Going to the vet can be stressful for your dog and it’s not unheard of for some dogs to even require sedation for those dreaded visits. If your dog shakes in fear or barks at the vet as soon as he enters the room, you’ll need to become proactive and do something to make those vet visit more pleasant as this type of fear tends to get worse with time if no action is taken. Following are some tips to make the fear of the vet more tolerable for your dog.
Tips on Making Vet Visits Less Traumatic
Expecting your to dog to love the vet may sound a bit like a long shot, but it’s possible to at least make those vet visits less stressful and easier to tolerate. Ideally, pet owners should work on making vet visits pleasant from early puppyhood by conditioning pups to being touched all over and taking them for fun visits at the vet’s office just to say hello. However, if you missed this opportunity or you have a rescued dog, not all is lost as there are many steps you can take if your dog could use some help.
Find a Good Vet
Go on Fun Car Rides
Fun Vet Visit
Organize a Relaxing Walk
Hold Mock Visits
Teach Your Dog to Wear a Muzzle
Does your dog have a preference when it comes to your vet? Some dogs may do better with female vets while others may prefer males. Regardless, it’s perfectly fine to give in to your dog’s preferences. It’s also equally important finding a vet who knows how to handle fearful dogs. A vet who uses harsh methods will only add to the traumatic experience making the dog more fearful and even potentially aggressive. A vet who gives treats and talks to the dog in a calm, friendly manner is the best option. It’s in your dog’s best interest to search for a good vet and stick to one that your dog seems to prefer.
A fear of the vet can easily become a fear of the car, if every time your dog rides in the car, it’s to go to the vet. This explains why some dogs hide the moment they hear you warming up the car or getting out the crate. To break the negative association, take your dog on fun car rides. Destination? Places your dog enjoys being. Take him to the park and go on a long walk, bring him to the pet store and let him pick a toy or go visit a friend who has a dog your dog is friends with. This way, the day you really need to take your to the vet, your dog will not tense up and hide.
Once your dog is happy again to go on car rides, it’s time to organize some fun vet visits. In this case, your dog will be stopping by the vet office just to say hello. Go inside, feed tasty treats and then go out and no more treats. Then, go inside again, give treats, and go outside again and stop giving treats. You want to make it clear for your dog that good things happen inside the vet’s office. If the receptionist isn’t busy, have him or her hand your dog some treats too. If your dog won’t take treats, try to use higher-value ones, and if that still doesn’t work, use lots of praise. The fact that he goes there and doesn’t get poked and prodded is already a big relief and good news for him. After some time of going repeatedly to vet, a day may come where he’s comfortable enough to eat them.
If time permits and your dog isn’t sick or in pain, take your dog on a relaxing walk some time prior to his appointment. This should help take some edge off if your dog is particularly anxious. Choose a quiet path and let him go on some sniffing adventures. It might not seem like it, but sniffing is quite a tiring activity for dogs.
It’s time to play vet and teach your dog to enjoy handling. Feed him high value treats each time you open his mouth, check his ears, lift his paw or listen to his heartbeat. It’s also not a bad idea learning how to take your dog’s temperature as this can turn handy some time. And if you have the opportunity, have some friends come over and pretend to be vets and rehearse a fake exam with treats. Of course, if your dog dislikes being touched, go very slowly in the process and let him wear a muzzle just in case for safety sake, which takes us to the next step.
If your dog is afraid of the vet, he may be also afraid of several things happening at the vet’s office. One of them is getting a muzzle put on. This can be scary to dogs who aren’t used to wearing it. It’s a good idea training your dog to wear it from the comfort of your home. Try feeding treats through it very gradually so your dog learns that good things happen when he places his muzzle through it. Then, as he gets good at this, you can start leaving it on a few seconds and then gradually increase the time he wears it.
The Bottom Line
Vet visits can be scary. Dogs are in a small room, being touched all over, on slippery surfaces enduring sometimes painful procedures. There are many things you can do to help your dog better tolerate vet visits. Calming aids such as natural homeopathic calming treats or solutions, facial wraps or compression shirts may be also helpful to take the edge off. If you find a vet that can help you out, you may further increase your odds of your dog improving dramatically and even actually looking forward to those future vet visits! This ultimately offers a win-win situation to all, you, your dog and the veterinary staff.