It’s no secret that our canine companions are not always fans of visiting the veterinarian. While some dogs may feel indifferent about these necessary trips, others can become anxious about the entire experience. Learning tips for taking your dog to the veterinarian can help ease your dog’s veterinary anxiety.
Taking an Anxious Dog to the Veterinarians
Just as people may get nervous or stressed before visiting a doctor, dogs can feel nearly the same way. These emotions don’t necessarily reflect that your dog has had a bad experience at the veterinarian’s office. Still, it can mean that these hesitations may appear for every appointment unless you work on some anxiety-reducing techniques.
Some dogs may begin showing signs that they are stressed on the car ride to their appointment. Once inside the veterinarian’s, you might notice behavior such as excessive drooling or shedding, your dog’s ears and tail staying low, and overall timid body language such as pulling back on their leash or staying right up against your leg. Unfortunately for some pups, their anxiety levels only increase once they go to their examination room.
Having to stand on a slippery, metal table, having people touch their paws and mouth, and possibly getting shots can all cause increased levels of stress. If your dog becomes too overwhelmed, they may try to cower in the corner, they could have an accident on the floor, and they might snap at the veterinarian or veterinary technicians.
In the instance that this behavior pops up, your first instinct may be to yell at your dog for their poor behavior, but it is best to avoid all scolding. It’s essential that your dog views you as a safe and comfortable person to turn to when they are uncomfortable in a situation.
Though most dogs receive check-ups only once a year, dog parents may wonder why it’s important to work on decreasing anxiety for something that happens so infrequently. Though a valid question, for many dogs, if their stressors are not worked on, they can become significantly more severe as they get older. Not to mention, you never know when your pal may need to start going for more frequent visits to the veterinarian’s office, such as in cases of emergency or the instance that your pal develops a lasting condition such as diabetes. When medical professionals become a significant part of your dog’s life, it’s crucial that your dog learns to become comfortable around them.
When dealing with your dog’s anxiety, one of the first questions that should be answered is, “Why do dogs get nervous at the veterinarians’?” There can be any number of reasons, including:
- Your dog doesn’t like car rides
- They are nervous in a new environment
- They feel uncomfortable around new people and other dogs
- The veterinarian’s office seems loud and hectic
- Your dog doesn’t like getting their bloodwork and examination done
By first understanding why your dog is feeling anxious, you can better prepare for your dog’s veterinary visit.
Helping your dog become less anxious is an ongoing process that will take some patience and dedication, but be reassured that every step benefits your pup’s overall wellbeing.
How to Get Your Dog to Like the Veterinarian
The trick to getting your dog to no longer be anxious at their appointments is to get them to like the veterinarian. This process can begin when you start getting ready. Give yourself plenty of time to gather necessary items, get in the car, and commute to the appointment. You can even encourage your pup with reassuring words, treats, or a favorite toy for the ride. If your dog is prone to motion sickness in the car, talk with your veterinarian about options to reduce these symptoms. Plus, make sure your dog gets to go for car rides to other places besides just veterinary appointments.
Arriving at your dog’s appointment early will allow your dog some additional time to sniff around and go potty—try not to run inside immediately. If you are rushing around or running late, chances are your dog will pick up on your hectic behavior and, as a result, become stressed just like you.
Once inside the office, be mindful of the other people and pets in the waiting area. Though some canines may wiggle with excitement at the opportunity to meet new friends, other pups become even more hesitant around strangers. If you are unable to give your dog the space they need, you can ask to wait outside until it is your turn.
Whenever it’s your dog’s time to go back to their examination room, make sure you accompany them and try never to leave your pup’s side—they will be looking to you as a sense of comfort. Instead, reward them with treats or food, give them loving pets, and reassure them with many “good boy” and “good girl” reminders. You may also notice that it can be soothing for some dogs if you stand near their head while they receive their examination and any necessary shots.
A wonderful way to prepare your dog for an examination is to go through the motions at home. Repeating these check-up routines in a controlled, comfortable environment, your dog can hopefully become desensitized to having their feet, belly, tail, ears, and mouth touched.
Periodically, you may also want to schedule a “happy visit.” More like a quick pop-in, call your veterinarian’s office and ask when their least busy times are. You and your dog can make a quick stop at the clinic, look around, maybe grab a treat from the receptionist and then head on your way—it can be as short as a few minutes. If you get your dog’s heartworm or flea medication from your veterinarian’s office, this can also be a fantastic opportunity to have your dog visit without any scary things happening. It’s just a fast trip to show them that they don’t need to be anxious.
A few other options to calm your dog down when it’s time for them to get a check-up include:
Exercising your dog before their appointment may help in boosting their mood and getting them to relax at the veterinarian. A walk, quick run, or game of fetch may do the job perfectly. If you have an incredibly energetic dog, you may need to exercise them for a bit longer. Of course, if you are taking your dog for a check-up because they have an injury or don’t feel well, then it’s best to forgo any exercise.
It’s possible that your dog has such severe anxiety that they will require medication. Or, in the instance that they are diagnosed with a condition that requires frequent veterinary visits, they may not have time to become comfortable in a gradual way. If you believe that your best pal could benefit from a prescription, bring up your thoughts and concerns with your veterinarian. However, this type of medication is usually a last resort.
- Telehealth Visits
If your pup doesn’t have an emergent condition and is going to the veterinarian for just a regular check-up, you can contact your veterinarian ahead of time and inquire if they offer online appointment options.
Helping your dog relax at the veterinarian may take some time, but imagine how wonderful it will be when your dog can confidently walk in and out of their appointment.
Calming Your Dog Down After the Veterinarians
Though you may be working to help your dog be less anxious at their appointments, it still may take a while before they fully feel comfortable in that environment. This means that your pup may need help calming their nerves post-check-up.
Simply leaving the veterinarian’s office may be all your dog needs to feel better—watch how quickly they begin to act normal again. However, this is not the case for every dog, and some may need additional help in destressing.
Once they are safely back in the car, you can reward your pup with more food or treats, some pets and ear scratches, and more encouraging words. Try to think about your pup’s favorite activity. If they are food motivated, take them to your local pet shop and buy them a new bag of special treats, just don’t give them too many, or they may not feel the best. If your dog is more motivated by toys, you can pick them up a new one from the pet store as well.
For other pups, the best options may be to go for a walk or run in a nearby park. Still, other dogs might just want to go home and hang out in their yard and take a nap. No matter, it’s helpful to give your dog a happy and relaxing rest of their day after a trip to the veterinarian.
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.