Ah, the dreaded vet office. Potentially worse than taking a kid to the doctor or dentist, the veterinarian can bring about A LOT of anxiety for your pet that can start from the moment you get in the car. Here are some tips to make both you and your dog’s life much easier.
1. Start with the car
Some dogs only go in the car to go to the vet’s office, so Spot will suspect something is up as soon as you tell him to “jump in.” To remedy or prevent this, start taking your dog to fun places in the car – a park, a new place to walk, a lake, or the beach. You want your dog to associate the car with good stuff, not just the scary stuff.
If your dog has car anxiety, try using calming music like Through a Dog’s Ear: Driving Edition. This CD is a collection of classical music that has been clinically tested to calm a dog in the car.
2. Try an herbal calming remedy (aka over the counter doggie drugs)
I really like the ones that contain Tryptophan, chamomile, and brewer’s yeast (my vet says it’s like a turkey sandwich and a beer for your dog!). I have found that ProQuiet calming tablets work better than anything you can buy in the pet store. Check your vet’s office or Amazon. You might not be able to use this before the visit if your vet is drawing blood, so make sure to double check!
You might also want to try a collar or calming spray that has Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP), like an Adaptil collar, which has a calming effect on some dogs.
3. Choose a vet that connects with your dog
If you don’t like your vet, get a new one. If your dog doesn’t like any vets, try to find one that is at least understanding and willing to work with your scaredy pup. Just because it’s the vet your family has always used or even you’ve used with other dogs, doesn’t mean that he or she is a good fit for this particular dog.
4. Visit the vet regularly
Visit the vet office even when nothing is going to happen. Call ahead and ask the vet staff if you can stop by and weigh your dog, or just stop by to say hi and for a treat. Most vet staff will be happy to help you work on this!
If you have more than one dog, take both of them to the vet together, even if one isn’t getting anything done. Same as above, it gives your dog a chance to be there without anything scary happening.
It can also be helpful to take your dog to the vet every six months instead of every year. My vet recommends this so that we would be able to catch anything that might pop up more quickly, but it has also helped my dogs become more comfortable.
5. BRING TREATS
And not just the treats Daisy likes at home, bring the really good stuff – hamburger, spray cheese, meaty baby food. Just like the car, start reinforcing the vet’s office as a good place. You can then use this yummy, special only-for-the-vet-office treat to get your dog to stand on the scale and go into the examining room. My vet will give my dogs treats and uses spray cheese and freeze dried liver – they love it! After a shot or something surprising happens (such as a bordatella vaccination spray up the nose), follow with the treat if your dog will take it.
Keep trying different treats until something is good enough that your dog will take it!
6. Teach your dog a few commands (or tricks)
It’s much less stressful for your dog if you can ask him to perform a command instead of having to physically move him to the scale, to turn around, etc. Some of the most helpful cues to teach your dog are “sit,” “touch/target,” “down,” and “watch me.” It can also help take a dog’s mind off of the stress of being in the office if you have some training skills or tricks you can “practice” while you are waiting.
7. Practice at Home.
Practice handling your dog and touching his feet, ears, tail, etc. as soon as you get him as a puppy or adult dog. This will make the process of the vet checking your dog a bit less stressful. It’s also a good practice because the more time you spend checking your dog, the more likely you will notice any new lumps or bumps.
8. Keep Yourself Calm.
If you are nervous about how your dog is going to act at the vet’s office, this will likely increase your dog’s anxiety, too. Try some deep breathing before you go in, talk in your normal voice, and don’t be overly coddling. It’s fine to tell your dog that she is okay and pet her, but you don’t need to pick her up and repeat “it’s okay” over and over again. Your dog will begin to wonder if maybe there is something to be worried about. And we don’t want that!
Featured image via @peachtreehillsanimalhospital