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Fear of the Veterinary Hospital


It is exceptional that a pet does not develop some anxiety when it visits the veterinarian. If the visit is made because of a medical problem, your pet may sense your concern and anticipate an impending problem. An element of fearful anticipation is normal in unfamiliar situations. When the discomfort of an injection or postoperative pain, or anxiety from separation and confinement become associated with the veterinary hospital, subsequent visits can trigger a negative response. Your pet may express this conditioned fear by attempting to escape or becoming somewhat aggressive. Some pets become frozen by fear, displaying unusually calm and passive behavior. When defensive responses exceed the expected normal range, they are classified as phobias. Phobic responses in cats and dogs are potentially dangerous to them and to the veterinary staff. An animal risks injury to itself as well as to those that are dedicated to its care. Additionally, a sick or injured pet may complicate its own condition if it fears visits to the veterinary hospital. It is often helpful to make frequent short trips to the veterinary office that do not culminate in pain or discomfort. The cooperation of veterinary employees may be enlisted by asking them to spend time playing with or petting your pet during off hours. If your pet cannot reliably predict which visit may result in discomfort, its anxious anticipation may fade. If visits result in a pleasant experience, your pet's fear may lessen. The annual examination and vaccination may be the only time your pet is transported in the car or in a carrier, so it is often helpful to begin this process by getting your pet used to being in the car and pet carrier.