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How to Have a Trauma-Free Vet Visit

By: Dr. Amy Wolff

Read By: Pet Lovers
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Does your dog dart out of reach as soon as she sees the pet carrier? Does she cry, whine and shake when you turn into the parking lot to the veterinarian's office? These are the common reactions when pets know a veterinary visit is coming. And somehow they always seem to know.

A trip to the doctor's office for your pet can be a stressful and anxious event. Here are a few tips to make that dreaded visit safer and more pleasant for you, your pet and the veterinary staff!

Dogs Don't Always Love Everybody

You may have noticed that your dog isn't always crazy about the vet's office. Some pets may have had a frightening experience at the doctor's office, or they associate the visit with an unpleasant procedure like nail clipping. A dog may feel fearful or protective of his owner in the presence of other dogs. A variety of circumstances can provoke these anxieties.

Desensitization helps make your pet feel more confident. Keep the travel kennel out and use it as an everyday object so your dog feels comfortable seeing it. If your vet's office is close, a brisk walk for exercise past the office door and a quick visit for a treat and petting will help make the office a non-threatening place. Your dog may even have a gender preference, preferring either a female or male doctor. If that is the case, the veterinary practice can help accommodate you by scheduling you with the doctor your pet loves best.

Many protective dogs become very stressed when their owners are close by. It sometimes works to everyone's benefit to do a physical exam or procedure in a separate room with only veterinary staff in attendance. As much as you want to be with your pet every minute, this is often a simple solution that decreases anxiety.

For those dogs that are capable, a period of play or exercise before heading off to the clinic can drain excess energy and calm your pet. If it is okay with your doctor, a bit of play or a walk after the visit helps to diminish fear or anxiety.

Can't You Give Him Something?

Every veterinarian has patients that, despite all efforts, are so frightened and anxious, even a simple physical exam is impossible. Everyone takes these pets very seriously. A frightened pet can become defensive and injure the owner, doctor, staff or even another patient in the clinic. A pet's behavior may prevent or delay important medical care. Based on your pet's health, your vet may suggest providing a mild sedative for your dog. The sedative may be a pill you give before you leave for the clinic or medication administered by the doctor. Sedation can be a lifesaver for those pets needing urgent medical attention. Please discuss this option with your doctor.

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