Offer treats or toys on or around the carrier. The day of the visit, allow ample time to load the cat into the carrier before it’s time to go. Placing the carrier on the floor of the vehicle or covering it with a thin blanket or towel may help alleviate fear from the sights and sounds during travel.

2. Be calm

One of the very best things an owner can do to prepare for a stress-free veterinary visit is to remain cool, quiet and centered. If you’re feeling agitated and frazzled, your pet will most certainly pick up on this.

You’re the person your animal looks to for safety and comfort; if you’re acting strangely and erratically, they’ll feel anxious and unsettled — or downright terrified. When owners speak in a raised voice, jerk/yank the leash, handle the pet taxi roughly, or use exasperated body language, their pets tend to react in kind, and arrive at the destination distressed, often in a state of panic. If you’re accompanied by rambunctious children, bring something for them to do quietly while you’re waiting.

3. Be honest

Because animals can’t tell us how they’re feeling or how they became injured or ill, we rely on owners to provide an accurate and complete history of their pet’s health. Concocting an implausible story or omitting key information because the truth is embarrassing is unhelpful and a big time-waster.

If you’re sure your dog swallowed feminine hygiene products or your medications we absolutely need to know! If the pet’s prescribed treatments were not given as directed because it was inconvenient or difficult to administer, speak up.

We need to hear this, so we can try to devise a better regimen — this can save time and costs of treatment or new diagnostic workups. Don’t be worried about being judged about your answers to our questions — we want to help, and the best way to accomplish this is to begin with a truthful, complete history.

4. Be in control

I know this will upset a lot of owners, but here it is: flexi-leads suck. They offer no control and can cause terrible injury to any animal or human in their path. Please, for the love of all that is good — invest in a normal nylon or leather leash, 6-feet long or shorter, be sure it is firmly affixed to your pet’s collar or harness, and that the collar/harness is snug-fitting enough not to allow the animal to wiggle out of it.

5. Be contained

Don’t let the cat (or other small critters) out of the bag — or box — until the staff says it’s okay. Many folks want to comfort their animals by holding them, which often has the opposite effect.

Putting a cat into its carrier may be a struggle, but once it arrives at a noisy, strange-smelling veterinary office, the carrier becomes its safe zone. Most cats are much calmer and happier INSIDE the carrier, and removing them from it ramps up their fear. It is better to let cats, ferrets, and other small animals observe from the security within the carrier than to allow them out before the veterinary staff is ready to work with them.

6. Be there

We are all used to splitting our attention between lots of activities, but the exam room is not the time or place for multitasking. While there are appropriate uses for cellphones during the visit (eg. showing a short video clip of the animal walking strangely, having a seizure, or breathing with difficulty at home) any non-visit related cellphone use during the office consultation is not only rude, but a distraction that can lead to miscommunications later. It is important to be engaged and listening during the visit, so you have questions answered and feel well-informed and comfortable with all plans for your pet’s care.

— Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column is published every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at life@sungazette.com.

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