How to Make Vet Visits Less Stressful for Your Dog
Your dog tucks its tail as it cowers at the sight of the door. You try to coax it with all the trickery you can muster, but nothing works. Your dog just will not yield. You try petting it and bribing it with cookies, but its eyes are fixed on the dreaded doors, and none of your bribes are considered. You try to nudge it forward as it tries to retreat into the backseat of the car. Now, you are frustrated. What to do? You mumble to yourself. Do you call for help? Would that work? You are not trying to get your dog to the slaughterhouse, you are trying to get it to the vet. But as far as your dog is concerned, there is no difference between the vet’s office and the slaughterhouse. How do you get your dog to understand that there’s nothing to worry about? Better still, how do you make vet visits less stressful for your dog? Several dog owners can relate to this experience all too well. Dogs dread trips to the vet. Even the happiest and bravest of dogs will resist this ‘ordeal’ by any means necessary. Luckily, there are some steps to take to avoid the scene above and make vet visits less stressful for your dog. Let’s find out what these steps are, shall we?
Why Do Dogs Fear The Vet?
Before proceeding, it is important first to try to understand why visits to the vet are so scary for our canine buddies. If it is the first time your dog is visiting a vet, it will have nothing to be afraid of. This is because it does not yet have the trauma of a previous visit printed on its soul. But if your dog has been to the vet before, the experience will live with it. Consider it for a second – a typical visit to see the vet with your dog. First, it has to deal with strange smells it is not used to. Then, there are the strange equipment and the noise that come with them. But that’s not all; your dog sees other scared animals. This builds up the dog’s anxiety. The worst is at the end – the examination. This is the experience your dog will remember the most as it held against its will. There are sharp needles drawing blood or injecting vaccinations and constant poking and prodding by strange human faces. All these experiences will add up to create fear and confusion in your dog, even if it is a healthy pup. If your dog is already sick before the visit, the experience will be worse for it. It is no surprise that so many dogs dread visits to the vet.
How To Make Your Less Stressful
So, there is good news. You can help your dog conquer its fear of the vet’s office. This requires time, effort, and commitment. It is important to note that this will not be achieved in an instant; it requires time. Eventually, your dog’s fear will be ended. Even if that is not achieved, your dog will feel less nervous during trips to the vet. In fact, you may be able to get your dog to like the vet. Hopefully, the following steps will guide you to make your dog more at ease. Another important thing to note is, if your dog has severe fear or anxiety, it is best to seek the assistance of your vet in addition to these steps.
Regular ‘Hello” Visits
For dogs, (and indeed for most pets), new environments are always a bit uncomfortable. Your dog will always be nervous in a new place. One of the best things you can do is to visit the vet often just so your dog can get used to the place. No need to have examinations conducted on your pup each time you visit. Remember, this is only to get your dog used to the environment, the smell, and the faces. To get it used to some of the equipment at the vet, you can get it weighed in and then leave after that. After a number of ‘harmless’ visits, the dog will no longer see the environment as an unknown one. Adding treats to this routine is a good trick. Go along with some treats or a toy that your dog loves the most. When at the vet, let the receptionist or veterinarian feed your dog and pet it for a few minutes. If you have a puppy, it is best to start these “hello” visits as early as possible to get it used to the environment quickly. However, always remember to give your veterinarian heads up about your plan. Also, remember to call the vet to ask for the best time to pass by. You do not want your presence to be an inconvenience to those there, do you?
Practice Examining Your Dog At Home
Your dog finds the veterinarian scary party because it is not used to the strange ways it is handled during an examination. You can help with that. All you have to do is practice with your dog the handling it will receive during examinations at the vet. To get your dog used to it, you have to spend enough time everyday ‘examining’ it. During your practice examinations, try to restrain it, check its ears, hold its paws, and examine its teeth. Do this gently and often. To make your dog more cooperative, treat it with rewards, and shower it with praise throughout the process. Another way to get your dog to get used to the handling is to make it a part of its playtime. Ruffle its hair as you play with it during a game of fetch or try to hold it down during a quiet together gently. Always make sure you to be gentle and ease your dog into it. Do not rush the process. This will only cause your dog to become nervous. Do not forget to consult your vet about the proper way dogs are handled during examinations before you begin.
Teach Your Dog To Obey Commands
Most times, dogs feel more at ease when they are commanded to move their own bodies rather than having someone else try to push or pull them into position. Therefore, some basic training will go a long way to make your dog less nervous at the vet. You do not need to train your dog to become a circus animal to achieve this. All it needs is to learn some basic behaviors.
- Sit: Most dogs will prefer to run away doing examinations. Teaching your dog to sit when you say so will help make it calm.
- Roll on your side: When dogs are relaxed, they like to be in this position. You can have your dog lie on its side without the vet needing to make it. All you need to do is to teach it to do so.
- Stand: Sometimes, your dog will be required to stand when its paws are being examined. Teaching it to obey your command to stand also makes it easier to lift it onto the table to be examined and lift it from the table to the floor.
- Turn: Sometimes, the vet will require your dog to face a different direction during an examination. When it knows to turn on command, there will be no need to make it.
- Look at me: Your dog’s mood can be influenced by what it focuses on. If you are able to teach it to focus its gaze on you, it will be less distracted by the scary stuff.
The Muzzle Option
Do not frown at this option. Sometimes, the muzzle offers the best remedy for a dog that is extremely nervous or frightened. A dog wearing a muzzle does not mean it is a bad dog; neither does it mean it is a dangerous dog. Dogs, no matter how gentle or sweet they are, still have the instincts to bite or attack when they are scared or feel threatened. Thus, using a muzzle will ensure that it is safe to touch its sensitive areas without the dog lashing out. For the right muzzle for this case, choose a comfortable one; especially one made of fabric. Preferably a muzzle with enough space at the end to feed your dog through. Next, train your dog to get used to wearing the muzzle. You can do this by holding a treat at the rear or “nose” part of the muzzle. Then, make sure your dog puts its nose through the muzzle to reach the treat. Practice this several times in a day for at least one week. Your dog will become excited when it sees the muzzle because it knows there is some goodie at the end of it. When this I achieved, have your dog wear the muzzle, then feed it for a few seconds. Afterward, take it off immediately.
When your dog starts getting used to it, you can gradually increase how long the muzzle stays on. Once your dog is perfectly comfortable with wearing the muzzle, you can keep it away and bring it out once a while to ‘have fun’. If your dog ever finds itself in a situation that requires it to wear the muzzle, it will have no problem wearing it.
The Crate Option
Equally as important as the muzzle option is the crate option. Crates can serve as comfortable sleeping quarters for dogs. They are also very good for house training. There may be instances when your dog will be required to spend the night at the veterinary hospital. In such a case, your dog will be less nervous when it is resting in its crate as compared with sleeping elsewhere. There are also instances where your dog may be required to spend long hours at the vet. Having its crate in view can be calming, especially when it needs to take a nap in the process.
Anxiety Medication And House Calls
Again, do not frown at this option. Some dogs can get so frightened at the sight of the veterinary hospital or veterinarian that it is impossible to calm them down. In such a case, it is best to give the dog some medication to calm it down. If this becomes the only option available to you, be sure to consult your veterinarian to prescribe the best anti-anxiety drug for your dog. One advantage of anti-anxiety medication is, it gives you more time to practice handling and social visits to the vet. This is because, in some cases, your next visit to the vet may be too close to have enough time to prepare your dog. While you try to train your dog for the long term, you can administer the anti-anxiety drugs short term.
Another option is to find veterinarians who make house calls. As mentioned earlier, a dog is less nervous when it is in the comfort of its own home. You may still need to train it to get used to being handled. But the familiar environment will take a lot of the fright away during examinations. You can search for a veterinarian in your area who makes house calls. Opt for the ones with good reviews.
To conclude, it is important to remember that although it is possible to make your dog less nervous during visits to the vet, the process requires time, patience, and commitment. Your vet will be willing to give you all the assistance you need to help your dog. Thus, be sure to make consultations when necessary. Another professional help you may need is that of a dog trainer. If you are finding it difficult to train your dog by yourself, it is best to hire a dog trainer. Even after your dog has become used to visits to the vet, do not stop practicing. You can reduce the intensity of the training considerably, but it is important to keep up the good work. There may be cases where your dog may have a relapse after a freshly traumatic experience at the veterinary. Do not worry if this happens. Just start the training process all over. Make your dog happy!
- Taking Steps to Making Vet Visits Less Stressful for Your Pup – Whole Dog Journal
- 20 Tips for a Stress-Free Vet Visit – PetMD