In most cases, our dogs only make infrequent and fleeting trips to the vet. As a result, it can be quite a frightening experience, what with all the unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells.
While some pets will ever love visiting the vet, there are some steps you can take to make the experience more manageable for them.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of the Vet?
Your dog might fear the vet for the same reasons that humans often fear visiting the dentist. It's often an uncomfortable trip, filled with prodding, poking, and uncomfortable, if not painful treatments.
When your dog heads into the vet's office, they're inundated with strange sounds and smells that aren't familiar to them. What's more, they'll normally be restrained in some way, before being prodded and potentially jabbed with injections.
Combine all of these factors and the potential that your pup is already feeling under the weather, and you've got an altogether unpleasant experience for any dog.
How Do You Know if Your Dog is Afraid of the Vet?
Dogs can't tell us when they're scared - at least, not in the same way as humans - so it's important to judge their body language for signs of anxiety or stress.
Your dog calls out. Dogs might vocalize for many reasons, but there's usually a time and place. If your dog calls out in a whimpering or whining noise when being handled by the vet, then they're probably feeling scared. They might also bark when they feel that there's no way to escape.
They tremor during a vet visit. Your dog's fight or flight mechanism might kick in if they're feeling anxious. This can result in trembling or shaking.
Your dog drools or pants without exertion. Some amount of panting or drooling is normal during exercise, particularly in hot weather. But if your dog's panting and drooling during a vet visit, it can be linked with stress.
They poop while in the vet's office. Any toilet-trained dog will hold their business in until they're outside, on a walk. So, if you see your dog poop at the vet's office, it could be a sign of fear. Stress and anxiety can affect the gastrointestinal system.
How to Make Vet Visits Less Stressful for Your Dog
Below, we've rounded up some tips that should help you to make vet visits more pleasant for your furry friend.
1. Schedule vet appointments during quieter time slots
Assuming time isn't of the essence, try to arrange your dog's vet visits during off-peak visiting hours. Your pup is likely to encounter less unfamiliar animals, which should help to calm them down. Speak to us to find out when the practice is usually at its quietest; We will be happy to do that!
2. Arrange a social visit to the vet
We are very happy to arrange a social visit for your dog so that they aren't only visiting when they're sick. Talk to us to arrange one for your pup to receive some treats and extra attention from the staff. This way, you're creating a positive association with our practice, which can help to reduce anxiety when they need to visit for legitimate medical reasons.
3. Choose a vet that has received special training
Above, we spoke about how dogs can become fearful of the unfamiliar prodding, poking, and handling they receive during a trip to the vets. Well, our staff has received special training in these areas, which can make a big difference to the anxiety your dog is likely to feel. We are Fear Free Certified; Sara our veterinary technician has gained the credentials of Elite Fear Free and Cat Friendly Certified as well.
4. Tire out your dog before their vet visits
While this tactic won't completely take away the fear of the vet, it can help. If you wear out your pup by taking them for a long walk before their appointment, they may be a little calmer at the appointment. Anxiety can be worsened by over-excitement, so tiring them out first can help to reduce some of the symptoms experienced.
5. Stay calm yourself when accompanying your dog
During a vet visit, be sure to remain calm in the presence of your pup. Even if their behavior is less than ideal, try to avoid raising your voice or otherwise giving off any signals that something is wrong. This can only serve to worry them further, as they'll pick up on your own stress. Its extremely important to not baby talk your dog when they are scared. Speaking in a high pitched voice tells your dog that you too are afraid of the vet.
Other Ways to Manage Your Dog's Anxiety
If your dog tends to get stressed out by vet visits, it's unlikely that the above tips will entirely calm them down. Here are some additional tips you can use to further manage symptoms of anxiety in your pup.
Bring treats with you. Some dogs might shun treats during a vet visit, if they're too anxious to eat, but others won't. Going to the vet armed with your dog's favorite treats can be a good way to help them calm down.
Use alternative, calming treats. Dog-calming treats, such as those that use CBD, can help to lower anxiety in pups. If you're not sure about using CBD, there are other, more natural treats available that use milk proteins and pheromones.
Separate them from other animals. See if there's an empty waiting area where you can stay with your dog if needed. If the presence of other animals worsens their anxiety, you should try to separate them from such triggers.
Consider a calming wrap. Swaddling your pup in tight-fitted clothing can help to manage their anxiety.