How to prepare your dog before a visit to the vet
Just as humans don´t like going to the doctor, many dogs don´t enjoy going to the vet. However, veterinary visits are essential to keep your dog healthy and up to date with its vaccinations.
This article shows you how to deal with dog anxiety at the vet.
Why do dogs hate going to the vet?
You may find when you park the car at the vet’s your dog starts to shake and show signs of fear. It might refuse to get out of the vehicle, and you’ll have to drag or carry it in.
If your dog hates the vet it will remember the smell and immediately feel stressed. It may associate the visit with pain and an unpleasant experience.
Your pet may have had an operation in the past and stayed overnight and remember that it was separated from you.
Or it may recall the pain of the needle when it has its annual vaccinations or a blood test.
If your dog has never been to the vet it may be anxious as it is in unfamiliar surroundings with lots of scents from other animals, plus the strong smell of disinfectant.
Dogs’ hearing is also much sharper than humans’ and they might be able to hear the noises of other animals at the surgery, even if they can´t see them.
A study performed on dogs’ fear at the vets showed that ‘41% of companion dogs displayed mild to moderate fearful behaviour when examined by a veterinarian, and 14% exhibited severe or extreme fear’.
So how can you stop your dog being scared at the vet?
How to prepare your dog for the vet
Unlike with a child, you can´t explain to your dog that the vet won´t hurt it and that the visit is to keep it healthy. Your pet won´t know you’re going to the vet until you get there, which is one advantage.
However, if you are stressed, perhaps because your dog has to undergo a surgical procedure, your dog is likely to sense this. It’s important to try and keep calm before a vet visit, both for you and your dog. Keep busy and go about your normal routine as if nothing different is happening.
Other things you can do to prepare for the visit are:
- Go for a long walk beforehand to tire your dog out and allow it to get rid of some of its energy.
- Make sure your dog goes to the toilet before the visit, however, don’t worry too much if it has an accident – the surgery is used to it.
- Allow plenty of time to get to the visit – if you are rushed and stressed your dog will sense this. Likewise, remember that you may be delayed if the vet is dealing with an emergency or running behind schedule, so book the appointment when you have some free time and don’t have to rush back to work.
- Take a favourite toy or blanket with you so your dog has something familiar that it associates with comfort. You could even take an item of your own clothing as it will smell of you.
- Include a product containing Lactium® in your dog’s diet, which is proven to calm pets. Lactium® is a milk-derived natural ingredient that can help calm your pet.
In the waiting room
You may have to wait beyond your appointment time if the vet is running late. Anticipate this and take treats with you.
- Some surgeries have a separate room for nervous animals, which can help as long as there aren´t too many other pets there.
- Keep your dog on a lead and if it’s small let it sit on your lap or put it in a crate. If your dog is not used to being in a crate practise this before the visit, otherwise they could associate the crate with an unpleasant experience.
- Try and distract the dog by talking to it and stroking it while you are in the waiting room.
- If your dog is becoming very anxious while you are waiting you should inform the receptionist you are going to wait outside with your pet.
In the examination room
A dog is sensitive to situations it is not comfortable with, and its fear will show in its behaviour. A normally calm dog may try to bite or bark at the vet. If you think your dog may behave aggressively tell the vet so it can be muzzled. While the dog may not like this it is better for everyone’s safety.
- The vet will want to examine your dog on a table which may be stressful for your pet. They are suddenly at a height and may feel they are going to fall. Stay close to the dog and talk to it calmly and cuddle it but try not to get in the vet’s way.
- It’s very easy to be distracted trying to calm your dog and forget an important question. Make a list to take with you so you remember everything.
- If your dog is being injected or has its blood or temperature taken try not to freeze yourself, even if you hate needles. Your dog will sense this. The secret is not to look and focus on calming your pet.
- Give your dog a few treats while they are being examined to take their mind off the intrusion.
- Ask the vet for a printed report that gives information and dosage times of any medication you need to give your dog. It’s very easy to forget details when you’ve got a stressed animal with you, and you need to get home knowing exactly what treatment your dog needs.
- If you are unsure how to administer medication ask the vet before you leave.
Follow these tips for taking your dog to the vet and the visit will be more successful if you plan ahead.