Does your dog dart out of reach as soon as she sees the pet carrier or leash? 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. Somehow, dogs always seem to know.
You may have noticed that your dog isn’t always crazy about the vet’s office. A variety of circumstances can provoke these anxieties. Some pets may have had a frightening experience there, or they associate the visit with an unpleasant procedure such as a nail clipping. A dog may feel fearful or protective of his owner in the presence of other dogs or become unsettled at the smell of unfamiliar cleaners, medicine, and the scent of other agitated animals. Whatever the reason, a trip to the doctor’s office for your pet can be a stressful and anxious event.
The stressful components to the vet visit for some dogs include the following:
- Getting in the carrier (for small dogs)
- The car ride to the clinic
- Waiting in the lobby
- Time spent in the exam room
- The car ride home
Every dog is different, and many of the tips below are for pets that are more stressed about these visits. Some dogs love other animals and the attention from humans, so they may not need as much (or any) assistance. Use the tips below as they apply to your dog and your situation. I hope they make that dreaded visit safer and more pleasant for you, your dog, and the veterinary staff!
Prepare Yourself and Your Dog
As you go through the process of taking your dog to the vet clinic, stay calm. Your dog also reacts to your stress levels, so don’t speak loudly or yell at your dog no matter what your dog does. Speak peacefully and softly or remain quiet.
Take any health history and records from other clinics to your appointment. Don’t forget to write down any questions you may have to ensure they are answered when you talk to the doctor.
If your dog is going to require bloodwork, withhold food the morning of your appointment or as directed by your veterinarian. If your vet requires a urine sample, you may want to restrict your dog’s access outside for a few hours beforehand.
Prior to the Visit
If your vet’s office is close, taking a brisk walk for exercise past the office door and making a quick visit for a treat and petting will help make the office a nonthreatening place. Your dog may even have a gender preference and do better with 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.
Before You and Your Dog Leave for the Vet Clinic
If you are taking your dog in a “pet taxi” or carrier, desensitization helps make your dog feel more confident. Keep the travel kennel out and use it as an everyday place to rest and keep toys so your dog feels comfortable seeing it. Throw a dog treat or toy in it occasionally so your pooch moves in and out of it freely and develops confidence in the presence of the carrier.
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 pooch. A little extra attention before you begin preparations can be really helpful for many dogs.
On the day of the vet visit, be ready by making sure you have your phone, keys, and wallet or purse ready to go. Place any paperwork, such as medical records, in the car beforehand so you don’t forget anything. Practice where your carrier will go in the car and how to maneuver it in and out of the vehicle.
Minimize the time your dog is away from home by making the departure as fast and easy as possible. Once you are ready to leave, gently get your dog in the carrier or attach the leash. If you are using a carrier, make sure it is level and won’t easily tilt, which can be uncomfortable and cause additional stress. You can also use the seat belt to secure your dog so it won’t fall with a sudden stop. If you are using a carrier, loosely cover the carrier with a sheet so your dog cannot see outside; excess visual stimulation can stress your dog. If your dog is anchored in the car’s seat by a leash, make sure they are secure before leaving and all harnesses are firmly secured.